8 August 2018
Schedule Notes: Our autumn schedule (August-December) is now up on the schedule page of our web site. We have bird walks Fri/Sat/Sun/Monday every week - and we will add some night owl walks for Eastern Screech-owls and Great Horned Owls soon.
Migration has absolutely, certainly begun in a big time way: 10 species of warbler seen this past Sunday on our walk including one rare one (Mourning Warbler - see Deborah's photo below) - we see warblers and others close-up because of the recordings I use to bring them in. Even raptors have started migrating: on Tuesday, 7 August in Central Park at 9am, an adult Broad-winged Hawk was lazily circling up over the west side of the lake and then drifted toward Bow Bridge. It had probably spent the night in the area of Strawberry Fields. Look for overhead Bald Eagles and Ospreys - these large raptors are notorious August migrants, especially if there is even the lightest breath of northwest winds in our area (winds from the northwest). No one expects migrating birds in late summer - but warblers, flycatchers and others are moving in a big, big way. August is migration - it can be amazing at times.
This past Sunday 5 August, Jeff Ward pointed out interesting somethings in the Ramble we had never seen before - wasps (the kind with wings). Victor Loyd who grew up in Costa Rica and came here fluent in Spanish only, and who then went on to earn an MS in Entomology at Boston University, gave us his erudite identification: "I ran down a search of common New York wasps, and other than those who have offices on Wall Street, I believe the Blue-winged wasp (Scolia dubia) is our best bet. From the description, this critter turns out to be a favorite of suburban gardeners as Japanese beetles form a large part of its diet." https://tinyurl.com/ybwqalbs
Our bird photos come from Deborah Allen (see her links below), and show birds from Central Park, and from our recent visit to Washington state, some pelagic birds including Black-footed Albatross, Northern Fulmar and South Polar Skua.
In this week's historical notes we feature information about (a) an early August MOURNING WARBLER in Central Park ; (b) Hunting Shorebirds at Shinnecock Bay (Long Island) in August 1886; (c) colloquial (local) shorebird names the "gunners" used on coastal New Jersey, 1876.
Canada Warbler adult male on 5 August in Central Park - Deborah Allen
Deborah Allen sends Photos from Washington State:
Gray’s Harbor, Washington, 14 July 2018:
Black-footed Albatross in flight: https://tinyurl.com/ybpw36ak
Fork-tailed Storm-Petrel in flight: https://tinyurl.com/yatthj3w
Northern Fulmar: https://tinyurl.com/y9ky93yx
South Polar Skua: https://tinyurl.com/yd67ovga
Deborah Allen's web site for bird photos: https://tinyurl.com/ydflkdp4
Northwest View at night of Central Park [Gapstow Bridge] by Michael Massaia in winter 2014
Good! Here are the bird walks for mid August - each $10***
1. Friday, 10 August - 9:00am - Meet at Conservatory Garden at 105th st. and 5th Ave.
2. Saturday, 11 August - 7:30am/9:30am - Meet at the Boathouse Restaurant in Central Park.
3. Sunday, 12 August - 7:30am/9:30am - Meet at the Boathouse Restaurant in Central Park.
4. Monday, 13 August - 8:00/9:00am - Strawberry Fields (Imagine Mosaic) at 72nd st/CPW.
Any questions/concerns send them our way: firstname.lastname@example.org or call: 718-828-8262 (home)
***NOTE: on MORNINGS when two walks are scheduled (e.g., 7:30/9:30am), you can do both walks for $10/person...you get two for the price of one.
Directions to All Meeting Locations can be found here: https://tinyurl.com/ya65n5a8
The fine print: On Saturdays and Sundays, our walks meet at 7:30am and again at 9:30am at the Boathouse Restaurant (approx. 74th street and the East Drive). Please note: the Boathouse is not one of the buildings that surround the nearby Model Boat Pond - people make this mistake all the time!. Our home phone is 718-828-8262...and Deborah's cell is: 347-703-5554. Email is email@example.com. On Mondays we meet at 8am and again at 9am at Strawberry Fields (the benches near the "Imagine" Mosaic. Enter the park at 72nd street and Central Park West and walk about 1 minute due east on the main, paved path and find the Mosaic - we are sitting nearby. On Fridays we meet at Conservatory Garden located at 105th street and 5th Avenue. Enter through the main gates and walk down the steps - head straight ahead along the long, grassy area - we meet by the giant water spout between the men's room and the women's room.
If in doubt about whether a walk will take place or not, check this web site the morning of the walk: info will be posted on the main landing page as well as the "Schedule" page by 6am the day of the walk, and usually by 11pm the night before. If still confused and as a last resort, call us at home - if no one answers it means we left for the bird walk!
We end all our weekend and Monday Central Park walks at the Boathouse at about noon; you can get a cup of coffee and a muffin there (around $6 total). For our Friday walks, we usually end up at (or very near) Conservatory Garden, most often at 106th street and 5th Avenue. Walks last about 3 hrs (less if hot or rainy), and you can leave at anytime - we won't be offended. If you need directions/help to your next destination, just ask someone on the walk - we are a helpful group.
female Mourning Warbler in Central Park on Sunday, 5 August by Deborah Allen
Here is what we saw last week (selected highlights). Not all species we saw are reported here - we list the best:
Saturday, 4 August (Boathouse Restaurant at 7:30am and again at 9:30am) - RAIN! Heavy Thunderstorms starting at 8:50am - All bird walks were cancelled.
Sunday, 5 August (Boathouse Restaurant at 7:30am and again at 9:30am) - when we see ten (10!!) warbler species on a hot morning...and the previous evening thunderstorms and southwest winds prevailed...We know migration is ON in a big way. On the 7:30am walk, the Mourning Warbler (see photo above) was first identified as a Nashville because we saw the grey head and eye-ring from a distance - no one was thinking it could be anything else (except Deborah). We agreed that it was smallish and the legs were not very pink...and what Mourning Warbler flies up into a tree to disappear in the foliage about 15 feet up (though see historical note #1 below)? Deborah remained adamant in her ID - and she kept looking at her photos on the back of her camera. "The beak is too big for a Nashville...the legs are too pink; the throat is white [not the yellow of a Nashville] and it is too early for a Nashville Warbler!" She made us return to the exact spot at 9:30am...So I played my calls again including the Nashville Chip call with partial song - the same bird jumped up from the same spot - and we had a better look this time. Deborah was right! It was a female Mourning Warbler and likely a first fall (hatch-year) bird. Congratulations Deborah for holding firm, making us come back to that spot...Photography is essential these days to confirm difficult IDs. Deborah remains the best in the park because she combines superb photography with a mind/eye for details and extensive knowledge of what to look for (from writing her field guide). By the way if you want to compare a Nashville Warbler to a Mourning Warbler - see the two images from Doug Leffler below. Finally, of great importance today were two migrants (did not nest in Central Park this year) that Jeff Ward found in the area of Warbler Rock: Wood Thrush and Hairy Woodpecker.
Victor Loyd provided some additional info on the Blue-winged Wasps found today: "These wasps aren't eusocial but my guess is that they are presocial. The description I read described the males as being generally solitary and added that "females may live together in small groups". What number makes up a small group of wasps? However, the dark wings with accordion folds extending laterally were there on the individuals we saw, and the single abdominal segment that had dorsal pale yellow spots on that proximal abdominal segment was very clear. The blue-winged wasp is unquestionably a common New York insect, and in fact common right across most of the US. No question some still images, or better yet, a couple of specimens would help. Wasps are difficult. My book puts the approximate species number in the suborder at about 200,000."
Deborah Allen's list of birds for Sunday, 5 August: https://tinyurl.com/y8f282og
Tuesday, 7 August - On a private bird walk with Dipten Putatunda and his wife from southern India, we saw an adult Broad-winged Hawk...and four warbler species including 15-20 American Redstarts. This past Sunday we had very few Redstarts and many Yellow Warblers...so there was a lot of warbler migration on the last two evenings...plus some diurnal (raptor) migration too! Don't miss August bird walks - they can be amazing...
Additional List of Birds Seen on Tuesday, 7 August: https://tinyurl.com/ycjfzokv
above: Nashville Warbler by Doug Leffler below: female Mourning Warbler by Doug Leffler
Mourning Warbler [August 1908] – Central Park. Miss Crolius and I watched a female of this rare warbler for over an hour on 6 August . It was very shy and spent its time in thick clumps of rhododendrons, occasionally walking on the ground and stretching up to pick insects off the lower leaves. While feeding, it gave a whispered sip, as if it were talking to itself. When alarmed, it uttered a sharp chuck, very much like the call-note of the Water Thrush in quality. Once or twice it flew up to a branch about fifteen feet from the ground and sat perfectly still watching us. After a time it would fly down again into the bushes and resume its feeding. This is the first fall record of this warbler for the Park, and, indeed, I believe it is very rare at this season in the neighborhood of New York City. Ludlow Griscom
Hunting Shorebirds on Long Island. THE early part of August, 1886, found me at Foster's house, Good Ground, L.I. [Shinnecock Bay]. This was the third season I had spent in that neighborhood, and I consider it as good a place as can be found convenient to New York for any one who may wish to go after snipe and likes solid comfort. The facilities for sailing and bathing are first-class, but the fellow who goes down there and thinks he is going to make a big bag of snipe will get left.
Intending to go out early the next morning, I retired early, but before doing so laid all my duffle out so as to have no trouble in finding things when I got up. At 3:45 A.M. I was seated in the stem of a catboat with a grip on the tiller, tacking over to the opposite shore of the bay to a place called "The Hole in the Wall." This is a name given it by the natives, as it is a breach in the narrow strip of sand which divides the ocean from the bay. After a sail of about half an hour the boat grated on the sand, I let the sail down, dropped the anchor overboard and waded ashore with my gun, dragging the box containing the decoys after me. It did not take very long to put the decoys out, set the box in the center of a little patch of bunch grass and fill it with dry sea-weed and then get into it and a wait the result of all these preparations.
By this time it was about half past four, and the birds had begun to move. The faint peep of the ox-eye could be hard in the distance, but as I had not come out for ox-eyes I paid little attention to it. As time went by I thought that perhaps I had had all my pains for nothing, but still it was quite a treat to lie in the box and watch the change of scene as the sun commenced to flush the east with a pink glow. The breeze had died out, and as I lay there I heard a cock crow about one and a half miles off, the sound coming over the water faint but distinct, but just then I heard the clear call of the brant bird, and looking off to my right pretty sharply saw that it was making straight for me, and as it sailed just outside of the decoys I cut loose at it at about forty-five yards, and had the pleasure of seeing it drop.
The shooting was slow, but I was very much amused looking at the little ox-eyes which ran sometimes within ten feet, of me, while they were feeding in the pools. Although they are a very small bird I shot some and found them to be very fat, so I made up my mind that as there was nothing better I might as well enjoy myself shooting them, and it was great sport, as they are swift flyers, and shooting at single birds it took some pretty lively shooting to get them. Later on in the day I shot at a robin snipe and wounded it so that it could not fly, but as it ran along the sand it attracted the attention of a large meadow hawk, and he circled over it for some time, but always out of gunshot range.
About eleven o'clock I gathered in the decoys, pulled up the anchor, hoisted sail and had a quiet sail, and finally made for the house. When I tied up at the dock I found I had about fifteen large snipe, including large yellowlegs, robin snipe and dowitchers, two brant birds and about twenty ox-eyes. The birds were cooked next day for dinner, and I found the ox-eyes to be fine eating, although small.
This little sketch represents only one of the many pleasant days I spent at this place.
LOCAL NAMES OF BAY-BIRDS.
New York, September 1st, 1876.
In answer to your inquiry as to the different names of our shore birds, I would say that I have just returned from the Jersey coast where baybirds, pretty girls, huckleberries, and other nice things flourish, and herewith give you the names of the bay-birds (not the girls) as they are known along that beach:
Charadrius helveticus. Bull-head; black-breast. [Black-bellied Plover]
Charadrius hiaticula. Beach-bird. [Wilson's Plover]
Strepsils interpres. Calicoback and brant bird. [Ruddy Turnstone]
Tringa rufa. Robin snipe. [Red Knot]
Tringa hiaticula. Ring-neck. [Semi-palmated Plover]
Tringa himantopus. Frost snipe. [Stilt Sandpiper]
Tringa pectoralis. Creaker; Meadow-snipe. [Pectoral Sandpiper]
Tringa semipalmata and T. pusila. Ox eye or bumblebee. [Semi-palmated Sandpiper and Least Sandpiper]
Totanus semipalmatus. Willet.
Totanus vociferus. Yelper. [Greater Yellowlegs]
Totanus flavipes. Yellow-leg. [Lesser Yellowlegs]
Limosa fedoa. Marlin. [Marbled Godwit]
Scolopax noveboracensis. Dowitch. [Short-billed Dowitcher]
Numenius hudsonicus. Jack curlew. [Hudsonian Curlew]
The above are all the varieties I shot, but several are met with that I have not mentioned.
The stilt sandpiper is common this season, but is generally considered scarce.
Deborah Allen and Robert DeCandido PhD
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Native Meadow in Central Park - August 2018 - by Michael Massaia