After warning Manhattan birders from my @BirdCentralPark Twitter feed that Thursday-night radar was lighting up and that the morning could bring some good birds, I planned on looking for shorebirds in Inwood. I had already observed nearly every bird likely to occur in Central Park in the spring.
Those plans changed quickly, on Friday, 10 August 2018, when Robert DeCandido sent a 7:56 a.m. alert of Orange-crowned Warbler in the Central Park Wildflower Meadow, a species I still needed for the year. (As did nearly everyone else. Unlike 2017, when Orange-crowned Warbler was seen often during spring migration, 2018 brought perhaps only one such bird, seen on only one day.)
As I was getting ready to run to the North End, DeCandido found and reported another rarity: Yellow-breasted Chat southwest of the A. H. Green Bench, near the Wildflower Meadow.
The temperature was rising quickly (it would reach 86 F later) and it was a sunny day, so I knew that bird activity would soon decline. I ran to the Wildflower Meadow and looked around.
I did not see or hear any migrants, so I went to check the Green Bench area, which also had no birds of interest.
I knew that the species I was seeking almost surely were still in the area, whose dense foliage offered excellent habitat. I also knew that DeCandido and his birding group would be coming by soon, so I continued looking.
Half an hour later DeCandido and group arrived. Having Robert DeCandido around is a tremendous advantage, because DeCandido is a master of using sound to attract birds.
I have birded with him extensively, and I can relate dozens of times when no migrant activity was evident, yet after DeCandido played appropriate calls for a minute or two, warblers, vireos, and flycatchers would appear in nearby trees.
Such was the case again. We began seeing expected migrants like Canada Warbler, American Redstart, and Yellow Warbler. We even had an early Black-throated Blue Warbler.
Then DeCandido spotted the Yellow-breasted Chat again, in a fruiting tree on the northwest side of Wildflower Meadow, and everyone had great views of the perching bird.
Then we moved to the southwest corner of Wildflower Meadow, and the sounds DeCandido played drew in warblers to trees that had been empty before our arrival. We had Red-eyed Vireo, another Canada Warbler, an empidonax flycatcher, and a couple American Goldfinches.
After much waiting we noticed some rustling low in the brush, and DeCandido soon had everyone on a handsome Orange-crowned Warbler.
DeCandido’s observations of Yellow-breasted Chat and Orange-crowned Warbler set the earliest-ever records for fall migration for these species, the latter by over a month. A most remarkable morning in Central Park!