Willow Flycatcher, Turtle Pond

This morning, 21 May 2017, I saw an empidonax flycatcher from the Turtle Pond Dock flycatching low on Turtle Pond Island. It was, by appearance, either a Willow or an Alder Flycatcher. The two species look almost exactly alike and can be differentiated in the field only by vocalization. This bird was quiet, and before I could play a recording that might elicit a vocal response it flew east. With the fence surround the adjacent lawn not yet open, I was unable to chase it and I went on with the morning’s birding walk.

Just after noon I returned to Turtle Pond. From the east-side landing (opposite the King Jagiello statue) I saw a flycatcher working over the marshy south shore. It flew across the pond toward me, and as it did, it began singing the characteristic “ritz-bew” song of the Willow Flycatcher. I heard another Willow Flycatcher respond faintly in song from the south shore as the first one continued singing near me.

This was the first time in six years of intense spring birding that I had ever heard a Willow Flycatcher sing in Central Park. I have heard them calling before, at least once every year since 2013.

I still have yet to hear an Alder Flycatcher sing in Central Park. Perhaps because its breeding range extends much farther north (compared to that of Willow Flycatcher) it is less likely to sing when passing through here. There is only one eBird report of Alder in Central Park that indicates song was heard. Other reports, which involve barely more than a handful of discrete occurrence dates over all time, mention call only.

Advertisements

Migrants move on

Wednesday, May 22, was a good day for birding Central Park. There was decent warbler variety, with a Mourning Warbler appearing at times on the Point in the afternoon and evening. An Alder Flycatcher was seen and heard there in the morning, and it may have been the empidonax flycatcher that I saw there in the afternoon. Since it did not vocalize then, I could not make the species ID. Cedar Waxwings, some of which will linger throughout the summer, were also observed frequently in flocks throughout the park.

The good birding days began on May 9 and it appears that May 22 was the last of them. Yesterday very little bird song could be heard in the Ramble, aside from some Baltimore Orioles, Red-eyed Vireos, and Blackpoll Warblers. I noticed a Spotted Sandpiper working the northeast shore of Turtle Pond. Aside from these, it was very quiet. It had the steamy feeling of a June day.

It is possible that we get one more push of migrants. We did last year — May 25, 2012, was a great day, one of the few best of the spring. I certainly would not count on it, though.

I added Yellow-bellied Flycatcher and Cedar Waxwing on the 22nd to bring my 2013 species total to 172. This is well ahead of the 163 that I had last year at the same point, but   the improvement largely is due to a very strong winter and to some good luck: Common Nighthawk and Chuck-will’s-widow appeared openly on the same day last week and were widely reported; Least Flycatcher and Yellow-crowned Night-Heron showed up at Randall’s Island.

As I have said before, I am not trying to do another big year. I expect that other responsibilities will take precedence over fall birding (which can begin as early as mid-July), but I probably will get out to Randall’s Island and Swindler Cove Park for the summer shorebird season.