Dickcissel and Pine Siskin, Central Park

Dickcissel, Central Park North End

On migration-season Fridays, Robert DeCandido offers a birding walk in the Central Park North End. He starts early, 7 a.m. or so, well before the scheduled walk time of 9 a.m., to scout the area and also to get in some good birding at the best time.

Two weeks ago he found Orange-crowned Warbler and Yellow-breasted Chat on his scouting walk, the first of which he tweeted while I was still in bed, so the chase took a bit longer than I would have liked.

On this last Friday, August 24, I was up earlier, so that when Robert’s 8:00 a.m. tweet of a Dickcissel opposite the Green Bench arrived, I did not have much left to do to before going on my way.

It’s remarkable how this small area, around the Green Bench, produced two rarities worthy of regional mention in a short time frame.

I ran and reached the location by 8:27, and within a minute I saw the Dickcissel poking its head above the grass. I even got a decent photo.

Dickcissel is not recorded every year in the park; the last known appearance of it there was noted by only one birder in October 2016. Before that, Robert DeCandido and Deborah Allen found one on the Central Park Great Hill on 27 May 2016, and I quickly chased it and saw it along with Deborah.

I am delighted to have had at least one Dickcissel in Manhattan every year from 2011 to 2018.

Today, August 25, Robert DeCandido continued to produce. I joined him for a walk around the Ramble on a pleasant but not-too-birdy morning. The Ramble was alive with the calls of Red-breasted Nuthatches. Altogether I had at least ten of them.

We saw and heard several of them in the trees of Bunting Meadow, immediately north of the Upper Lobe. Robert noticed another, drabber bird associating with the nuthatches, one with brown streaking on the breast and a sharp bill — an unexpected Pine Siskin, the first of the year for Manhattan! This also is the earliest-recorded fall date on eBird of a Manhattan Pine Siskin.

 

 

Advertisements

A Spate of Year Birds

I have not posted in a few months because I was not observing any exceptional birds. The summer shorebird season was disappointing, with nothing new for me but the common and expected Semipalmated Sandpiper. There is still time for shorebirds, as two of the best from last year arrived in the late-September to early-November period.

Raptor movements have been sparse due to prevailing winds with easterly components. Still, I have managed to see the usual Osprey, Broad-winged Hawk, and Red-shouldered Hawk, the latter two only in very small numbers.

Then, in just the last eight days, I added five new birds to my year list.

  1. Many saw the two Connecticut Warblers that lingered at in the Trinity Church courtyard on September 21 and 22;
  2. An immature Red-Headed Woodpecker appeared in the Evodia area of Central Park on morning of the 24th;
  3. An Eastern Whip-poor-will was found roosting on a tree limb at the south end of the Loch early on the morning of the 26th. I raced out to see it, and it remained there the entire day;
  4. Later, on the afternoon of the 26th I had to run out to the North End again to chase a Grasshopper Sparrow on the Grassy Knoll. It appeared furtively a few times, sometimes in flight;
  5. Today, the 29th, a birder visiting from the West Coast reported on eBird seeing a Dickcissel in the Maintenance area of the Ramble sometime between 10:30 and noon. The description checked and the other birds on his list made sense, so I ran to Maintenance shortly after seeing the 12:23 eBird Rare Bird Alert.

The eBird report suggested to me that the bird had been on the small lawn directly east of the all-metal maintenance shed. It was said to associating, as Dickcissels often do, with a flock of House Sparrows. There was a such a House Sparrow flock there, occasionally drinking from the water that collected at the base of a public fountain. I stealthily watched the fountain area for fifteen minutes. No Dickcissel.

I also checked the perimeter of the area, which included the Maintenance Meadow proper. After forty minutes I still did not have the bird.

Then I decided to look into  the northeast corner of Maintenance, where I could see some House Sparrows feeding atop tall grasses and weeds and occasionally perching on the wire fence that encloses the entrance to the shed. Soon the Dickcissel appeared on the tall grass. Of the several Dickcissels I have seen in Manhattan, this one had the brightest yellow breast. It also had a very yellow supercilium.

Paul Sweet’s American Museum of Natural History midday walk was at Maintenance, so I told Paul about the bird and he brought the group over. After some minutes of searching he found the Dickcissel perching on the tree.

The Dickcissel lingered in the general area for the entire day and was seen by many.

Dickcissel, Central Park Pinetum

Dickcissel

Dickcissel (Photo credit: K Schneider)

After finishing a midday workout, I was considering going to the Hudson today to watch for waterfowl driven to move by the sub-freezing overnight temperatures. I returned to my apartment and saw a NYSBirds posting alerting me to a more proximate opportunity: one of Manhattan’s most accomplished birders, Peter Post, had reported a Dickcissel in the Central Park Pinetum.

I had just several week ago chased a reported Dickcissel on the Great Hill only to find that it was actually an exotic escaped bird, probably a Yellow-fronted Canary. I had no doubt about the one today, however. Mr. Post is a noted expert who has been birding Central Park since long before I was born.

I arrived at the Pinetum roughly 40 minutes after Post’s 1:38 p.m. report, and no one had seen the bird since the original sighting. I was encouraged to see that Post, with his camera, was still looking. I surveyed the surrounding area, checking the Pinetum’s inner circle and also the newly-seeded lawn that had attracted many sparrows in recent weeks.

Just after 3 p.m. I saw some birders running and a camera flash going off. I ran toward them, to the area where the bird had originally been seen, the very northeast edge of the Pinetum just northwest of the Great Lawn. The Dickcissel was on the grass only twenty feet from the wire fence, but it did not stay there long. Camera flashes seemed to frighten it, and it flew up into a pine tree and then, apparently, away.

I had gotten a good look, but I wanted to see it again, so I went off looking for it. Most of the other birders stayed in place. After twenty minutes it reappeared on the same lawn from which it had flown. It eventually gave all birders extended, close looks as it walked across the lawn. It had only a hint of yellow on its eyestripe and a dull grey breast. It almost certainly was a female, or possibly an immature bird.

I had had the Inwood Hill Park Dickcissel in December 2011 and January 2012, so it was not a life Manhattan bird for me. It was, however, my first Central Park Dickcissel, and species number 196 for me in 2013 in Manhattan.