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.

Grasshopper Sparrow, Central Park

Grasshopper Sparrow 5-20110201

Grasshopper Sparrow 5-20110201 (Photo credit: Kenneth Cole Schneider)

At 11:39 a.m. today, as I was watching the market, I received an email from eBirdsNYC: Stephen Chang, one of Manhattan’s top birders, had found a rare Grasshopper Sparrow on the lawn west of Triplets Bridge. (This lawn is at the very west end of Central Park, north of the 77th Street entrance off Central Park West and a block east of CPW, just west of the stream that feeds the Lake.)

Mr. Chang seems to have a way with Grasshopper Sparrows. He also was the finder of the one near the Lawn Bowling courts in May 2012 about which I wrote in my book.

I ran to area, arriving at 11:55 a.m. I was first on the scene, and I saw neither the bird nor its original finder. I did see some House Sparrows on the lawn, so I scanned them and then circled around the lawn.

As I was searching the opposite side of the lawn, another birder called out that the bird was appearing by the fence just west of the stream. I turned and got a good look. Its eye ring, buffy throat, and overall shape and coloring left no doubt as to its identity.

The bird remained in view for five minutes and then seemed to disappear into the brush. I remained on the scene for another twenty minutes as seven birders watched for it, but it did not reappear. It was reported again later in the afternoon.

The Grasshopper Sparrow has been appearing roughly once per season in recent years in Central Park. As we begin the fall sparrowing season, I am hoping that more ammodramus sparrows will show up in Central Park.

I visited the northeast shore of Randall’s Island on Monday, September 30, and found the lone Saltmarsh Sparrow (also of the ammodramus genus) that had been found by another observer the day before. It was my 183rd species of the year. Today’s Grasshopper Sparrow was my 184th.