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.




Pine Siskin, Central Park Wildflower Meadow

The early arrival of Red-breasted Nuthatches, some in August, across southern New York State augured well for winter finch irruptions, just as it did in 2012 when massive finch irruptions followed. It does not appear that this winter will bring the same volume and species variety that 2012 did, but some of the more common finches may show up in Manhattan.

There have been anecdotal reports, beginning last week, of Pine Siskins moving through Central Park in the very early mornings. The first eBird report came on Monday, 29 September, of this week, when five Pine Siskins were observed briefly at the south end of Strawberry Fields.

I recalled the initial frustration I had in adding Pine Siskin to my year list in 2012 — it took me a week from the first Central Park report for me to see one, despite birding nearly every day. I did not want to go through that again, nor did I want to be in the park at 7 a.m. watching for morning flight.

I remembered that in 2012 some Pine Siskins were seen among the large flock of American Goldfinches in the Wildflower Meadow. This year the meadow is in unusually good condition, abounding with fruits and seeds on trees and shrubs. On my second pass through it, midday on 2 October, I saw a Pine Siskin perching atop a shoot of vegetation. It soon flew, but it gave its rising zhee call a number of times afterward.

My 100th bird of the year

I added four new birds for the year today to bring my total to 102 species in Manhattan in 2013. These were Savannah Sparrow and Barn Swallow, with multiple numbers of both seen on the NE shore of Randall’s Island; Fish Crow, of which two were calling as I returned over the 103rd Street pedestrian bridge over the East River; and a single Pine Siskin seen at the Evodia feeders in the Central Park Ramble at 3:25 p.m. 

It took roughly ten miles of running/walking to do all this, which included an early morning visit to the Ramble that turned up nothing new.

Even though I am not planning on doing another big year in 2013, I am slightly ahead of last year’s pace. As of April 13, 2012, I had 94 species, but on I added six birds on the following day. Last year my 102nd species came on April 16.  

This is an exciting time of year to be birding. You can expect to average nearly two new birds each day between now and the end of April, that is if we get decent weather and things go the way they did last year.