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.

 

 

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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. No frustration in this quest, and I had species number 198 of the year.

 

Weather continues to discourage migration

Since the very promising Wednesday, April 17, of last week, we have had five consecutive poor birding days. Continued cold weather and northerly winds surely are to blame. By now we normally would be seeing great numbers of Yellow-rumped Warblers, but birders are tallying only one or two per outing. Last year these warblers were already abundant by the 17th.

The standout migrant so far has been Blue-gray Gnatcatcher. Last year this was a difficult bird to to observe all throughout spring migration. I believe I had only two during all of April. On Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, totals of three to six gnatcatchers were the norm among eBird lists that I checked, and my own counts were also in this range.

Other warblers have appeared, but perhaps only one or two birds across the whole of Central Park: Black-and-white Warbler, Yellow Warbler, and Northern Waterthrush, for example.

All three swallow species have been appearing on the Lake, along with a Black-crowned Night-Heron or two. I had my first-of-season Chimney Swifts on Sunday over the Lake.

I also had my first-of-year Red-breasted Nuthatch in Inwood Hill Park on Saturday (heard only), followed by a close-up visual of one in the North End on Sunday.

Conditions for migration may be briefly more favorable during the middle of this week. We will see!