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.

Advertisements

Summer update

It’s been two months since my last report, and fall migrants are already passing through. Let’s look back at some interesting birds that have appeared in the interim in Manhattan.

A Red-headed Woodpecker appeared over Evodia on May 27 and lingered just southeast of there in the Ramble for roughly a week.

A couple Purple Martins were observed over Turtle Pond in Central Park beginning June 14 through June 19, reported only by one observer. I watched for them and might have seen one flying high at midday but cannot say so conclusively.

A Black Skimmer was reported feeding over the model boat pond in Central Park at 10 p.m. on July 10. I arrived at 11 p.m. that night, and visited again on some successive nights, but did not see it, nor have I seen them on the Reservoir at night, an even more likely spot to check. Black Skimmers had been photographed last in July 2008 on the model boat pond.

Yesterday afternoon, August 5, I visited Swindler Cove Park in Inwood just after low tide and was treated to a flock of fifty Semipalmated Sandpipers ranging over the Sherman Creek mudflats, giving me my 175th bird species of the year. These birds appeared in 2012 on these mudflats in large numbers, as many as 200 at peak. along with other more unusual shorebirds.

The last couple days have also brought reports of a variety of expected warblers and flycatchers in Central Park.

I am pleased to see that my recent book, “A Big Manhattan Year,” continues to sell well on Amazon. If you want to learn more about birding Manhattan, or just want to read a good big-year story, you should check it out.