Autumn Surge

Since my last post, on September 5, I had what seems to be my best-ever September and October, completely turning my year around. On this table I have bolded the names of species reported by relatively few birders.

bird Date Species Location
183 6-Sep-16 Connecticut Warbler Central Park
184 9-Sep-16 Virginia Rail Central Park–The Ramble
185 11-Sep-16 Red-shouldered Hawk Central Park
186 12-Sep-16 Red-headed Woodpecker Central Park–The Ramble
187 19-Sep-16 Green-winged Teal Central Park–Harlem Meer
188 21-Sep-16 Northern Pintail Central Park–Turtle Pond
189 25-Sep-16 Vesper Sparrow Central Park–North End
190 27-Sep-16 Clay-colored Sparrow Central Park
191 28-Sep-16 Marsh Wren Central Park
192 1-Oct-16 Nelson’s Sparrow Randalls Island
193 3-Oct-16 Saltmarsh Sparrow Randalls Island–NE fields and shoreline
194 3-Oct-16 Eastern Screech-Owl Inwood Hill Park
195 6-Oct-16 American Wigeon Central Park–Harlem Meer
196 8-Oct-16 Eastern Meadowlark Central Park–Great Lawn
197 9-Oct-16 Wilson’s Snipe Randalls Island–NE fields and shoreline
198 12-Oct-16 Blue Grosbeak Central Park–Wildflower Meadow
199 19-Oct-16 Yellow-breasted Chat Central Park–North End
200 20-Oct-16 Northern Harrier Randalls Island
201 23-Oct-16 Cackling Goose Inwood Hill Park–Dyckman Fields

Let’s go through the list quickly. The Connecticut Warbler stayed at its Pilgrim Hill location all day and was seen by 50+ observers. Those few who missed that one had many other chances, as at least six others were reported and chaseable. Similarly, the Virginia Rail stayed in the Ramble all day, wandering sometimes from the outlet of the Gill on the Lake to the fenced-in Swampy Pin Oak area.

Very few birders had Red-shouldered Hawk this fall, even though it is generally a common flyover migrant. East and northeast winds that prevailed for over two weeks during the height of September hawk migration made this species and Broad-winged Hawk difficult to get.

Only a handful of birders got and reported this first Red-headed Woodpecker of the season, but several others of the species showed up in October and lingered.

Green-winged Teal — at least two — lingered for weeks on the Meer.

This female Northern Pintail stayed on Turtle Pond for only a day, but many saw it.

I had the only eBird report of this Vesper Sparrow, and surprisingly, the species did not end up being seen my many. Last year one lingered for days at Locust Grove.

A Clay-colored Sparrow was seen by a handful of birders on the grassy hill east of Lasker Rink and immediately alerted, but I was minutes late in responding and the bird was not seen there again. I ended up getting a different one near Wagner Cove.

A Marsh Wren lingered for at least a few days on the southern shore of the Lake.

Both Nelson’s  and Saltmarsh Sparrow again showed up on the northeast marsh of Randall’s Island, as they usually do.

An Eastern Screech-Owl was seen and reported at Inwood Hill Park. It proved to be a difficult chase, taking hours, as little information was provided as to location. I eventually found the roost and stayed to hear it calling after sundown.

The female American Wigeon on the Meer looked so similar to the many transitional-plumage Northern Shovelers with which it associated that a few birders were unable to find it on their first try even after my Twitter alert indicated that the bird was on the eastern section of the water. It stayed for more than a few days and was seen by many.

Deborah Allen reported the Eastern Meadowlark on the Great Lawn with her birding group. I ran out to see it immediately. It did not linger for more than an hour. Other meadowlarks appeared in the North End and on Randall’s Island, but these were seen by only a few.

I ran out to Randall’s Island’s northeast shore to chase a Caspian Tern seen earlier in the day by Andrew Farnsworth. I did not get the tern, but my hour there was well-rewarded by a Wilson’s Snipe that flew across the East River from Queens and landed nearby on a ball field. There were no snipes reported in Central Park this fall.

I chased an Muscota Marsh Blue Grosbeak that had already been reported to have flown, as birds do sometimes return to good locations. This one did not. Nevertheless, within ten days another Blue Grosbeak was reported at the Central Park Wildflower Meadow, and with a little patience I got that one.

My first Yellow-breasted Chat of the fall was heard only, in the thick brush south of the Children’s Glade. I was delighted to get it, as I had spent many hours on multiple occasions trying to observe the well-reported Chat at Maintenance Meadow in mid-September. I ended up getting another Chat visually on the 24th. This one apparently remained in the area and took up residence in the vicinity of the Sparrow Rocks, just east of the West Park Drive at 82nd Street, allowing many to see it.

The Northern Harrier was flying low downstream on the East River.

The Cackling Goose was initially reported at the ball fields north of Spuyten Duyvil, after which it flew. I re-found it on the Dyckman Fields at the opposite end of Inwood Hill Park.

This excellent fall helped to made up for a poor winter and a disappointing shorebird season. I am looking forward to what November and December will bring.


Wilson’s Snipe, The Point, Central Park

Yesterday, April 10, a Wilson’s Snipe was reported at the Point in the Central Park Ramble just after 7 a.m. I was immediately faced with a question that I knew would come up often throughout the 2014 spring migration season: do I chase this bird? I am not trying to do a big year in 2014, at least not with anywhere near the level of effort that went into my 2012 big year, and probably not even with the much-reduced effort level of 2013. Still, I enjoy the challenge of birding and I like to observe rare birds. I did a great job again at winter birding, so my total species for the year places me among top few (now second place, 101 species) on the eBird New York County “Top Birders” list, not far from the overall lead. It was a pleasant morning and I can run to the Point in under ten minutes, so I decided to chase the snipe. I got it, but only after a short delay when I first checked the shore of the Point that faces the Boat House.

Wilson’s Snipe figured in my 2012 big year — one appeared at the Upper Lobe and I had to choose between chasing it or chasing a much more distant Yellow-throated Warbler in the limited time I had before a lunch date. I chose to get the snipe, and I ended up getting the Yellow-throated Warbler with Starr a couple weeks later. Wilson’s Snipe is a very good bird for Central Park, one that gets reported roughly once per year. One also appeared in 2013 in nearly exactly the same place on the Point.

When the “do I chase this bird?” question arises next time, I am more inclined to say no — unless it is a life bird. I want to get my securities trading business going, and this requires beginning work by 8 a.m. or so. I probably will make exceptions for some of the best migration mornings. Or I might go out very early, at first light, which is already 6:30 a.m. and will be 6:00 a.m. in a few weeks. This can be a very productive time to bird, when the city is quieter and the parks are mostly empty.

I went out at 7:15 a.m. today, April 11, for what promised to be an excellent morning, one followed by a day and night of moderate south-southwest winds. It was disappointing. There clearly was a huge flight of Northern Flickers, which could be seen everywhere, both in the air and on the ground. I saw at least 50. Many Ruby-crowned Kinglets arrived, too. Just two days ago I was delighted to see a single one, my first of the season. Today I saw at least 15, and they finally outnumbered the Golden-crowned Kinglets.

I added three new species for the year: Palm Warbler, Field Sparrow, and Blue-gray Gnatcatcher. But I observed no other warblers, not even Yellow-rumped (which I had seen a few days ago), nor did I have any Blue-headed Vireos.

I did reach the 100-bird milestone for the year (101), and so for the sake of comparison I looked back at the prior two years. As of April 11 in 2012 I had 94 birds; in 2013, 98. Of course, spring migration in New York was a disaster last year. All these numbers show is that I have had successively better winters. We will see what happens with the 60+ species that are slated to arrive over the next six weeks.