Wednesday, March 25, 2015

FIRST PHOEBE reported in Central Park

[Catching up on reports… my excuse: I've had the flu.]

For many years now I've been captivated by the idea of finding the first Central Park Phoebe of the spring .  Here's a report of the first phoebe sighted in 2015. Tom Fiore, of course, was the sharp-eyed finder. Also included, two even older reports by Tom.
Eastern Phoebe  -- photo  by David  Speiser- Central Park 2005

Tuesday, 17 March, 2015
Central Park (Manhattan, N.Y. City)

Nice batches of just-before-spring arrivals, and reinforcements of a few wintering species; with a bit of diurnal movement too.

An Eastern PHOEBE showed up in Central Park's north end, 1st found by Tom Perlman & present at the "ridge', an elevated area w. of the Meer. (Despite all the chill & wind, a flycatcher's preferred food - insect life - is in fact available as a modest number of hatches began in the past week or so, with the days when it reached the upper 50's.)

The morning was mild & slightly drizzled, the afternoon brought on the wind & a little fresh chill, but that mid-March type, where (we hope) it just won't last, not too long, anyhow.  Quite a lot of birds were singing in early morning - among them: Brown Thrasher (which overwintered), N. Mockingbird, Carolina Wrens (in several locations), American Robins, Song Sparrows (with a fresh strong influx: 150+ new arrivals in the park overall), "red" Fox Sparrows (also an influx, incl. 10+ in the n. end & thanks to Tom P.), & many other more-common &/or resident species... even a male Rusty Blackbird (singing the rusty-gate song, not just calling), amongst some Euro. Starlings at a lawn n. of the reservoir, where I also found my first Yellow-shafted Flicker of the year (in the park). Red-winged Blackbirds have been in song from most areas in the park, esp. if one is out & about early and listening.

At least 4 Purple Finches were feeding on crabapples next to the Alexander Hamilton statue, e. of the Great Lawn, in the a.m.; American Woodcock sightings were in the  Ramble, & also at the wildflower meadow area; there were discrete flocks of freshly-arrived Dark-eyed Juncos & (esp.) Song Sparrows, plus some other sparrows adding to the overall feel - including at least one Field, & one Swamp, and a reinforcement to White-throated Sparrows.  One small lawn alone held more than 50 Song Sparrows in less than 500 square feet, & another similarly-sized lawn held more than 75 juncos, at times in the a.m., with many others in a variety of locations. Also still present are an overwintering Chipping Sparrow, often by the Ramble feeders, & some American Tree Sparrows, which could soon be headed north.

A 90-minute watch of the sky at mid-day provided not that much, but at least 2 Tree Swallows went by headed north, & several Turkey Vultures, migrant Red-tailed Hawks (along with the multiples of the latter that were wintering or are resident), and a modestly-surprising Common Raven (& in pursuit of one of said Red-tails) as well as some other seasonal migrants, all seen from the n. end of the park.  And the surprise of a raven in Manhattan now being only "modest" simply due to the rather recent change in status of the species in the urban environment!

As the reservoir's ice slowly opens & some fresh migration occurs, up to 8 spp. of ducks have been present, with a drake Green-winged Teal showing up Monday, and a pair of Red-breasted Mergansers still lingering as well, plus Wood Ducks, Gadwall, Buffleheads, American Black Duck, N. Shovelers, 2 Hooded Mergansers (& some Common Mergansers as flyovers), & also a few flyover Double-crested Cormorants, & multiple Great Blue Herons (those seen apparently moving on rather than dropping in, perhaps due to the still-extensiive ice cover on all waterbodies - the reservoir is still 80%+ iced-over, with cracks & leads opening all around, but it will take some more warm-enough days.) At the southern-most waterbody, the "Pond", a lot of ice could persist a very long time, due to the shadows cast by so many buildings nearby, all times of year. A drake wood duck & 1 coot continue on there, among the motley Mallards. All the waterbodies now are starting to receive some ducks, as they begin to thaw out, even if just Mallards.

Good birding,

Tom Fiore

Thursday, 12 March, 2015
Central Park (Manhattan, N.Y. City)

A Killdeer kind of day, with at least 8 found: initially one, then 2 (& with 5 more, spotted by Karen Fung, a total of 7 at the N. Meadow ballfields), and at least 1 at the s. side of Sheep Meadow (all later in the day);  additional modest movement included a Belted Kingfisher at the Loch, an American Woodcock on the Great Hill (& reports of 1 or more at the Ramble as well), Rusty Blackbird[s] also in the Ramble, & a fair flight of Red-winged Blackbirds, Common Grackles, and (fewer) American Robins all seeming to want to head NE, at least as seen even in p.m. hours from the NE corner of the park (ie, they headed out of the park, moving NE).  It also seemed as though some sparrows & possibly other species might have moved, although with so much snow having melted off, birds had much more room to simply disperse in the parks, with a lot of potential old & new food available in some spots, food both "vegetable" & "animal" - seeds, arthropods, etc.

Harder to say about 2 species of Kinglet seen in Central today; my own assumption that these are birds that successfully overwintered: a Ruby-crowned at the north end, and 2 Golden-crowned around Cedar Hill. Each species had been seen into early winter, and could well have made it thru, even given the extreme weeks. A few other "half-hardy" types also did, such as Hermit Thrush, Brown Thrasher, Carolina Wren - the term half-hardy being a relative one, & this winter having obviously been a tough one for both man & beast.  A male Cooper's Hawk remains in the Ramble & vicinity, often but just temporarily scaring off smaller birds from feeding areas there. 2 Wood Ducks were still being found, a drake regular at the Pond (se part of the park), & a female at the reservoir or the lake. It will still be a while for all the ice to disappear but now cracks are forming in all the park's waterbodies.

'Winter Hazel', or at any rate a species-cultivar of Corylopsis is blooming now in a few areas of the park, as are some other typically-early-blooming flowers ('snowdrops', crocus, & etc.) after Wed.'s temp. of 60 F. here!

good birding,
Tom Fiore

Wed., 11 March, 2015 (& prev. 2 days)
Central & Riverside Parks, Manhattan, N.Y. City

An influx of blackbirds, esp. Red-winged Blackbirds & Common Grackles, plus some American Robins, made this day really feel a bit more like the near-60 degree temperatures suggested, a bit of spring. Also noted were some Cowbirds - all Brown-headed, as far as I could tell! - and a very modest further movement of Turkey Vultures, along with Red-tailed Hawks - the latter a still-increasing sight as residents in the city, but at least some just now also moving thru. Some of this detected from along the Hudson, 60th to 125th Sts. & also from Central Park, where:

sightings in the Ramble, esp. at & near the feeders, have included the long-lingering (sporadic, yet seen daily) male Common Redpoll, a Chipping Sparrow which also overwintered, American Tree Sparrows, & a few Purple Finch plus Pine Siskin as well as a very modest number of Red-winged Blackbirds, & some other recent arrivals, such as Buffleheads returning to the reservoir, where the area of open water is expanding.  Monday brought Am. Woodcock to the north end of Central, with 1 found at the Great Hill by Ken Chaya, & others farther south in the park.  Some other birds also have been showing up as an indication of seasonal movements.  Ice will be lingering on the waterbodies in Central a while yet, although the ice is of course showing signs of receding. A lot of snow is melting away, and streams, rivulets, and vast puddles are forming. In field-meadow areas, open ground is appearing, and those open areas are worth a look for possible migrants to appear, including some that are not commonly seen any more in Central or Riverside parks. A quick scan today did not reveal much, but worth trying as the ice & snow diminish, and then disappear. It will be a while before all ice is out on the reservoir & other waterbodies in Central, even as the Hudson is virtually ice-free again, in the area near Manhattan's west side.
A mid-day visit to Croton Point & Croton Gorge parks Tues. (10 March) with Ken Chaya provided great looks at 20+ Bald Eagles (a dozen+ on & near the Hudson river, others moving up & near the Croton river gorge and above the dam to the east), a great many ducks including loads of Common Mergansers, Ring-necked Ducks, and others, plus some Killdeer (on spit east of the RR station parking lot), Great Blue Heron, and Belted Kingfisher. There were 2 Black & at least 4 Turkey Vultures not far from these areas. We did not scan or walk extensively, & there were likely a good many more birds about the area, with fresh arrivals & some departures also likely now.

Good birding,

Tom Fiore


Monday, March 16, 2015

A Bird ID Question

The following letter appeared on eBirdsnyc today, sent by a reader named J. Reib.  Once a few years ago I saw a similar bird in the very same place! Paul Sweet, an ornithologist at the American Museum of Natural History, provided  an answer for J. Reib at once, as he did for me so many years ago.  I'll include his answer at the end of the letter, [followed by a picture of the bird] to give you a chance to figure it out for yourself.

From: [
Sent: Monday, March 16, 2015 3:28 PM
To: Nyc Ebirds
Subject: [ebirdsnyc] Can anyone identify this bird?
From J. Reib:
A letter from my grandson:

Hey Grandma,
Interesting story and question you may find interesting. While on my lunch break, I came across an injured bird laying in the middle of the sidewalk just south of Bryant Park. I suppose it had flown into the nearest building and tumbled all the way down. Its prospects did not seem bright, although it seemed to have some life left in it as someone moved it to the edge of the street. When I walked by some minutes later, I did not see it. I'll choose to believe that it regained its senses and continued on its way.
It was, however, a bird I have never seen before and a very striking one. I didn't think to take a picture when I saw it (too gruesome), but it was distinctive enough that I bet you'd be able to figure out what it was. It was about the same size as a pigeon (maybe just a bit smaller), had sandy brown feathers, and spots of dark brown. Most notable was long, straight and pale beak that must have been at least three inches long. It may have had a little curve at the end. 

Paul Sweet answers via eBirdsNYCIt’s an American Woodcock.

American Woodcock

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Tom walks in the rain on Saturday

Saturday, 14 March, 2015;  Central Park 
Male Common Redpoll, 12/12/12

3/14/15 In a drizzly lull in rain, a walk from one end of Central Park to the other (60th-110th Sts.) provided views of a few lingering or newly-arrived birds: a pair (hen & drake) of Red-breasted Mergansers at the C.P. reservoir, on the s. end of the open water; other ducks as prev., along with at least 2 Amer. Coot, & several hundred gulls of what seemed to be just the 3 most-typical spp.;  the male Common Redpoll made a quick showing at the Ramble feeders before noon, & on the western-most part of the N. Meadow ballfields, a single Killdeer was in the vicinity of some Mallards out on the newly-revealed grass there. All the park's water-bodies are now showing more small cracks & openings - there were even a few ducks at the Meer. Also noticed during my walk were American Kestrel, Cooper's Hawk (Ramble) & calling Fish Crow (near the Meer), along with smatterings of Amer. Robins, Red-winged Blackbirds, Common Grackles, & various wintering regulars.

good birding,

Tom Fiore Manhattan

Thursday, February 26, 2015

A Bone-chilling Afternoon

             Fox Sparrow in Central Park -- photo by LLOYD SPITALNIK - 3/7/09

"We few, we happy few…", is how King Henry V began his speech to the English army in  Shakespeare's play. But when our brave reporter Pat Pollock quoted the King to describe her visit to The Ramble today, she obviously couldn't use the word "happy". It was too cold. Here's her report of Central Park's bird life on a day when the temperature went down to the low 20's:

2/26/15, Thursday

Pat Pollock:

We few, we very few showed up on this bone-chilling afternoon and very few birds also showed up:

Redpoll & Brown Thrasher
2 Fox Sparrows
beautiful Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (m)
Downy Woodpecker (m)
Lots of Grackles
perched Red-tailed Hawk
lots of Goldfinches
beautiful (m) House Finch
White-breasted Nuthatch
Black-capped Chickadee

Monday, February 23, 2015

Tom's Central Park Report

Male Common Redpoll - photo by LLOYD SPITALNIK 4-2-11

Monday, 23 February, 2015

At Central Park (Manhattan, N.Y. City) a single male Common Redpoll continues to visit the feeders in the Ramble, this a.m. seen as I walked up at 7:15 a.m., while some other mornings I have not seen it until a while later in the a.m. but always making at least one appearance before 9, this past week. An assortment of other more-regular species included a Carolina Wren, a wintering Chipping Sparrow (very fluffed out & sitting still in a small shrub next to the feeder array, but then joining all the other hungry birds to feed), American Tree Sparrow (down by the lakeshore, where there was also a great deal of small bird activity), several Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers (including at Strawberry Fields, & the Pinetum area, as well as by the Ramble's feeders);  down at The Pond in the park's SE corner, a drake Wood Duck continues among the many Mallards & a few Americam Black Ducks, plus a single American Coot; a female Wood Duck remains at the reservoir's miniscule path of open water (at the south end) & also along the icy bank there, among relatively scant Mallards & Canada Geese, plus a couple of Coot. At least 1 more Coot plus a very few Northern Shovelers were in the barely-open patch of water at the west side of the Lake, a bit south of the Ladies Pavillion / Hernshead.

At least today, and perhaps all this chilly week ahead, many paths, & even sections of the main Park Drives, are extremely icy-slippery in spots, and extreme caution will be needed to maintain balance & prevent a fall. I saw at least a dozen other people, many of them young & athletic, nearly do so, and I (no longer young or athletic ;-) nearly slipped any number of times. There are crews out trying to put sand, & scrape where possible but the work is very, very difficult, and the icy patches are sure to continue until there is a much longer-lasting warm-up.

Good birding,

Tom Fiore