Friday, October 16, 2009


Lloyd, Lee and Murray [wielding the long pole]
Pictured above: Central Park's Feeder Squad in action at the Evodia Field a few years ago. These are the folks who get together one afternoon a week [for an hour or so] to put up and fill the home made bird feeders that help sustain the park's avian residents during the winter months. They comprise a vital subset of that cohesive group of bird watchers, insect lovers, owl prowlers, tree and flower identifiers [and many others] known as the park's "nature community". In Red-tails in Love I wrote a little love-song to the Feeder Squad [ p 58-65] and I cannot imagine the park without it.

Yesterday one of the squad's long-time members sent me an SOS:

It looks like the feeders may go the way of the dinosaurs. Neil, the guy who was in charge last year is no longer in NY. I've spoken to several people and nobody seems to be willing to take on his role. Can you help spread the news that we need a new volunteer for the job. It would be a crying shame if the feeders came to an end.

So this is an SOS to readers in the NYC area who love Central Park and birds and who feel, as I do, that winter bird-feeding is a tradition that has been going on for decades and must be preserved.

Though he can't volunteer for the job, Park regular Harry Maas has offered to be a contact person for anyone who might be available It's not a time-consuming job. The other volunteers are in place. We just need someone to be in charge and to help coordinate the once-a week, mid-afternoon feeder fillings. If you are interested, contact Harry and he'll explain just how everything works .

Harry's e-mail address is:

A rainy day activity

European Starling - 9/11/07
Photo courtesy of

Murray Head sent in a suggestion yesterday that still seems relevant today:

It's raining in Central Park today... Perhaps your readers might want to go on a quick trip to Ot Moor for some bird-watching. The visit is for only 5:29 minutes... but I think once seen... never forgotten.

Monday, October 12, 2009

It's far from over

Black-throated Blue Warbler -- 9/25/09
Photo by Lloyd Spitalnik

Now that the excitement of the Sedge Wren's rare appearance has simmered down, it's time to focus on the Fall Migration again. It is far from over, as the report below from Stephanie Seymour of Englewood, NJ. demonstrates:

There seems to have been a good migration last night. I got to the park in Strawberry Fields at first light and there was much activity - actually, most of my time was spent in Strawberry Fields [SF], since it was so busy there. Highlights include 2 Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers, many Kinglets - mostly Ruby-crowned, 1 Field Sparrow and 1 Junco among the hundreds of White-throats, a gorgeous Pine Warbler that was hopping on the ground in front of me, lots of Hermit Thrushes, and 3 Winter Wrens. Here is my full list:
Canada Goose 30
Mallard 58
Rock Pigeon 5
Mourning Dove 2
Red-bellied Woodpecker 3
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker 2 (1 at SF and 1 by the Oven)
Downy Woodpecker 1
Northern Flicker (Yellow-shafted) 3
Eastern Phoebe 2 (1 SF and 1 Maintenance Field)
Blue-headed Vireo 1 (SF)
Blue Jay 11
American Crow 1
Black-capped Chickadee 1
White-breasted Nuthatch 2
Winter Wren 3 (SF, Maintenance Field, and ?? can't remember #3's location)
Golden-crowned Kinglet 5
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 30+
Swainson's Thrush 1
Hermit Thrush 9 (all over)
American Robin 75+
Gray Catbird 4
Brown Thrasher 1 (SF)
European Starling 20
Yellow-rumped Warbler 12 (mostly in SF)
Pine Warbler 1 (SF)
Common Yellowthroat 1 (SF)
Eastern Towhee 4
Field Sparrow 1 (SF)
Song Sparrow 30+ (SF and Maintenance Field)
White-throated Sparrow 300+ (everywhere)
Dark-eyed Junco 1 (SF)
Northern Cardinal 13
Common Grackle 15
House Sparrow 20

Phil Jeffrey sends in some additions to Stephanie's list, seen today in Central Park: House Wren on west side in the W80's. Red-eyed Vireo at Tanner's Spring Palm Warblers in multiple locations Black-throated Blue Warbler (female) at Tanner's Spring American Redstart at Tanner's Spring Scarlet Tanager at Tanner's Spring

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Sedge wren still in park!!!

Photo by Lloyd Spitalnik 10/10/09

Photo by Ardith Bondi 10/10/09

and also

Today on eBirds, Phil Jeffrey wrote at 9:31 a.m.:

Seen briefly this morning along the fence line at the edge of the wood chip piles (not by me). Skulking in the asters.

[No need to specify what was seen. Everybody reading eBirds knows it refers to the SEDGE WREN.]

More info about this remarkable visitor, now in its second day in the park:

Yesterday, shortly after the news of a Sedge Wren in Central Park appeared on eBirds, Jack Meyer sent out an SOS to a few of his friends:

Please tell me I'm not the only one old enough (in birding) to remember when it was not Marsh Wren & Sedge Wren, but Long-billed & Short-billed Marsh Wren.. The Latin names are now completely different from my old (1947) Peterson, but by the description & pictures, they are the same birds (Sedge being the short billed).
[No, Jack, you're not the only one...]

Later I received an eMail from Tom Fiore :

Hi Marie,

Jack Meyer is right - the older English common name for Sedge Wren was Short-billed Marsh Wren. I believe the name change was made official in 1983 by the A.O.U. but there was usage of the epithet "Sedge" for that wren as early as 1955 in materials by the ornithologist Eugene Eisenmann... whose work in taxonomy and classification was ahead of its time in recognizing what is now commonplace, the so-called "splitting" of species into several "new" ones that are usually closely related.

The (now) Sedge Wren, Cistothorus platensis, is part of a "super- species" complex that includes many forms in South America & through Central America, where they are referred to by many as Grass Wren (same scientific name, though). There is much thought that the "Grass" Wrens of Central & South America may one day be split and there could potentially even be a number of different species involved, as they are found in a variety of niches, ecologically speaking.

The most recent previous record for Sedge Wren I am aware of for Central Park was of one I found in the wildflower meadow on August 14, 2005. There was a sighting in Prospect Park Brooklyn on Sept. 13, 2004.

The species has bred in parts of our area but is not as common as it may have once been. In our neighboring state of Connecticut it is now on the state's endangered species list, although at least a few pairs have been suspected of breeding. In New Jersey, the Sedge Wren was classified as threatened in 1979, and reclassified as endangered there in 1984. Currently, the sedge wren is a very rare breeding species in New Jersey despite the presence of apparently suitable habitat.

Because the species occurs in small, isolated populations, it may take a long time for it to recover from precariously low levels. Sedge wrens have suffered severe declines throughout much of the northeastern United States and are consequently listed elsewhere as endangered (Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts), threatened (Vermont, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia), or of special concern (New York).

The sedge wren has been listed as a "Migratory Nongame Bird of Management Concern" by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service since 1992.
Some Sedge Wren pairs have been found breeding in the Hudson valley region in NY in the last few years.

A nice find by STARR & friends this morning! A cooperative little bird in the bush, for once.


Rare bird!!!

Sedge Wren in Central Park

Photo by Lloyd Spitalnik

Photo by David Speiser

Photo by Ardith Bondi

It began at 11:02 a.m, when Lloyd Spitalnik sent out the news on his listserv Metro Birding Reports, which is dedicated to spreading word of special bird sightings in the NYC area. He wrote:

Hi all,
Starr Saphir called with news of a Sedge Wren on the Great Hill. If you walk up the path from the Pool you'll see an area with compost and a tree that has been pulled out of the ground. Past that is a heavily vegetated area that's fenced off. The bird pops up on that fence.

A sedge wren is a rare and unusual bird for Central Park! Soon the excitement heightened as birders began gathering in the North Woods area described in Lloyd's notice. The obliging bird made appearances during much of the day. It was not camera shy, as you can see by the splendid photos above.

Tomorrow I'll post more information about this rare and elusive little bird, last seen in Central Park in 2005.

Meanwhile, it may still be there tomorrow! In case it chooses to stay in the same location , Ardith has sent in another set of useful directions:

The easiest way to find the spot in the park is to enter at 103rd St. and Central Park West. Walk up the 2 small flights of stairs and when you get to the fork take the lower walkway. Follow it around until you see hay bales lining an open field on your left. The bird was mostly in the fenced off vegetated area."