Sunday, May 10, 2015

Brush up your bird song

Now's the time to take out your CDs of  Birding by Ear and brush up your bird listening skills. In my opinion being able to identify birds by their songs is the most rewarding part of birdwatching.  Below, Doug Kurz's report of  his sightings [and hearings] this morning  [5/10/15] in Central Park .
[and PS- HAPPY MOTHERS DAY greetings from me too.]
Yellow-throated Warbler--photo by DAVID SPEISER  5/8/14
[PS I know, there was no Yellow-throated Warbler reported today. But what a lovely photo of a singing bird it is!]

Here's Doug's report
Happy Mother's Day!  This morning's highlights were a Black-billed Cuckoo at Maintenance, and a pair of male Cape May Warblers at Tupelo.
After a great week of birding, I took yesterday off.  It looked like things were winding down Friday afternoon, and I saw that a cloud cover was moving in for Saturday morning.  More to the point, after two weeks of getting up at 5am, being in the Park daily at sunrise, and going for hours on end each day, I just couldn't move!!  Well, I apparently didn't miss much, as yesterday turned out to be dead as a doornail.  I birded today from 6:15am to 11:30am in the Ramble.
Today also started out with a cloud cover, but I saw in the weather reports that it would be partially clearing.  So I figured it was worth a try.  I headed to West 77th at about 6:15am (sunrise is irrelevant when there's heavy mist and clouds), and made my way across Triplett's, Balcony, and Oak Bridges, Upper Lobe, Humming Tombstone, Tupelo and over to Maintenance.   

Things started out very slow.  Song was dominated by Cardinals, Robins, Starlings and House Sparrows.  A singing Northern Waterthrush was my first migratory songbird at Triplett's Bridge, and I heard Blackpoll, Parula and Yellow-rumped Warblers in the distance.  It didn't seem very promising.  As I walked through Tupelo, I though I heard a Cape May way up in the London Plane trees above the paved walkway, but could not locate the bird.  I then made it into Maintenance at about 6:55am.
Within a couple of minutes, a Black-billed Cuckoo flew in, perched out in the open, fluffed up his feathers and began singing and calling.  A couple of other birders were present and also got on the bird.  The views were good enough to see the red orbit around the eye, the decurved black bill, and the underside of the tail feathers.  I also took note of the buffy throat contrasting with the whiter belly, another diagnostic for Black-billled.  As is usual for Cuckoos, within minutes he stealthily moved into the greenery, and was unfortunately never seen again.  As I had tweeted about the Cuckoo, a number of birders went to Maintenance looking for it; I'm sorry  they all didn't get to see the bird!!  Cuckoos are notoriously difficult to chase, as they often either depart silently, or sit motionless for hours undetected.
From there I worked my way through the Ramble, gradually picking up ten species of warblers:
Northern Parula* (still plenty of singing males)
Cape May Warbler* (2m at Tupelo, see report below)
Black-throated Blue Warbler* (several m, 1f)
Yellow-rumped Warbler* (sharply decreased, but still quite a few)
Pine Warbler (a surprisingly late drab female; I stayed on it until I was certain of the ID)
Blackpoll Warbler* (8+ males, 2f)
Black-and-white Warbler* (1m, 4-5 f)
Ovenbird* (saw one, heard a few more)
Northern Waterthrush* (1m Triplett's)
Common Yellowthroat* (2m, 1f, Point, Swampy Pin Oak)

Thrushes were nearly absent; I had one Veery and heard two Wood Thrushes.
Non-resident vireos were nearly absent; I had only (2) Red-eyed in addition to the resident Warbling Vireos.  I have noticed Warbling Vireos in threesomes and foursomes in the last 3-4 days.  Evidently the battle is on for courtship and mating.
"Color birds" (buntings, tanagers, orioles) were down sharply;  I had (2) female Scarlet Tanager and heard the buzzy call note of Indigo Buntings twice.  Baltimore Orioles were still readily seen though.
Sparrows were relatively absent as well; I had only White-throated and Song today.  Chris Cooper heard a White-crowned at Strawberry Fields.  I went looking on Cherry Hill and Falconer's on my way out, but there were probably too many people around.
The first Eastern Wood Pewee seen in the south end of the Park was reported by both Nate O'Reilly and Chris Cooper this morning in Strawberry Fields.  I never made it to SF today, so that box remains unchecked on my year list.  (Deb Allen had one in the North Woods on Friday.)
The well-subscribed and capably run birding walks led by Bob DeCandido  and Joe Giunta converged on a singing male Cape May Warbler high up in the trees near the Tupelo tree.  With some initial difficulty, the bird was nicely seen by many.  As the groups were departing, I caught a glimpse of a second male nearby.  I wondered if I was being slow, and the same bird had perhaps moved quickly?  But ten minutes later, as I watched a male singing above the woodchip area with the wooden bench (on the other side of the paved pathway that runs along the north side of Tupelo), another male dive-bombed him and gave chase.  The two birds squabbled high above and I lost them.  So yes, there were two males.

So where does this leave us?  Is migration over?  No, as discussed Friday, I still think there are quite a few more birds to come.  It looks like there will be a big weather change Tuesday to Wednesday.  From now until Tuesday, we will see higher temperatures and humidity.  We are reaching 80 degrees today and tomorrow, but possibly 90 on Tuesday with winds from the south the whole time.  A tropical depression currently over the Carolinas is creating these conditions. However, by Wednesday the winds will have shifted to the north, and the high temperature is expected to be only 71 degrees.  Somewhere in there, I think we get a lot of birds.  I don't know if it will be Tuesday with the peak temperatures, or Wednesday after the tropical depression has gone away or dissipated.  I hope they come here between now and Tuesday night, and then stay put for the rest of the week ... we shall see.

Reported by Others:  Wilson's Warbler (head of Point and Captain's Bench, by Morgan Tingley); Chestnut-sided Warbler (second-hand report, not sure who had it).

P.S. It was nice to see several birders out with their moms today.  I remember taking my mom out birding on Mother's Day years ago.

Happy Birding !!
Doug Kurz