30 April 2012: Yellow-throated Warbler at Azalea — and More!

Yellow-throated Warbler (photo by John Van de Graaff, Port Aransas, TX)

White-eyed Vireo (Vireo griseus)

White-eyed Vireo

Somewhat warmer conditions, sunny skies, and calmer winds helped deliver our best day in the Central Park Ramble this season. We had 54 total bird species including 12 warblers and 5 new birds for the year.

Soon after the walk began Starr heard a Tennessee Warbler singing near 78th and Central Park West. All heard it sing more, though we were unable to see it. It is a first-of-season for the group.

Along the walk toward Maintenance Meadow we had many of the birds that have been appearing commonly of late, such as Chipping Sparrow, Blue-headed Vireo, Warbling Vireo, Brown-headed Cowbird,  Hermit Thrush, and House Wren.

Once in Maintenance Meadow, we heard the song of a White-eyed Vireo coming from afar, but initially we could not locate it. As some headed for the restrooms, your webmaster found it in the trees just east of the men’s room and many got good views. Then the bird went flew and went silent. About five minutes later it reappeared in the large tree at the NW corner of the Meadow, and Starr quickly got everyone on the colorful bird.

Turtle Pond provided many good birds: a Great Egret, a Chimney Swift flying low, a Barn Swallow and the group’s first visual of the season of two Tree Swallows.

On the path ascending toward Belvedere Castle, Starr noted the song of a Nashville Warbler (another first-of-season for us), but we could not get a glimpse.

Then I received a text message alert: Anthony Collerton had a Yellow-throated Warbler (extremely rare for Central Park) at Azalea Pond! After posting the group, I was at Azalea within a few minutes, but was met with a disappointed Mr. Collerton saying that the bird appeared to have flown. At least a dozen birders were already on the scene looking for it.

After about ten minutes Starr noted that the song coming from high in the trees could be from a Yellow-throated, and Doug Kurz soon re-found the bird and got us on it. Starr helped to describe its location, and many others got clear but fleeting views. Then the warbler moved. We continued to hear the song, but leaf cover made seeing it difficult. Nevertheless it was another first-of-season bird for us and easily the bird of the day!

As we wound our way through the Ramble, Roz and Starr pointed out a female Black-throated Blue Warbler.

Throughout the morning we often heard Warbling Vireo song, but near Swampy Pin Oak we finally were treated to an excellent view of one, soon joined by a Blue-headed Vireo. We also got a good view of a Northern Parula, another frequently-heard bird.

Upon entering the Point we saw heard and saw our first-of-season male Baltimore Oriole singing over the Oven.

A few steps further along I looked toward the Oven and saw a dark, thick bill extending away from a tree limb and then an orange-red eye: it was a Green Heron,

Green Heron (John Van de Graaff, Central Park Oven)

another first-of-season bird for the group. The heron almost immediately dropped into the Oven where none could see it. We went back out of the Point and from the west bank of the Oven all saw this handsome bird strutting in the mud.

Near Bow Bridge we heard and saw a Yellow Warbler.

At the north end of Strawberry Fields we first saw a singing Black-throated Green Warbler and then got excellent views of a bird that had previously been reported there throughout the morning: a male Blackburnian Warbler.

Blackburnian Warbler (photo by John Van de Graaff, taken near Point Pelee, Ontario)

We’re proud to exhibit the work of top bird and nature photographer John Van de Graaff who joined us for the walk today. Visit his website


for more of his excellent photographs.

Migration clearly is stepping up and we look forward to more great mornings like this one!

28 April 2012: Another Great Day in Central Park

Solitary Sandpiper (Tringa solitaria), Petrie ...

Solitary Sandpiper

Kentucky Warbler

Kentucky Warbler

Despite unseasonably cool weather we had our best walk of the year this morning in the North End and elsewhere. We had 13 warblers and 58 bird species altogether, both of which are our highest totals of the season. We also added 8 new birds to our season list.

Initially the cold kept things quiet. We did hear an Ovenbird (first-of-season for us) as we ascended the path from the Pool up to the Great Hill. For about a half-hour after that we saw only common birds (along with a Brown-headed Cowbird) and were concerned that the day might go down as a historical worst for April 28th.

Then Starr got a call from Alex, who had wandered off, that there was decent activity in the North Woods’ High Meadow (not to be confused with the Wildflower Meadow well south).

When we arrived we were immediately treated to an uncommon sight, a Merlin perched in a tree in full view.

Starr heard a first-of-season Wood Thrush, which sang a few more times so that all could hear it.

The surrounding area was alive with the sounds of warblers high above. Starr heard a Prairie Warbler. We heard and soon saw a Black-throated Green Warbler. We also heard Yellow Warbler, along with Northern Parula (first-of-season), which some saw. Starr heard a first-of-season Magnolia Warbler sing several times. We also heard a Blue-eyed Vireo.

As we descended the Ridge Trail we heard more Yellow Warblers and Black-throated Green Warblers.

Waiting for us at the west end of the Loch by the first wooded bridge was our first-of-season Solitary Sandpiper, which gave everyone excellent, close views. It has been hanging around around this area for at least several days.

Just past the bridges going east on the Loch, Starr heard a White-eyed Vireo (also a new bird for the year), which some were able to glimpse very high in a tree.

We got good views of a Northern Waterthrush along the Loch.

The Meer brought us some very cooperative Swallows, both Barn and Northern Rough-winged, along with Mallard ducklings.

Starr heard a Common Yellowthroat chip nearby in the reeds bordering the Meer. The bird chipped more, and then flew south toward the hill. Some were able to see it on the hillside ground, but it did the rest of us a favor by singing (“wichety wichety wichety”), leaving no doubt as to its identity.

In the Wildflower Meadow the group heard the buzz of a  Blue-winged Warbler.

But the fun was not over yet! Starr took the group via subway downtown and walked to the Shakespeare Gardens area where we saw the rare Kentucky Warbler that has remained since yesterday, a life bird for many.

26 April 2012: Starr’s Recap of the Week

Saturday was a birder’s dream at the North End of the Park with male Prothonotary, Orange-crowned, and Worm-eating Warblers in the WIldflower Meadow, as well as a female Blue Grosbeak. Wow!

Monday brought us all down to earth with a dull thud. Even the quietest day in late April has its rewards, however, and a beautiful, close Blue-winged Warbler plus a Great Crested Flycatcher provided those.

Tuesday in the North End was beautiful, but would have been more so if we had seen the Blackburnian Warbler that sang several times.

Wednesday things were on the upswing with our first Spotted Sandpiper, as well as Barn Swallows, Blue-headed and Warbling Vireos, Black-and-white Warblers, both Waterthrushes, and more. I can’t wait until Saturday!

Good birding,


25 April 2012: Best Day of the Week

Spotted Sandpiper , winter visitor

Spotted Sandpiper

Warmer weather and calm winds made for much more pleasant and productive birding conditions in the Central Park Ramble this morning.

We found our bird of the day very early on the walk, just north of the Ladies Pavilion working the western Lake shore: our first-of-season Spotted Sandpiper. Starr also heard a Northern Waterthrush in the same area.

At the Upper Lobe we heard a singing Blue-headed Vireo which later gave excellent views to all in the trees northeast of the Lobe. We would later hear and see another Blue-headed Vireo near the Swampy Pin Oak area.

At Belvedere Castle we saw a handful of Chimney Swifts criss-crossing Turtle Pond, flying lower than migration level.

The eastern shore of Turtle Pond offered good views of a Louisiana Waterthrush.

Yellow-rumped Warblers were again by far the most abundant warbler.

We also heard and saw plenty of Eastern Towhees.

Starr heard Tree Swallows (east of the Castle, and a new bird for the year) and all got great views of a pair of Barn Swallows skimming the Lake.

After trying to find a Brown Thrasher that we were hearing in the Ramble, we later got a brief but good look at one. Some of us also had a Field Sparrow around the same time, a bird that uncannily flew every time Starr mentioned its name.

At the end of the walk in Strawberry Fields, Starr heard and — after a complete loop of the area — found for all to see two Black-and-white Warblers. The day ended with 5 warbler species and 45 bird species in total.

24 April 2012: Blackburnian Heard

After a night of moderate southerly winds, we expected today to be much better than it turned out. It appears that many migrants took advantage of these winds and left the Park overnight without as many coming in to replace them. Tonight’s continued southwesterly flows and warmer temperatures could bring more birds tomorrow.

We still had 41 species in the North End, including great views of male Eastern Towhee in the Ravine, along with Chimney Swift and Northern Rough-winged Swallows over the Meer, and Louisiana Waterthrush at the Loch. House Wren and Carolina Wren also appeared and added some music to the day.

The highlight was hearing a Blackburnian Warbler sing three times on the Ridge Trail across from Lasker Pool. We could not get a view of it. It was our only new bird of the day, our 91st of the year.

23 April 2012: Cold, Overcast Day Still Yields Birds

Blue-winged Warbler (Vermivora pinus)

Blue-winged Warbler

Considering the conditions — temperatures in the high 40’s to low 50’s, and overcast skies after a night of rain — today turned out to be surprisingly birdy morning in the Central Park Ramble.

Starr added three new birds to her season list today: Gray Catbird, Blue-winged Warbler, and Northern Waterthrush, bringing the season total to 90.


  • Black-crowned Night Heron
  • Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (female)
  • Great Crested Flycatcher (near Azalea Pond)
  • Blue-headed Vireo (4)
  • Red-eyed Vireo
  • Northern Rough-winged Swallow (2, Lake)
  • Barn Swallow (2, Lake)
  • House Wren (3, all singing males)
  • Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
  • Brown Thrasher (2)
  • Blue-winged Warbler (male, Lower Lobe, great views)
  • Yellow-rumped Warbler (70)
  • Palm Warbler (7)
  • Northern Waterthrush (west end of Gill)
  • Eastern Towhee (15)

21 April 2012: Extraordinary North End Day!

prothonotary warbler

Prothonotary Warbler

On a memorable Saturday Starr Saphir had three of Central Park’s rarest avian visitors: Common Raven, Prothonotary Warbler, and Blue Grosbeak, along with two other notably uncommon birds: Orange-crowned Warbler and Worm-eating Warbler.

As her Saturday walk was beginning, Starr saw a Common Raven being harassed by some American Crows south of the Great Hill. The Raven turned on the Crows, and then headed south into the Park. Prior to December 2011, eBird shows no recorded observations of the Common Raven in Central Park for most years. Since then, it has been noted only a handful of times.

This auspicious start carried through the rest of the morning. After learning of reliable reports of Orange-crowned Warbler, Worm-eating Warbler, and Prothonotary Warbler in the Wildflower Meadow area initially found by Tom Perlman, Chris Cooper, and Jacob Drucker, Starr brought her group directly from the Pool. About 20 minutes of searching ensued, as  many other birders responded to the earlier alerts. They saw plenty of Yellow-rumped Warblers in the surrounding trees, along with some Chipping Sparrows. They also heard Eastern Towhee and Carolina Wren. But the warblers they sought were nowhere to be found.

After hearing some trilling coming from the very large fenced-in tree atop the meadow, Starr soon re-sighted the Orange-crowned Warbler and most in her group got good views. The bird reappeared again about ten minutes later.

The group did not have long to rest, however, as a call soon came in from the Loch that the female Prothonotary Warbler had also been re-found. All moved quickly down the path and within minutes were treated to excellent close views of the strikingly elegant bird. Starr quickly described the location of the bird as it moved about without pointing at it (as pointing frequently spurs songbirds to fly away), and her running commentary helped group members and other birders alike stay focused on the Prothonotary, which surely was for many (if not most of those assembled) a life Central Park bird. Without question it was our best bird of the day.

The excitement, however, was far from over, as an 8:25AM text message alert said that Doug Kurz was seeing a Blue Grosbeak just 200 yards away by the 102nd Street transverse road. Your webmaster (and others) ran up the hill to get it, and after some fleeting views it appeared to fly to the so-called Grassy Knoll, where we were rewarded with good views of it on the ground. As Starr and her group were making their way up the Wildflower Meadow toward it, Starr finally got the elusive Worm-eating Warbler by the large fenced-in tree. Meanwhile, the Blue Grosbeak flew, but later, toward the end of the day’s walk, Starr re-found it to cap off a truly incredible day.

Starr also had the first reported Black-throated Blue Warbler of the season in Central Park. Other noteworthy sightings, which were also firsts of the year for her group included two Great Blue Herons flying over; an Eastern Wood-Pewee on the Great Hill; a Warbling Vireo near the Green Bench; a Yellow Warbler; and a Black-and-white Warbler.

Altogether the group added 11 new birds to the season list. The total came to 53 species for the day, of which there were 9 warblers.

Thoughts from Starr on the Week

This past week was fairly ordinary in Central Park, and by ordinary I mean wonderful! Several new arrivals (in small numbers) delighted those who experienced them. For me the highlight was an American Bittern found by Tom Perlman in the North Woods on Tuesday. It remained there all day. On Wednesday Karen spotted a female Wood Duck as she flew into a large tree (the duck, not Karen!). Some participants of my walk learned that Wood Ducks roost in trees and nest in tree cavities.

By creating this website, webmaster extraordinaire David Barrett has single-handedly brought me into the 21st century, something my own children have been unable to achieve. David does 90% of the work on this website and I am deeply grateful. Thank you, David!

Every day brings new surprises in Central Park. Hope to see you there!

Good birding,


18 April 2012: Red-eyed Vireo

Red-eyed Vireo

Red-eyed Vireo

Starr had a first-of-season Red-eyed Vireo in an oak tree at the northern end of Maintenance Meadow, directly across from the restrooms.

One of our regular group members, Karen, spotted a female Wood Duck perched high in a tree in the  Ramble south of Azalea Pond. Though most people see this duck while it is swimming (a pair of them was seen throughout the winter and early spring on the 59th Street Pond), the Wood Duck, as its name implies, prefers to nest in tree cavities or nest boxes in wooded areas near water. It also has an unusual feature for a duck: sharp claws that help it perch in trees.

We had 41 species today. The only warbler seen in large numbers was the Yellow-rumped Warbler, though there were also scattered Palm Warblers.

17 April 2012: American Bittern, North Woods

American BIttern

American BIttern 

The American Bittern is an extremely rare visitor to Central Park. It was seen once in 2011, on May 18th; in some years it is not seen at all. As we were finishing our sparrow watch on the Great Hill, Malcolm Morris approached and told us that he had just seen an American Bittern in the North Woods, originally found by Tom Perlman. Malcolm gave us excellent directions and we headed over to see the bird without delay. Two other birders were already viewing it when we arrived, and we were treated to unobstructed, well-lit views of the bittern perched with its neck extended skywards in a bare tree about 35 feet off the ground.

Nothing else from today is going to compare with this rare sighting, but we are happy to have also added three new birds to our 2012 spring list: Fish Crow, Barn Swallow, and Black-throated Green Warbler.

Though we heard of isolated reports of some new common warbler species in the Park, overall this was a day of very modest migration (except for Yellow-rumped Warblers, which were seen everywhere and in their highest numbers of the year) and we expect far better days to come.