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.