12 May 2012: Warblers Fill Great Hill Trees

Grey-cheeked Thrush

Gray-cheeked Thrush

Deutsch: Männliche Hudsonweihe (Circus hudsoni...

Northern Harrier

blackburnian warbler

Blackburnian Warbler

As soon as our walk in the Central Park North End began, ascending the path from 103rd Street up to the Great Hill, we began seeing and hearing warblers — lots of them! The day continued strong, with 62 bird species including 19 warblers counted by the walk’s end.

The trees on either side of the path were filled with feeding warblers. Northern Parula, Magnolia, Black-throated Green, Chestnut-sided and Blackpoll flitted about. We heard and saw one of our more prized warblers, a male Blackburnian. Starr brought the group further up the hill so that people could see the birds bathed in bright sunshine against the green background of the leafed-out trees, and the view was breathtaking. We briefly saw a Cape May Warbler, and also a Cedar Waxwing. A male Scarlet Tanager appeared.

We stayed in this spot for a half-hour and we could have stayed even longer, as the birds kept coming. It was difficult to stay focused on a single bird, as the birds moved quickly and people were calling out new arrivals.

As we walked further up the Great Hill, Starr heard the “peenting” of a Common Nighthawk (a first-of-season for us, and the first reported in Central Park) which appeared to be coming from high up in the trees. We could not find the resting bird, so we moved on.

On the way to the North Woods, on the NE part of the Great Hill, we encountered our two flycatchers for the day. First we saw the Great Crested Flycatcher. Then we heard the “che-bek” call of the Least Flycatcher.

In the North Woods we had a first-of-season Gray-cheeked Thrush, with an Ovenbird nearby.

Soon afterward a text alert arrived regarding a Mourning Warbler reported in the Wildflower Meadow. I ran off to try to get this bird. Despite arriving within a few minutes, I learned that the text’s sender had already left the area. Other birders said the sender had only heard the bird, and perhaps a half-hour before.

While I was listening in vain for the possible Mourning, Starr and company were getting birds in the North Woods. A flyover Northern Harrier provided another first-of-season bird. The group also saw a Green Heron (an uncommon treat) and a Canada Warbler.

Soon after the group arrived in the Wildflower Meadow, Wolfgang called out a Bay-breasted Warbler. I saw it before it flew, but most others including Starr did not, so we could not have it as an official bird.

Starr pointed out a Wilson’s Warbler at the Loch. We also saw a Chestnut-sided, which turned out to be fairly abundant today particularly for a generally less-common species.

The rest stop at the Meer’s Island produced a male Yellow Warbler, along with a Red-tailed Hawk perching on a far-off TV antenna. The hawk did not have long to rest before American Crows mobbed it.

After passing through Conservatory Garden and reaching the Green Bench area, Starr believed the group to have 59 birds on the day. She was therefore very happy when Karen called out a flying Northern Flicker. In fact, a recount after the walk revealed that we had just gotten to 61.

Near the end of the walk, at the south end of the Loch, a male Bay-breasted Warbler popped up out of a tree. We got great, close views in good light. Finally, we could officially add it to the list and make it our 19th warbler of the day. After five-and-a-half hours of birding, we were done!

Highlights: (* means a new bird for the season)

  • Green Heron (North Woods)
  • Northern Harrier* (flyover, North Woods)
  • Common Nighthawk* (heard calling, SE Great Hill)
  • Least Flycatcher (heard, NE Great Hill)
  • Great Crested Flycatcher (NE Great Hill)
  • Blue-headed Vireo (Loch)
  • Red-eyed Vireo (Loch)
  • Gray-cheeked Thrush* (North Woods)
  • Cedar Waxwing (SE Great Hill)
  • Nashville Warbler (SE Great Hill)
  • Cape May Warbler (SE Great Hill)
  • Magnolia Warbler (many)
  • Bay-breasted Warbler (Wildflower Meadow and the Loch)
  • Blackburnian Warbler (SE Great Hill)
  • Yellow Warbler (Meer)
  • Chestnut-sided Warbler (many)
  • Blackpoll Warbler (North Woods)
  • Canada Warbler (North Woods)
  • Wilson’s Warbler (Loch)
  • Scarlet Tanager (many)
  • Rose-breasted Grosbeak (heard)
  • Baltimore Oriole (many good views)