14 May 2012: Little Blue Heron

Egretta caerulea English: A Little Blue Heron ...

Little Blue Heron

Conditions at the start of today’s walk in the Central Park Ramble were good for both birds and birders: temperatures in the high 60s and warming, with high humidity and little wind (warblers and flycatchers have a much easier time feeding when it is calm). We ended up having 55 bird species, of which 17 were warblers.

Without question the best bird of the day, and one of the great sightings of the spring season, came around 9:30 am at the east end of Turtle Pond. As many of us were looking for a warbler in the trees, Starr saw a Little Blue Heron flying high over the Pond, an extremely rare sighting in Central Park. How rare? Starr has been birding the Park regularly, four or more days per week during the migration seasons and many other days on her own, for over 30 years and this is only the second Little Blue Heron she has seen in the Park. The eBird database has only one recorded sighting of this bird in Central Park.

Starr had one more first-of-season bird as we were leaving Humming Tombstone and ascending the path to the Castle: Acadian Flycatcher, whose “peet-sah” call she heard.

The group saw two other remarkable sights this morning. Both occurred on the west shore of the Lake, just south of the Upper Lobe.

The first: as we were admiring a handsome bright-orange male Baltimore Oriole (we saw many of these today), it briefly (that’s that the only way they do it) mated with a female.

The second: we saw a Black-crowned Night Heron balanced on a rock in striking pose. A few minutes later, it had a large bluegill trapped in its bill. The heron flew with the fish to dry ground on the other side of the water. The fish was much larger than the heron’s neck and initially looked too big to swallow, but the heron opened wide and — slowly — down its throat the fish went!

Though we did not see as many warblers as on Saturday, we certainly got our share today. American Redstart was perhaps the most frequently seen, along with Common Yellowthroat,  Black-throated Blue, and Black-and-white.

Highlights (* means a new bird for the season)

  • Little Blue Heron* (flyover, Turtle Pond)
  • Eastern Wood-Pewee (west edge of Ramble)
  • Acadian Flycatcher* (heard only, north of Humming Tombstone)
  • Least Flycatcher (Hernshead)
  • Eastern Kingbird (Castle)
  • Tree Swallow (Turtle Pond)
  • Northern Rough-winged Swallow (Turtle Pond)
  • Cedar Waxwing (several flocks seen)
  • Chestnut-sided Warbler (east of Castle)
  • Blackburnian Warbler (female, Azalea Pond)
  • Canada Warbler
  • Wilson’s Warbler (south end of the Point)
  • Baltimore Oriole (seen and heard frequently)