Starr’s Comments on the Spring Season

My first season of having a website has ended. Thanks again, David, for all the work you’ve done. I’ll still be updating all of you on my birding adventures this summer. But first, it’s time to summarize the last two months in Central Park.

This past week was characterized by diminishing numbers of many migrants, of course. But we still had a Kentucky Warbler on Saturday, and I kept hearing about Mourning Warblers on my non-walk days. Empidonax flycatchers have been appearing. We had great looks at an Acadian yesterday and saw one last Wednesday as well. On Tuesday we had a Least at the North End.

While I teach identification of these flycatchers on my walks, some of you don’t know what primary extension is, and that’s important for IDing them. The  two major groups of the flight (wing) feathers are the primaries and the secondaries. The ones toward the outer wing edges shaped like fingers are the primaries. The feathers that start at the body (along the trailing edge of the wing) and go out to meet the primaries are the secondaries. How much these primaries hang down below the secondaries on a perched bird is referred to as the primary projection. Any good modern field guide will show you how the empids differ from each other in this aspect.

Now, for the summary: it was the best of times — it was the worst of times. The month of April was birdier than the last few years. Several species arrived one to two weeks early, and the early-migrant wood warblers were in good numbers day after day. I’m referring mostly to Pine, Palm, and Louisiana Waterthrushes.

By the way, we had 140 species this spring as opposed to 135 for the same time period in 2011. The only new species for the walks (this is my 28th year) was a Common Raven on Saturday, April 22nd at the North End. That day we also had a female Prothonotary, a male Orange-crowned Warbler, and a female Blue Grosbeak.

Things slowed down a lot the following week, but May 2nd and 5th were birders’ dreams. We had 71 and 70 species, respectively, and even more important, good numbers of individuals. The next two weeks were fine on species, but no so many individuals. A wonderful exception was Wednesday, May 23rd. Birds had been hunkered down to the south of us for awhile, but the winds changed direction and birds filtered into the Park’s west side all morning. We spent an hour and twenty minutes on Summit Rock where we had thirteen warbler species including two Blackburnians (a species we saw many days in May) and a Tennessee. We had 64 species including 19 warblers that day. Almost everything left that night.

This report skips around a lot, but so do my memories of spring 2012 in Central Park. Have a wonderful summer, and I hope to see you in the fall!

Good birding,