With Starr Saphir’s first fall walk now only a week away (on Monday, 20 August 2012), I want to get everyone back in the birding spirit and offer some basic tips on preparing for the new season.
The schedule for Starr’s fall bird walks is posted on the home page of this site. Walks are given on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Saturday mornings. Monday and Wednesday walks begin at 7:30 AM and meet at the SE corner of 81st Street and Central Park West. Tuesday walks begin at 9 AM and Saturday walks begin at 7:30 AM, and both meet near the benches just inside Central Park from the entrance at 103rd Street and Central Park West.
Longtime participants know that the first walk of the season is important for setting what Starr refers to as the base number: the number of bird species observed on that day, which becomes the minimum goal of all successive walks for the season. Beating the base number becomes easier after a week or two into the season.
Though the focus is always on birds, Starr is also an expert at identifying butterflies and dragonflies, colorful visitors that are observed near their peak in August. See Central Park Butterfly Gardens and Ellen Michaels’ excellent photo collection of Central Park butterflies to learn more.
If you’re new to birding, you may be wondering what fall migration is like. It does not follow the timing pattern of spring migration. For example, Pine Warbler and Palm Warbler are generally the first two warblers to arrive in the spring, but they are usually not the first to arrive in the fall. The first fall arrivals include Northern Waterthrush and Yellow Warbler, both of which may be observed as early as late July.
Fall migration for most migrant species is spread out over a longer time period than spring.
Few warblers sing in the fall (American Redstart is one that does), but they do vocalize using chip notes, which very experienced birders may use to aid in identification. The Cornell site offers recordings and descriptions of bird calls.
For a more in-depth discussion of what to expect during fall migration, see Phil Jeffrey’s article which focuses on the birding seasons of Central Park.
If you want to test yourself on warbler identification, try this quiz which contains over 20 fall warbler photos.
I can assure you that the warblers have indeed already arrived in the Park. Reports of Louisiana Waterthrush, Northern Waterthrush, Yellow Warbler, American Redstart, Canada Warbler, Black-and-white Warbler, Blue-winged Warbler, Blackburnian Warbler, Chestnut-sided Warbler, Worm-eating Warbler, Mourning Warbler, Northern Parula, Ovenbird, and Common Yellowthroat have come in over the past two weeks. Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Veery, Wood Thrush, and Ruby-throated Hummingbird also have appeared.
I’ll see you on Monday, August 20th at 7:30 AM for the season start!
— David Barrett, your blogger/webmaster