Starr’s Comments

This has been a seesaw migration so far. One day we had 40 species, then 33. On Saturday, Alex, who very ably led two walks, had 50 species, including a Kentucky Warbler for everyone and an Orange-crowned Warbler for a couple of people.

We’ve had a lot of quality birds. Besides the Kentucky and Orange-crowned, we had a Yellow-breasted Chat on Wednesday, August 22nd, and Worm-eating Warbler on a few walks. We’ve had our first few Red-breasted Nuthatches and our first Osprey of the year, which brings us up to 142 total species for the year. It’s so good to be back in the Park!

Because of of my chemotherapy, however, I can’t lead every walk but I will do as many as I can. Alex has already represented StarrTrips beautifully and Lenore will do so occasionally in the future. Fall migration, as I’ve often said, is my favorite season.

Good birding,


Tennessee Warbler, Strawberry Fields

Tennessee Warbler (Vermivora peregrina) at Sav...

Tennessee Warbler

It was great to have Starr Saphir back and leading her walk on a sunny, 69-degree morning in the Central Park Ramble.  We had 45 species including 11 warblers, with these highlights: (* means new bird for the season)

  • Osprey* (flyover)
  • Eastern Wood-Pewee (north of Hernshead)
  • Yellow-bellied Flycatcher (Upper Lobe)
  • Great Crested Flycatcher
  • White-eyed Vireo* (heard from Maintenance Meadow, first-of-season for the Park)
  • Philadelphia Vireo (between Azalea and Maintenance Meadow)
  • Red-breasted Nuthatch (heard, near 80th and CPW)
  • Veery (Maintenance Meadow)
  • Swainson’s Thrush (Maintenance Meadow)
  • Worm-eating Warbler (Upper Lobe)
  • Tennessee Warbler* (Strawberry Fields, first-of-season for the Park)
  • Northern Parula* (female)
  • Black-throated Blue Warbler*
  • Rose-breasted Grosbeak* (Oven, first-of-season for the Park)
Altogether we added 7 birds to the fall season list.
Activity was light at the start, but things really picked up when we hit some hot spots, which turned out to be the Upper Lobe, Maintenance Meadow, and the inner Ramble area just north of Azalea.
The Osprey was also a new bird for the group for the entire year.
The White-eyed Vireo that Starr heard was later sighted by other birders in Maintenance and reported online.

Prairie Warbler in the Ramble

Prairie Warbler (credit: John Van de Graaf, Mohegan Island, Maine)

Today’s walk in the Central Park Ramble, led by Alex Hale, had 32 species.

Highlights were White-throated Sparrow and American Goldfinch, both first-of-season for the group, and a Prairie Warbler, first-of-season for all reports from Central Park. The group also got a good but brief view of a Worm-eating Warbler.

Kentucky Warbler, North End

Kentucky Warbler

Kentucky Warbler (Photo credit: Gulf Coast Greenie)

Today’s walk in the North End of Central Park produced 50 species, including 11 warblers. Starr and Lenore were unable to make it today, so Alex Hale, a dedicated young birder whose life list will soon total 600 species, led the walk.

Highlights: (* = new bird for the season)

  • Yellow-bellied Flycatcher
  • Great Crested Flycatcher (at least 9, an unusually high total)
  • Red-breasted Nuthatch
  • Swainson’s Thrush* (first fall report for Central Park)
  • Orange-crowned Warbler*
  • Kentucky Warbler* (male, west end of Loch)
  • Black-throated Green Warbler* (first fall report for Central Park)
  • Scarlet Tanager* (first fall report for Central Park)

The best bird of the day is without question the Kentucky Warbler, which Starr also had on the spring walks, and which has shown up in Central Park much more often than usual this year. Historically, it has been “very rare” for the Park, a bird not seen every migration season or even every year.

The Orange-crowned Warbler is also a great sighting. Last year this bird was easier to get after the migration seasons than during them, as some were noted in Central Park beginning in early November and continuing through December. Swindler Cove Park had one that stayed into early January.


Yellow-breasted Chat


Yellow-breasted Chat (credit: John Van de Graaf)

English: Worm-eating Warbler (Helmitheros verm...

Worm-eating Warbler

It was another pleasant morning with mostly clear skies and calm winds in the Central Park Ramble. We had 31 species including 5 warblers, with these highlights: (* means new bird for the season)

  • Yellow-bellied Flycatcher (Upper Lobe)
  • Hermit Thrush* (Hernshead; very early for species)
  • Worm-eating Warbler* (Evodia Field)
  • Yellow-breasted Chat* (east of Maintenance restrooms)

The Yellow-breasted Chat is also a new bird for the group for the entire year.

Philadelphia Vireo, North End

Vireo philadelphicus Philadelphia Vireo

Philadelphia Vireo (Photo credit: davidhofmann08)

Red-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta canadensis)

Red-breasted Nuthatch

We birded Central Park’s North End on another pleasant morning that started out in the high 60s and warmed quickly. We had 33 species (so 33 is our base number for the North End) including 5 warblers and 3 flycatchers, with these highlights: (* means new bird for the season)

  • Eastern Wood-Pewee (The Pool)
  • Least Flycatcher* (The Pool)
  • Eastern Kingbird* (The Pool)
  • Philadelphia Vireo* (Great Hill above NE side of Pool)
  • Black-capped Chickadee* (The Pool)
  • Carolina Wren (Great Hill)
  • Red-breasted Nuthatch (The Pool)
  • Blue-gray Gnatcatcher* (The Loch)
  • Chestnut-sided Warbler (The Loch)

The Philadelphia Vireo is the first such report of the fall season in Manhattan. This one had a bright yellow throat and breast, leaving no question as to its identity.

It is good to see another Red-breasted Nuthatch, a species that has been almost entirely absent from Central Park since spring 2011.

In the winters of 2011 and earlier, the Black-capped Chickadee was a very common bird that you could count on seeing at the Evodia Field feeders in good numbers. It was observed in the Park this last spring, but much less frequently. Since this is our first sighting of the fall season, we are making it a highlight bird. Perhaps we will see more of it this season.

At the rest stop we heard a singing Carolina Wren. I went west from the Great Hill restroom area to investigate and soon sighted it. The group eventually got good views of it. (It looked very drab and worn). The Carolina Wren is by no means a rare bird for Central Park. It can be found in the Park year-round. Though never present in great numbers — I generally observe only one or two in a full walk of the Park — its piercing, musical song is very loud, particularly for a small bird, so it can be heard from far away. I am always glad to see or hear one.

First Walk of the Fall Season

English: Great Crested Flycatcher (Myiarchus c...

Great Crested Flycatcher

English: Yellow-bellied Flycatcher, Grands-Jar...

Yellow-bellied Flycatcher

Starr’s fall season got off to a great start this morning in the Central Park Ramble. The weather was perfect: high 60’s temperature, some sunshine, no wind. And there were more birds than one might have expected.

We had 40 bird species (so 40 becomes our base number for the Ramble) including 7 warblers and 4 flycatchers, with these highlights:

  • Great Blue Heron (flyover)
  • Ruby-throated Hummingbird (Tupelo Meadow and Azalea)
  • Eastern Wood-Pewee (Gill)
  • Acadian Flycatcher (Azalea Pond)
  • Yellow-bellied Flycatcher (Turtle Pond)
  • Great Crested Flycatcher (Maintenance Meadow)
  • Red-breasted Nuthatch (heard, Turtle Pond)
  • Wood Thrush (Maintenance Meadow)
  • Veery (Azalea Pond)
  • Chestnut-sided Warbler (Gill)
  • Black-and-white Warbler (5+)
  • American Redstart (10+)
  • Common Yellowthroat (Bank Rock Bridge)
  • Northern Waterthrush (Triplets Bridge)
  • Ovenbird (Triplets Bridge)
  • Canada Warbler (4)

The Red-breasted Nuthatch was a new species for the group for the entire year. It has been extremely rare lately. There are no prior eBird reports of it in Manhattan this year, though the ebirdsnyc group on Yahoo has two: one in June and one at the same location yesterday.

The Great Crested Flycatcher is the first one reported in Central Park this fall.

The complete list of birds observed today, which can also be seen through the tab at the top of the page for the 2012 Fall Bird List, is:

1 Mallard
2 Great Blue Heron
3 Herring Gull
4 Rock Pigeon
5 Mourning Dove
6 Chimney Swift
7 Ruby-throated Hummingbird
8 Red-bellied Woodpecker
9 Downy Woodpecker
10 Northern Flicker
11 Eastern Wood-Pewee
12 Yellow-bellied Flycatcher
13 Acadian Flycatcher
14 Great Crested Flycatcher
15 Warbling Vireo
16 Red-eyed Vireo
17 Blue Jay
18 American Crow
19 Red-breasted Nuthatch
20 Barn Swallow
21 Carolina Wren
22 Veery
23 Wood Thrush
24 American Robin
25 Gray Catbird
26 Northern Mockingbird
27 European Starling
28 Cedar Waxwing
29 Ovenbird
30 Northern Waterthrush
31 Black-and-white Warbler
32 Common Yellowthroat
33 American Redstart
34 Chestnut-sided Warbler
35 Canada Warbler
36 Northern Cardinal
37 Common Grackle
38 Baltimore Oriole
39 House Finch
40 House Sparrow

Alder Flycatcher at Hernshead

Starr Saphir gave a private birding walk this morning in Central Park during which she observed a calling Alder Flycatcher at Hernshead. (Had the bird not been calling, it could not have been reliably distinguished from a Willow Flycatcher).


  • Alder Flycatcher (calling, near Hernshead)
  • Wood Thrush (Evodia Field)
  • Yellow Warbler (Triplets Bridge)
  • Chestnut-sided Warbler (west of Maintenance Meadow restrooms)
  • American Redstart (Triplets Bridge)
  • Common Yellowthroat (female, Strawberry Field)
  • Ovenbird (Strawberry Field)
  • Northern Waterthrush (Strawberry Field)
  • Canada Warbler (west of Maintenance Meadow restrooms)

Join Starr tomorrow, Monday 20 August 2012, 7:30 AM at 81st and CPW for her first public birding walk of the fall season.

Get Ready for Fall Birding

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.

August Butterflies

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.

Fall Migration

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 WarblerWorm-eating Warbler, Mourning WarblerNorthern 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

Starr’s Arizona Birding Report

Pinus arizonica, Mount Lemmon, Arizona.

Mount Lemmon, Arizona (Wikipedia)

I love east coast birding. Central Park and the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, especially, are my backyards. But twice a year I get to visit my daughter Lara and son-in-law Ed in Tucson, Arizona. I have amazing birding buddies out there, chief of whom is my great friend John.  He’s not young, either, so we bird every other day and rest in between. We got to nine of east Arizona’s best birding places, including the canyons of Fort Huachuca, Mount Lemmon, Empire Ranch’s grasslands and riparian Area, Lakes Patagonia and Pena Blanca, and the Wilcox Playa. I was there for most of July, and the shorebird display at Wilcox on the 22nd was the perfect birthday gift – 15 species, including my state Red Knot (a good bird in Arizona),  Pectoral Sandpiper (a good bird in July), and Long-billed Curlew just because I like them.

Warblers were all too scarce in the mountains this year. Flycatchers were abundant everywhere and most were feeding newly-fledged young. My friend Kim spotted a Scissor-tailed Flycatcher near the road to the Arivaca Cienega, a really good bird in Arizona. I also got eight life butterflies, mainly in Garden and Huachuca Canyons, including Ares Metalmark, and Huachuca Giant-Skipper, plus four life dragonflies including Red-tailed Pennant and Riffle Darner, and two life damsel flies, including Blue-ringed Dancer.

One morning at dawn we had two Collared Peccaries (wild pigs) in the grassland. Many herps scampered across our paths. Vacations just aren’t long enough, are they? By the way, if you heading for southeast Arizona, there are two excellent books on birding sites there. Just visit the Tucson Audubon Society Nature Shop and get either Finding Birds in Southeast Arizona, published by them, or Richard Cachor Taylor’s A Birder’s Guide to Southeastern Arizona, which is equally good.

I found a really good bird that probably isn’t. At the entrance to the riparian part of Empire Ranch, I spotted an all-gray bird with a longish tail. It looked familiar, but not from this country. I finally realized it was a Slate-colored Solitaire, a bird of Mexican cloud forest. I was thrilled. However, any of you who have traveled to Mexico will have seen small cages with landbirds in them for sale in front of any grocery store. The origin of the bird I found cannot be proved one way or the other. At any rate, I wish that bird a good life. See you in the Park!