3rd Annual Starr Saphir Memorial Bird Walk Scheduled

Lenore Swenson will once again lead a walk through the Central Park Ramble and environs on Friday, 1 May 2015, at 7:30 a.m. The walk is free. Meet at the southeast corner of 81st Street and Central Park West.


Results of Starr Saphir Memorial Bird Walk

Lenore Swenson, who expertly led the walk in the Ramble, writes in with this report:

The Starr Saphir Memorial Bird Walk in Central Park on May 2, 2014, surely had Starr smiling down on us. The weather was perfect – mostly sunny, warming up into the 60’s; cherry trees and flowers were in bloom, and the birds were plentiful. About 40 people showed up for the walk, and, although it was a large group, people managed to stay together and get good looks at most birds. With so many eyes and good spotters among us, we amassed a list of 63 species, including 14 warblers.

  1. Canada Goose
  2. Mallard
  3. Double-crested Cormorant
  4. Green Heron
  5. Black-crowned Night Heron
  6. Red-tailed Hawk
  7. Herring Gull
  8. Rock Pigeon
  9. Mourning Dove
  10. Chimney Swift
  11. Ruby-throated Hummingbird
  12. Red-bellied Woodpecker
  13. Downy Woodpecker
  14. Northern Flicker
  15. Peregrine Falcon
  16. Great Crested Flycatcher
  17. Eastern Kingbird
  18. White-eyed Vireo
  19. Blue-headed Vireo
  20. Warbling Vireo
  21. Red-eyed Vireo
  22. Blue Jay
  23. American Crow
  24. Black-capped Chickadee
  25. Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
  26. Ruby-crowned Kinglet
  27. Veery
  28. Hermit Thrush
  29. Wood Thrush
  30. American Robin
  31. Gray Catbird
  32. European Starling
  33. Cedar Waxwing
  34. Ovenbird
  35. Worm-eating Warbler
  36. Northern Waterthrush
  37. Blue-winged Warbler
  38. Black-and-white Warbler
  39. Common Yellowthroat
  40. American Redstart
  41. Northern Parula
  42. Yellow Warbler
  43. Black-throated Blue Warbler
  44. Palm Warbler
  45. Yellow-rumped Warbler
  46. Prairie Warbler
  47. Black-throated Green Warbler
  48. Eastern Towhee
  49. Chipping Sparrow
  50. Song Sparrow
  51. Swamp Sparrow
  52. White-throated Sparrow
  53. White-crowned Sparrow
  54. Scarlet Tanager
  55. Northern Cardinal
  56. Rose-breasted Grosbeak
  57. Red-winged Blackbird
  58. Common Grackle
  59. Orchard Oriole
  60. Baltimore Oriole
  61. House Finch
  62. American Goldfinch
  63. House Sparrow

Starr Saphir Memorial Bird Walk, 2 May 2014

Lenore Swenson will once again lead a walk through the Central Park Ramble in memory of Starr Saphir. This walk is scheduled for Friday, May 2, 2014 at 7:30 a.m. at the usual meeting place, the SE corner of Central Park West and 81st Street by the benches. The walk is free and no pre-registration is required — just show up and be ready to see some great birds.

Status of the birding walks

Many viewers of this site appear to be searching for information about the birding walks. Though Lenore Swenson is still planning a special memorial walk in honor of Starr, which I expect will take place in late April or early May, no regular birding  walks for 2013 have been scheduled as yet. Should we get a schedule, I will announce it here and on the birding message boards.

Cold weather and strong northerly winds have delayed migration this year, but we may see better conditions by Sunday. Meanwhile, Pine Warblers have begun appearing in Prospect Park, so we ought to be getting them soon.

Good birding,

David Barrett

American Coot, Meer

American Coot (Fulica americana) may be found ...

American Coot

Starr Saphir and Lenore Swenson’s walk in the Central Park North End had 50 species including 8 sparrows. It was overcast with temperature of 62 and light winds.

The walk began with a tradition that Starr has continued for over two decades: on the last walk before Halloween, the walk leaders offer some candy treats to the participants. Two of the group’s young birders appeared in costume, as elves. It was great to see Starr out in the Park again and calling out birds as they flew overhead.

The group added a new species for both the season and year (#157), American Coot. Coot can reliably be found on the Reservoir from November through April and they sometimes show up on the Lake, too. They are much less common on the Meer.

Among the sparrows today were Field, Swamp, and White-crowned, and Eastern Towhee.

The group had good views of perching Red-tailed Hawk and Cooper’s Hawk. A flying American Kestrel was also seen.

Other good birds were Red-breased Nuthatch and Wood Duck, the latter on the Meer.

The only warbler was Yellow-rumped Warbler, which was much less visible than in recent days, when one might see over 15 in an hour of birding; today this number was 1 to 3.

It appears that the moderate migration noted on radar the last few nights has reduced numbers of many species such as Palm Warbler, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Hermit Thrush, Cedar Waxwing, and some of the sparrows such as FieldWhite-crowned, Song, and Lincoln’s. For the first time in over a month I did not see an Eastern Phoebe. Brown Thrasher, which was abundant two to three weeks ago, is no longer being seen, either.

Black-capped Chickadees are being heard and seen more often, along with Tufted Titmice. Large flocks of Common Grackles appear, too.

We are already seeing many ducks, and more of the less-common species are on the way, such as Green-winged Teal and American Wigeon. We are seeing some Canada Geese migrating overhead, and Snow Geese should be along, too.

Update (31 Oct 2012): The remaining three walks of the year were cancelled because Hurricane Sandy closed the Park.

Fox Sparrow, Ramble

Fox Sparrow

Fox Sparrow

Lenore Swenson’s walk in the Central Park Ramble had 40 species including two warblers (Yellow-rumped and Common Yellowthroat) and six sparrows. It was an overcast morning, around 58 degrees, with occasional very light rain. Wet conditions and the threat of rain tend to make birds less active.

Fox Sparrow, seen down the steps from Belvedere Castle toward Turtle Pond, is a new bird for the season. Our fall season total is 135 species, not far from the 140 we had this spring.

Lenore heard a small flock of Pine Siskins overhead, but views were difficult. It appears that there may be some resident Siskins now in the Park as more people are reporting them even on days when migration is minimal.

The group had good views of Winter Wren and of a female Purple Finch.

American Tree Sparrow, Great Hill

English: American Tree Sparrow (Spizella arbor...

American Tree Sparrow

Lenore Swenson’s walk in the Central Park North End had 48 species including three warblers (Palm, Yellow-rumped, and Mourning) and nine sparrows, the high so far for the season.

American Tree Sparrow, seen on sparrow slope of the Great Hill, is a new bird for both the season and the year (#156).

Field Sparrow, also seen on the Great Hill, is a new bird for the season.

The other sparrows seen were White-crowned, Chipping, White-throated, Swamp, Song, Eastern Towhee and Dark-eyed Junco.

Lenore briefly saw a Mourning Warbler at the Children’s Glade on the Great Hill, but it found cover before most of the group could see it.

Other notable birds were Purple Finch and a late Blue-eyed Vireo.

The group saw three Winter Wrens and an amazing ten Brown Creepers!

Hermit Thrush were also seen in abundance today. Within a minute of walking into the Park I had four and my total for the day was at least 30.

Pine Siskins, Ramble

Pine Siskin female, Ontario, Canada.

Pine Siskin, female

Lenore Swenson’s walk in the Central Park Ramble had 47 species including two warblers (Yellow-rumped and Palm) and 7 sparrows.

Lenore saw a flock of around six Pine Siskins, a new bird for both the season and the year (#155). Though Pine Siskins have been migrating in huge numbers this year (a report from Long Island over the weekend had 12,000 passing in a single day), it seems they pass through quickly, mostly not remaining resident, and their migration path does not necessarily take them through Central Park.

Seeing them is not easy. They tend to move from tree to tree in flocks without spending much time in any one place — so there is little point in waiting for an alert of a confirmed sighting. You will not get there in time! They do seem to like the Dawn Redwoods at the north end of Strawberry Fields, but they have appeared at many other places in the Ramble. The best thing you can do is learn their rising flight call, the Zhreee call, and listen for it. It is distinctive. Sooner or later you will hear or see some Siskins.

The group also added another new bird for the season, a female Red-winged Blackbird.

Other highlights today include: American Kestrel, Hairy WoodpeckerWhite-crowned Sparrow, Swamp Sparrow, Pied-billed Grebe, and Purple Finch.

Great Cormorant, North End

Great Cormorant

Great Cormorant (Photo credit: 0ystercatcher)

Alex Hale’s walk in the Central Park North End today added one new species for both the season and the year (#154), a Great Cormorant seen flying over. This bird is rare in Central Park though it is common all along the central and northern Atlantic coast of North America. It prefers a coastal habitat, where it breeds. The New York harbor area reliably hosts Great Cormorants during winter, and they can also be seen occasionally on the East River.

There was a male Wood Duck on the Meer.

Cape May Warbler, Pinetum

English: Cape May warbler

Lenore Swenson’s walk in the Central Park Ramble and Pinetum had 52 species including 7 warblers and 6 sparrows. It was a calm, sunny morning with a temperature in the high 50s.

Lenore proceeded directly to the Pinetum to search for Cape May Warblers, which had been reported there the prior three days. The first pass yielded plenty of the usual suspects and a brief glimpse at a possible Cape May, but nothing satisfying for the group. Activity was at least 50 feet high in the tree and prolonged scanning was difficult because it required looking almost directly up.

So we took a break from the search. We went to the Reservoir and saw some Ruddy Ducks and the usual gulls.

On the way back we gave the Cape May one more try and this time — success! The bird was seen by most of the group flying near the top of the tree displaying its yellow front with dark streaks. It is a new bird for the fall season.

Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers, Yellow-rumped Warblers, and Hermit Thrush continued to be very abundant.

Other highlights:

  • Wood Duck (at least two at the Upper Lobe)
  • Cooper’s Hawk
  • Red-tailed Hawk
  • American Kestrel
  • Blue-headed Vireo
  • Black-capped Chickadee
  • Red-breasted Nuthatch
  • White-breasted Nuthatch
  • Brown Creeper
  • Golden-crowned Kinglet
  • Brown Thrasher
  • Cedar Waxwing
  • MOURNING WARBLER (continuing in fenced-in area north of Tupelo Meadow)
  • Common Yellowthroat
  • Blackpoll Warbler
  • Black-throated Blue Warbler
  • Eastern Towhee
  • Chipping Sparrow
  • White-crowned Sparrow
  • Dark-eyed Junco
  • Purple Finch
  • American Goldfinch

[Birding away from the group, I had Pine Siskin and Field Sparrow in the Falconer’s Hill area.]