Central Park Delivers Uncommon Birds

The 2012 fall season in Central Park has been excellent for seeing some unusual species.

Here is a list of some of my favorites in chronological order:

Red Crossbill — small flock seen in hemlock trees of Shakespeare Garden on August 31st and September 1st. Determined by call to be Type 3.

American Bittern — first reported September 10th; seen by many and for nearly a week beginning September 12th at Turtle Pond.

Clay-colored Sparrow — first seen September 12th in the North End Loch and later at other nearby points such as the Compost Heap, the Great Hill, and the Grassy Knoll. Two were observed on the 14th, and at least one remained through September 21st.

Eastern Whip-poor-will — seen first September 15th roosting on a branch above the source of the Gill in the Ramble, it amazed birders by remaining in the Ramble for at least four days and often resting on the very same branch on which it was initially found.

Dickcissel — reported September 21st in the North End’s Wildflower Meadow; later seen around the Compost Heap.

Connecticut Warbler — reported September 23rd and seen by many in the Tupelo Meadow area of the Ramble. There have been a couple other reliable reports in Central Park, each seen by just one observer.

Golden-winged Warbler — reported September 19th in the early morning at Strawberry Fields; seen much later in the day by about a dozen birders. Another was seen and photographed on September 30th appearing briefly in the Maintenance Meadow.

Marsh Wren — reported by one very reliable observer first on September 21st in the Wildflower Meadow and the next day at the Pool. Another (or possibly the same one) was seen by many at Tupelo Meadow in the Ramble on September 24th. Yet another appeared at the Meer the following morning, and in Maintenance Meadow on the 29th.

Blue Grosbeak — reported in the late afternoon of September 25th in the Wildflower Meadow. Another, this one a juvenile, was was seen on the 29th further south in the Park, along the edge of the Lake south of Bow Bridge.

Grasshopper Sparrow — reported early on September 25th in the Compost Heap area and seen by many throughout the day. Another had spent a few days in May around Falconer’s Hill, south of the 72nd Street Park Drive.

Pine Siskin — seen in the Wildflower Meadow on October 2nd but not reported until after sundown; I was unable to re-find them the following day. But a flock was seen in Prospect Park, so the birds are around and it is likely that we will have more passing through Central Park. In fact more were reported flying over, with some briefly touching down, on October 4th. They are known to like thistle feeders, so Evodia Field in the Ramble is one place to watch as the season progresses. Right now they are more likely to be seen high up in conifers.

In fact, this fall and winter could offer the opportunity to see a variety of finches that rarely make their way to our area, including Red and White-winged Crossbills, Common Redpoll, Hoary Redpoll, Pine Grosbeak, and Evening Grosbeak. See Ron Pittaway’s Winter Finch Forecast on eBird for more details. In particular, you may want to click on the links to updated eBird maps of recent sightings.

The eBird team also points out that “Boreal Owls are expected to move south this year.” Unlike Snowy Owls, which irrupted last year, Boreal Owls might find Central Park an acceptable stopping-off point. They last appeared here from December 2004 to January 2005.

Good birding,

David Barrett

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Marsh Wren, Tupelo Meadow

Marsh wren

Marsh Wren

Starr Saphir and Lenore Swenson’s walk in the Central Park Ramble had 55 species including 12 warblers. A low pressure system had passed the day before, bringing light NW overnight along with some new migrants. It was a very birdy morning with high individual species counts, as noted on the list below, along with some rarities.

Four standout sightings deserve special mention.

1) We had Lincoln’s Sparrow (first-of-season) twice, first at Hernshead and then again in Tupelo Meadow. Both birds gave us great, close looks.

2) Starr found a Yellow-throated Vireo at Hernshead, a first-of-season bird for the group.

3) Lenore got the group on a handsome male Hooded Warbler in Tupelo Meadow that also lingered and provided great views.

4) The bird of the day has to be the Marsh Wren that some of us, including Lenore, eventually saw in the fenced-in area of Tupelo Meadow to the east of the fenced-in Tupelo tree. We heard about it from another birder around 9:15. It took at least a half-hour of searching before anyone in our group saw it, as the thick, weedy vegetation gave it cover. The species tends to call frequently and distinctively, but it was staying silent. Eventually it wandered to the NW edge of the fence line where we saw it briefly but clearly.

Marsh Wrens are reported only once or twice per year in Central Park. One had just been noted at the Pool on Saturday. It is not in general a rare bird, but its preferred habitat of cattail marshes is something Central Park has only in small supply, so it does not nest in the Park. We get the species only when it passes through in migration, and it tends not to linger.

The Marsh Wren is a new species for both the season and the year (our 150th) for our group.

Other good birds:

  • Chimney Swift
  • Ruby-throated Hummingbird (5, feeding on jewel-weed at Oven and Lower Lobe)
  • Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (Hernshead, our first-of-season)
  • Hairy Woodpecker (trees west of Maintenance Meadow; first-of-season)
  • Northern Flicker (abundant, 20+ seen)
  • Eastern Wood-Pewee (5)
  • Eastern Phoebe (2)
  • Blue-headed Vireo (3)
  • Red-eyed Vireo (abundant, 12+ seen)
  • Red-breasted Nuthatch
  • White-breasted Nuthatch (3)
  • Carolina Wren
  • Swainson’s Thrush (abundant, 20+ seen)
  • Wood Thrush (3)
  • Brown Thrasher (4 seen, heard often)
  • Cedar Waxwing
  • Ovenbird
  • Northern Waterthrush (Azalea)
  • Chestnut-sided Warbler (4)
  • Blackpoll Warbler (4)
  • Black-throated Blue Warbler (3)
  • Black-throated Green Warbler (4)
  • Eastern Towhee (Strawberry Fields, first-of-season)
  • Dark-eyed Junco (first-of-season)
  • Scarlet Tanager (2)
  • Rose-breasted Grosbeak (5, good views at Upper Lobe)

Three species were noted in unusual abundance today, and my estimates above are very conservative and could possibly be doubled: Northern Flickers were seen everywhere, on the ground and flying out of trees; Red-eyed Vireos were seen at close range throughout the Ramble; Swainson’s Thrushes were also all over the Ramble, mostly in trees gobbling down berries.