Your home for information on the guided bird walks led each week in
New York City's Central Park by Dr. Robert "Birding Bob" DeCandido
Thursday, 20 April 2017 (start at the Dock on Turtle Pond ) at 9am- what a difference a day makes - and an overnite shower. At the Dock on Turtle Pond, where the day before we had one Ruby-crowned Kinglet, today we had many Yellow-rumped Warblers, a few Palm Warblers and one adult male Yellow Warbler...and many Ruby-crowned Kinglets. Other highlights today included Louisiana Waterthrush at the Point along with another Yellow Warbler, a Green Heron with breeding colored (orange) legs, a couple of Blue-grey Gnatcatchers, Wood Duck, Gadwall...more birds (but fewer people).
Deborah's bird list for the day: http://birding.aba.org/message.php?mesid=1273201&MLID=NY01&MLNM=New%20York
Friday, 21 April 2017 (start at Conservatory Garden at 9am) - April has been a nasty month and today might have been the nastiest day of them all. I sat, happily, in a Dunkin' Donuts on the corner of 110th across from the park. I watched in rain hard and harder...and figured I'd wait until 8:45am and walk over to the start of the walk to see no one. However, a rather nasty joke was played on me: it stopped raining at 8:45am so I ran over to the start location to find a few folks from England waiting for me. It was lovely weather for them. We were joined by David Barrett, Xander Vitarelli and later, Will Papp. (Last year on this same date almost 30 people showed up in nice weather.) Our best birds of the morning were Blue-headed Vireo (two together below Ft. Clinton), a few (3) Yellow Warblers...and a large flock (25) of Chipping Sparrows on the slope of the Great Hill.
Deborah's bird list for the day: http://birding.aba.org/message.php?mesid=1273581&MLID=NY01&MLNM=New%20York
Saturday, 22 April 2017 (start at the Boathouse Restaurant at 7:30am and again at 9am) - Bob had competition today: Jeff Ward was serious in James Bond-like sunglasses. Xander Vitarelli dapper in interesting shoes. So Bob (me) felt the pressure to produce for the Peter Haskell's and Tom Ahlf's of the birder world. And so it was: Belted Kingfisher and Green Heron at the Point; using the tape to call in a close Orange-crowned Warbler...and Pine Warbler; Northern Waterthrush at the Oven...but Jeff Ward and Xander V. were not to be denied: they came up with the Louisiana Waterthrush at the Upper Lobe (Bob walked right past it), and Drew Stadlen found the first Wood Thrush of the season near the Upper Lobe.
Deborah's bird list for the day: http://birding.aba.org/message.php?mesid=1274067&MLID=NY01&MLNM=New%20York
Sunday, 23 April 2017 (start at the Dock on Turtle Pond) - "when the bird walk starts with a Belted Kingfisher (female) at Turtle Pond and then ends with an Orange-crowned Warbler at Bow Bridge, that was a great walk" - the sage words of Signe Hammer. However, compared to last year on this date when we had eight warbler species, today our total was six...and just a handful of the common ones: Yellow-rumped and Palm Warblers for example. We did have some good birds and nice looks: the Kingfisher at Turtle Pond gave us front/back/side views; the Great Egret there jumped into the water to seize a sunfish (Xander-style)...and Ruby-crowned Kinglets danced in and out of our binoculars at all heights all morning. Andrea Hessel MD found a Blue-headed Vireo near Warbler Rock and that bird dropped down to give us good looks. Two male Flickers swooped in to their call on my tape for the best display of the day at the Summer House. Overhead a pair of Ravens flew west over the park. Combined with the sunny, warm weather we were bird farmers for a day: a few buds opening for us with much more later this week.
Deborah's bird list for the day: http://birding.aba.org/message.php?mesid=1274744&MLID=NY01&MLNM=New%20York
Monday, 24 April 2017 (start at Strawberry Fields at 8am and again at 9am) - when I see several of the better birders of Central Park leaving the park at 9am...it usually indicates it is a slow day. And so it was for us - except we had Haskel Eisenstein and no other group did. The best birds were a Blue-headed Vireo on the south side of Turtle Pond (Bruno Boni); a Blue-grey Gnatcatcher in the Ramble; a Red-breasted Nuthatch at the bird feeders...and only two warbler species: Palm and Yellow-rumped. The long-staying Orange-crowned Warbler seems to have moved on... and we had no kinglets today. In other areas of the park, the first Warbling Vireos were reported - so despite the mostly movement of birds out of the park (many fewer White-throated Sparrows), some birds/species did arrive. Last year it was 27 April (2016) that we had the first big wave - and I bet the same holds true this year as well.
Deborah's bird list for the day: http://birding.aba.org/message.php?mesid=1275227&MLID=NY01&MLNM=New%20York
Tuesday, 25 April 2017 (start at the Dock on Turtle Pond at 9am) - walk cancelled due to rain. Others found Blue-winged Warbler, Grey Catbird and White-eyed Vireo (all first of season for Central Park).
Wednesday, 26 April 2017 (start at the Dock on Turtle Pond at 9am) - as I send this on Wednesday morning at 7am it is still raining with bands of moderate to heavy showers coming in off the ocean every 45 minutes or so. When not raining it is misting/drizzling...See you tomorrow (Thursday) for the first big wave of the year - guaranteed.
Field Notes for April and May  - After an April that was not notable, the first large wave of migrants arrived on April 29 to May 1. April 30 brought large numbers of White-throated Sparrows (over 700 in Central Park.) The first ten days of May were backward, with record-breaking cold on May 8-10, accompanied by West to Northwest winds. The first big wave came in on May 11, reaching a climax on May 12, with almost equal numbers on May 13. There was a sizable wave on May 18-20, bringing such species as Yellow-billed Cuckoo and Kentucky Warbler, and a small wave on May 22.
The most noteworthy occurrence of the migration has been the unprecedented "invasion" of Blue-gray Gnatcatchers which arrived in mid-April, resulting in at least three known breeding records in Northern N. J. And April also brought a larger than normal flight of Turkey Vultures, and Cardinals (to Long Island). May was noteworthy for the appearance of Townsend's Warbler and Sycamore Warbler [Yellow-throated Warbler], as well as such rarities as Curlew Sandpiper, Lark Sparrow, and abnormal numbers of Cape May, Bay-breasted, Wilson's, and Kentucky Warblers.
Thursday, 13 April 2017 (start at the Dock on Turtle Pond at 9am) - we had a wonderful family from the Basque region of Spain - they now live on the far upper east side...where dad works filing stories for news outlets in France, Belgium and Spain. He spent much of 2016 trekking back and forth across the USA covering the different presidential campaigns. As for birds, we had Yellow-rumped Warblers at the Dock on Turtle Pond...and a male Black-and-white Warbler for Elizabeth Millard Whitman at the top of the Oven. There some pishing and tape playing brought in three Blue-grey Gnatcatchers, a few Ruby-crowned Kinglets and Yellow-rumped Warblers. Further down toward the Point, the tape had a Winter Wren transfixed for photographers: Bruno Boni got many fine images. All in all, a cool, windy spring day and we were happy when the sun shown directly on us.
Deborah's bird list for the day: http://birding.aba.org/message.php?mesid=1268700&MLID=NY01&MLNM=New%20York
Friday, 14 April 2017 (start at Conservatory Garden at 9am) - quite a nice morning with folks from Minneapolis. As for birds, easily the best location was the Loch - at 9am! At 7:30am this same location was slow...only a couple of Yellow-rumped Warblers and Ruby-crowned Kinglets. However, as the sun warmed the north end, birds arrived including several more Yellow-rumped Warblers; approx. 5 flycatching Pine Warblers; 2 Palm Warblers; 3 Blue-grey Gnatcatchers...and more Ruby-crowned Kinglets. We added a pale Winter Wren later and Tom Ahlf found us an Eastern Phoebe upon our return to the Loch. The displaying Northern Flickers were great - as was the Savannah Sparrow Deborah and I found after the bird walks upon the nearby grassy hill (along with 15+ Chipping Sparrows).
Deborah's bird list for the day: http://birding.aba.org/message.php?mesid=1269399&MLID=NY01&MLNM=New%20York
Saturday, 15 April 2017 (start at the Boathouse Restaurant at 7:30am and again at 9am) - Gilian Henry MD, originally from Trinidad and Tobago, was the numero uno birder in Central Park today. She alone spied the Orange-crowned Warbler halfway down the "Point" on the 7:30am walk. We used the tape to pull it closer to us for the definitivo ID. Soon after the bird became elusive to re-find, and though several more people on our bird walk were able to see it, about a hundred other or so other birders in the park today missed out. The Orange-crowned Warbler is quite rare in spring - more so than the Yellow-throated Warbler found earlier this week also at the Point. However, however, we were not done dealing in good birds today: Sandra Critelli found a Blue-headed Vireo in the Locust Grove at 11am, and after the walk, a Hairy Woodpecker in the Ramble. David Barrett found a flying loon at the Reservoir at 11:30am...and many of us simultaneously saw the pale Pine Warbler (near Polish statue), and the lone Barn Swallow (thanks Alexi!) at Turtle Pond. The latter circled round and round overhead like a drone swallow - I guess I should not play the tape so much. But then who would even think that swallows, those glitterati of the skies, could be lured in with sound? All in all a four-warbler day (add Black-and-white males and several Yellow-rumped Warblers), a few Ruby-crowned Kinglets...and of course swooping and hooping Red-bellied Woodpeckers.
Friday, 1 April 2017 (start at Conservatory Garden) - the Friday walk was cancelled due to heavy rain.
Saturday, 2 April 2017 (start at the Boathouse Restaurant) - well..the weather was not pleasant (cold in the 40s f., with occasional mist). The few people who turned up were treated to a handful of Golden-crowned Kinglets, a nice adult male Tree Swallow on Turtle Pond; and four Black-crowned Night Herons at Turtle Pond doing their best to hide in the trees. It seemed at about that point, everyone was happy to go home and live to go birding another day.
Sunday, 3 April 2017 (start at the Dock on Turtle Pond) - nice day and the birds began to show themselves. We had a few Golden-crowned Kinglets; a quick glimpse of a Yellow-rumped Warbler that fled our approach; a bathing Brown Creeper (a first for our bird walks); a flyover Raven (thanks Karen Evans); a hidden Brown Thrasher that we coaxed into view (thanks to Jeff Ward for this one); two Ruby-crowned Kinglets in the Ramble (Noa Cruz); and a wonderful Swamp Sparrow at the Upper Lobe (Jeff Ward). The two Common Loons were good at the Reservoir though a bit far for my taste.
Monday, 4 April 2017 (start at Shakespeare Garden) - this was a wow day if you liked Golden-crowned Kinglets. I had nine in one tree on the south side of Strawberry Fields at 7:30am - we had at least 16 more on the bird walk. Other highlights included Palm Warblers found by Linda LaBella; a Pine Warbler or two (Linda LaBella); Red-breasted Nuthatch; lots and lots of Eastern Phoebes...and a few Ruby-crowned Kinglets as well. Hermit Thrushes (four) were feeding on the holly fruits in Strawberry Fields; and all of these were punctuated by Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers throughout.
Tuesday, 5 April 2017 (start at the Dock on Turtle Pond) - the Tuesday walk was cancelled due to rain.
Friday, 24 March 2017 (start at Conservatory Garden) - today (+ Sat/Sun) featured overcast, dreary skies. But there were some good birds. Thankfully the folks on the bird walk were awake and looking...I seem to have been sleepwalking for much of today. It was these dedicated birders who kept finding the birds...and me from falling over. Gillian Henry MD found the Wood Duck and Wigeon at the Harlem Meer...while Louise Burns added a male Belted Kingfisher...and a nice European fellow found the nearby Black-crowned Night Heron. The Meer also featured Hooded Mergansers, Northern Shovelers, Ruddy Ducks - really a nice assortment of birds for so yucky a day. In the woods, I seem to remember a couple of Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers, Red-bellied Woodpeckers...and Fox Sparrows, White-throated Sparrows and an American Kestrel perched on a water tower on Central Park West.
Saturday, 25 March 2017 (start at the Boathouse Restaurant) - Saturday was easily the best day of the three we describe here - mostly because it was a lot warmer (high of 63f), and the sun peeked through occasionally. As for birds, we had Golden-crowned Kinglets in several places (a total of 10 at least), with Karen Evans hearing them in the Ramble and then the rest of us tracking down small groups of these tiny birds - particularly in Shakespeare Garden. Other significant birds were a Pine Warbler (Carine Mitchell heard it!), many Fox Sparrows, a few Eastern Phoebes, two Cooper's Hawks (Jeff Ward found both), a couple of Swamp Sparrows...two beautiful male Green-winged Teal that came close via use of a female call on "tape." The Black-crowned Night Heron was found by the "old man" on the walk (El Bob) after he was propped up in his wheel chair by Jeff Ward (thanks Jeff). We also had two Ravens flying over the lake; and the Red-tails building a nest (again) on the San Remo (right/north) tower - who both flew down into the Ramble to chase off a young Red-tailed Hawk. Really a wonderful day for birds and birders.
Sunday, 26 March 2017 (morning in Central Park) - of the three days, today was the most miserable: mist, winds from off the ocean, overcast skies and low (40f) temperature. As a result finding birds was not easy and not fun. Highlights were the continuing Green-winged Teal at the Upper Lobe; the Red-headed Woodpecker at East 68th street; a couple of early Eastern Phoebes and the one (lone) Golden-crowned Kinglet we could find; a Red-breasted Nuthatch...but we were a few seconds too late on the Pine Warbler in the Ramble. Overall a bird walk to forget and recover from...in one participant's words: "a bird walk from hell - except it was very cold."
Sunday, 19 March 2017 (morning in Central Park) - "Perfect!" I thought. At 8am there was an easily seen American Woodcock in the "Oven" area of the Ramble. However, at 9:30am after talking up to the 20 or so people on the walk, how many woodcocks had been around - and we were lucky to still have this one...it was a minor letdown to return to the "Oven" and find no woodcock. Confounding the problem, we searched high and low throughout the morning, but found no woodcocks. However, luck can giveth back: while we were having coffee at 12:15pm, a woodcock report came over the "tweet" wire and we rushed back to the "Oven." There in front of the four remaining people on the walk was the woodcock that was missing at 9:30am. As for other birds there are also lots Fox Sparrows and a few Song Sparrows that made their way into the park recently, as well as one Swamp Sparrow at the Upper Lobe. And that Red-headed Woodpecker is looking better and better with each passing day.
Sunday, 12 March 2017 (morning in Central Park) - Hey it was supposed to be spring, but the mid-20ish F. temperature kept most people home...and no Eastern Phoebes (nor Alhf/Walsh Bluebirds) were seen. We did have a good day with waterfowl including Wood Duck, a pair of Green-winged Teal - but no Pintail at the 59th street Pond. The Red-headed Woodpecker was at home and obliging...and a flyover pair of Cooper's Hawks was good. We also saw the female Peregrine at southwest part of Central Park. Apparently she laid an egg on Monday, but the snowstorm caused her to abandon...she will lay a full clutch soon...This early egg-laying date is 10 days ahead of last year's schedule.
Deborah's list for 12 March (Central Park): http://birding.aba.org/message.php?mesid=1252737&MLID=NY01&MLNM=New%20York
Sunday, 5 March 2017 (morning in Central Park) - Still cold! Everyone missed the 70f of last week. The Red-headed Woodpecker was easily found. On the other hand, not many birds indicating spring have arrived. Yes there was a significant uptick in the number of Tufted Titmice...and a huge flock of Common Grackles. However, we are still a few days away from the arrival of the Eastern Phoebes and Bluebirds for Tom Ahlf.
Saturday, 4 March 2017 (New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx for Great Horned Owls) - It was a windy (35mph), cold (about 33f), and often cloudy day. So only the most hardy folks (12) curious about nesting Great Horned Owls ventured out. It was easy finding the female sitting on a stick nest - she is on a ledge on a building. On the other hand, we had to search for the male. We figured he was nearby in a conifer - but the area has several conifer groves, with a few tall trees where even an owl with a four foot wingspan could easily be hidden from view. We searched high and low with no luck...but then we found a tall conifer with a lot of gray pellets underneath. Up above must be the male Great Horned Owl. We scampered up a hill, and observed the behavior of Blue Jays and White-breasted Nuthatches. These birds must know if the male owl was near. Surprisingly they did not: no "jay-jay-jay" calls and no scolding from the White-breasted Nuthatches either. I tried pishing to encourage those birds to go to the owl...no luck. On the other hand, the pishing did have the unintended effect of making the male Great Horned Owl move - and some of us got a look at it. Later when we returned after finding some other birds, we were able to take a different angle and found the male Great Horned looking down at us. That was enough! The clouds, cold and wind had worsened - and we scampered home.
Deborah's list for 4 March (NYBG in the Bronx): http://birding.aba.org/message.php?mesid=1249502&MLID=NY01&MLNM=New%20York
Sunday, 19 February 2017 (morning in Central Park) - It is very nice to be home and being part of the bird walks again! We headed south from the Boathouse and soon found the Red-headed Woodpecker getting its full contingent of red feathers on its head. Also about were Fox Sparrows in the Maintenance Field, an early morning Ruby-crowned Kinglet and Carolina Wren (both at the Swampy Pin Oak at 8am), and an abundance of Red-tailed Hawks flying including a pair bringing sticks to the San Remo (75th and Central Park West; right tower). A flock of Cedar Waxwings fed on Juniper fruits just above eye-level. These get my vote for best birds of the day. Add a Cooper's Hawk flying past the Boathouse (Peter Mol), some Song Sparrows - and about a dozen American Goldfinches at the Bird Feeders (there were <5 in late December) - one got a sense that spring might be a bit earlier this year than last. Indeed the high temperature today (66f), broke the old late 1990s record by one degree Fahrenheit.
On Sunday evening in Van Cortlandt Park (Bronx) there were a lot of people, and we were especially lucky that night to have so many distinguished birders including Leonard Miller who was born in the Bronx (Fox Street in about 1926). For 60+ years he has lived in Riverdale, near Van Cortlandt Park, and botanizing here with the Torrey Botanical Club, and looking for birds in NYC parks and beyond. He had never seen a screech-owl in VC Park, and has only been hearing them lately in the evening in his neighborhood when he walks with his daughter through those tree-lined streets. Also with us that night was Ben King who has discovered more species of small owls in Southeast Asia than anyone - and written field guides and scientific articles on SE Asian birds. Those are just two of the many wonderful people...As for owls, I scheduled the walk to begin about sunset because Eastern Screech-owls often get active at twilight - and it would not be good for an owl walk if the owls flew off to hunt for dinner far from the group before we had a chance to bring them in. As a result, we stood around for almost 30 minutes with the sun setting over the western Bronx in 57f temperature. I played the recorded call for two minutes and then stopped to listen. Nothing...People were starting to get restless, and I did my best to remain calm. Finally, when it was dark, Christian and Ken Brink (veterans of owl walks going back to the 1990s) saw a small shape swoop in and land nearby. Everyone was hushed...this could not be an owl - not in the Bronx! Yes it was, and that grey morph bird perched near us for 5-10 minutes. We had a lone flashlight on this owl and everyone had good long looks. See Deborah's photo above. At one point, and I concur, there was another shape that swooped in. We never located that second silhouette for a better look, but I am reasonably sure it was a second Eastern Screech-owl joining the first. So Part 1 of the owl walk was a success...and Part 2 soon began.
We drove north to a second secret location, several cars filled with excited owl watchers. This time we began in the dark - and people knew what to expect and look for. Almost as soon as I played the tape of a screech-owl calling, we heard first one and then a second Eastern Screech-owl calling back. Both made the "bounce" (whinny) call and the "wail" (horse) call. We played the tape and they approached to our left and right - but we could not see them. They did not quite want to come to the edge of the woods. To find them with our eyes, I led the group on a small path into the woods where there was a significant shrub (understory) layer. Here while we played the tape we had both owls (a grey morph bird and the other that looked more red than grey) come close to us...land nearby and sit quite comfortably while the group watched. It seemed the many thin/small branches of the understory gave the birds the security/confidence to remain to watch us while we watched them. My guess is that we spent about 15-30 minutes in this second location studying this pair. They called repeatedly which was interesting because on this night, we did not hear the owl in the first location making any sounds we could detect. (Back in late December, the owls at both locations made lots of calls.) I'll be doing one more owl walk this spring (Sunday, 5 March) if you want to enjoy little Eastern Screech-owls with us. The advantage to small owls versus big ones is that the smaller ones usually come in much closer because they can maneuver in/through/around groups of people and land low in small trees. Large owls fly in and perch above everyone on bigger trees.
Sunday, 12 February 2017 - Nothing to report! We cancelled the bird walk due to inclement (lousy!) weather. However, this Sunday we could reach 65f...so don't miss the bird walk or the owl walk late that afternoon in the Bronx.
Sunday, 5 February 2017 (Boathouse meeting location at 9:30am and led by Deborah Allen) - I have been informed that I am no longer needed here in NYC to do bird walks...both Deborah and Jeff Ward are doing so well that birding bob is being put out to pasture. Oh well...Meanwhile, Deborah and company found the Red-headed Woodpecker and several other species...but despite the abundance of White-breasted Nuthatches, there were no Red-breasted Nuthatches seen this past Sunday. The bob and his tape will be back soon - so watch out Red-breasted Nuthatches!
Deborah's list for 5 February (Central Park): http://birding.aba.org/message.php?mesid=1239138&MLID=NY01&MLNM=New%20York
Sunday, 29 January 2017 (Boathouse meeting location at 9:30am and led by Jeff Ward) - Today's walk, in nice weather and with a skilled leader, attracted a good number of quality people. All told, Jeff and company found 36 species including 8 Great Black-backed Gulls,
4 Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers, 11 Blue Jays, 9 Black-capped Chickadees , 21 Tufted Titmouses, 2 Red-breasted Nuthatches, 4 White-breasted Nuthatches, 1 Brown Creeper and 7 American Robins. After the walk, Jeff and a few others headed to the 59th street pond area and on the way found the young Red-headed Woodpecker, and then Pintail, Wood Duck, Swamp Sparrows, Cooper's hawk, and a Northern Mockingbird (so 42 species total).
Sunday, 29 January 2017 (Boathouse meeting location at 9:30am and led by Jeff Ward) - Today's walk, in nice weather and with a skilled leader, attracted a good number of quality people. All told, Jeff and company found 36 species including 8 Great Black-backed Gulls, 4 Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers, 11 Blue Jays, 9 Black-capped Chickadees , 21 Tufted Titmouses, 2 Red-breasted Nuthatches, 4 White-breasted Nuthatches, 1 Brown Creeper and 7 American Robins. After the walk, Jeff and a few others headed to the 59th street pond area and on the way found the young Red-headed Woodpecker, and then Pintail, Wood Duck, Swamp Sparrows, Cooper's hawk, and a Northern Mockingbird (so 42 species total).
Sunday, 22 January 2017 (Boathouse meeting location at 9:30am and led by Jeff Ward) - The leader was the highlight today: that birder guy was Jeff Ward born and raised in the Bronx and Brooklyn and though he is a Mets' fan, he is an exceptionally smart, kind and fun bird walk leader. We are proud to know him! That being said what about the birds that Jeff and company (including Nell Semel, Vicki Seabrook, Victor Lloyd) found. The highlight was a group of three Snow Geese circling over the Reservoir...but the three Red-breasted Nuthatches were just as wonderful albeit a bit smaller. Jeff and company also found 16 Tufted Titmouses, 6 White-breasted Nuthatches and 7 American Robins (plus six Great Black-backed Gulls) - 30 species in all. So if anyone is thinking of doing a great bird walk, this Sunday is the time to try one - January 29th at 9:30am at the Boathouse with Jeff.