Friday, May 23, 2014

Kentucky Warbler

Wednesday morning, I saw a report online of a Kentucky Warbler in the Tanner's Spring area.

The Kentucky Warbler is a member of a small group of very secretive, ground-hugging warblers that used to be all in the genus Oporornis until the splitters got to work on it. But I digress. Anyway, the members of the group--the Connecticut, Mourning, and Kentucky Warblers, and the western MacGillivray's Warbler--are notoriously difficult to find, even when you know where they are.

In fact, I'd never seen a Kentucky Warbler, so off I went in pursuit.

When I entered the park, I saw a group  people with binoculars and big cameras looking into the vegetation just north of the Diana Ross Playground, always a good sign that there's a bird down there--and surprisingly shortly thereafter, the little skulking bird popped into view.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Kentucky Warbler, Central Park
Kentucky Warbler!

I've now seen 34 of the 36 warbler species that normally occur in this part of the country, missing only the Connecticut and the Golden-Winged.

The Kentucky continued for a while poking along under the plants and occasionally popping up for a photo op. Eventually, I decided to escape the press of the crowd watching it, and went to nearby Tanner's Spring, where only one other birder was watching a great variety of birds coming down to drink and bathe.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Chestnut-Sided Warbler and Gray Catbird, Tanner's Spring, Central Park
Chestnut-Sided Warbler and Gray Catbird at Tanner's Spring

Elsewhere in the park there were a lot of Canada Warblers

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Canada Warbler, Central Park
O, Canada!

and more Swainson's Thrushes than I can recall seeing in one day before.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Swainson's Thrush, Central Park
When you look at the Swainson's Thrush, the Swainson's Thrush also looks back at you.

Besides the Kentucky Warbler, the other notable rarities in the Park on Wednesday were Mourning Warblers reported in several locations (and I couldn't find any of them, darn skulky birdies), and a Bicknell's Thrush found by David Barrett at Strawberry fields.

Bicknell's Thrush winters in a few isolated spots in the Caribbean and breeds only on a few mountaintops in upper New York State, New England, and Ontario. It is not distinguishable from the Gray-Cheeked Thrush except by song--and I've listened to recordings of both, and I can't distinguish them that way either. So I decided not to chase a bird I can't ID.

The Kentucky Warbler was my 161st species of the year in New York County It was also my 202nd life-list species in the county according to eBird--number 200 was the Summer Tanager--but that list includes a couple of obvious escaped birds (Budgerigar and Yellow-fronted Canary), so the Kentucky is my "real" 200th life bird here.

(The list also includes European Goldfinch, but that bird was flocking with House Finches the whole winter of 2012-2013 after first being seen in spring 2012, and I don't see why it couldn't have been a true accidental. So I'm counting it.)

Thursday had more reports of Mourning Warblers, and a lot of Empidonax flycatchers (including Acadian and Yellow-Bellied). I'll write about them later.

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