Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Rainy day

Heavy rain all day, so I didn't get out. Monday I stopped in the Ramble briefly on my way to the Bronx. I failed to spot the Hooded Warbler who was seen on the Point and also in the Captain's Bench area, missed the Spotted Sandpiper in the Oven by mere minutes, and didn't have time to try for the Yellow-Throated Warbler seen around Sheep Meadow and then south of Tavern on the Green. I did see my first Northern Waterthrush and Chimney Swifts of the season, which brought me to 109 species in Manhattan this year. The Chimney Swifts retruning is my marker for the real beginning of Spring.

The southwest part of Van Cortlandt Park was not as birdy as I expected. A lot of red-Winged Blackbirds are around, and I had a nice look at a female RWBB in the wetlands area south of the mansion.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Female Red-Winged Blackbird calling, Van Cortlandt Park
Female blackbird calling

She was calling, rather sweetly for a blackbird. I also saw a lingering Rusty Blackbird there. There was a Ring-Necked Duck on the lake; I wonder if he was the same drake I saw there a month ago. A number of singing Yellow-Rumped Warblers were around, and also Tree Swallows, Barn Swallows, and (yes!) Chimney Swifts.

Tuesday, I saw a report early in the morning that the Yellow-Throated Warbler was seen just south of Sheep meadow, so I headed straight down there...and struck out. I spent an hour and a half getting "warbler neck" from scanning the trees between the 65th Street Transverse and the Bandshell. No dice. I did get a nice addition to my photo collection of House Sparrows nesting in interesting places:

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Sparrow at nest, 65th Street Transverse, Central Park
Sparrow at her nest in a street sign

And a good look at the male Red-Tailed Hawk of the pair that is nesting near the Sheep Meadow.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Red-Tailed Hawk, Sheep Meadow, Central Park
I think that's a bit of his breakfast still in his beak.

Reaching the Ramble, I saw a Yellow Warbler right near Bow Bridge. Poor thing seemed to be missing its tail, but it was flying pretty well anyway. The other newly-arrived warbler species I didn't see, nor had anyone seen the Hooded Warbler from the day before again.

On my way out, at Maintenance meadow there were some Chipping Sparrows and one Field Sparrow.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Field Sparrow, Central Park
Field Sparrow, ohsocute

There haven't been a lot of Field Sparrows this Spring. I think they're about the cutest thing going.

The yellow Warbler was my 110th species in New York county this year. Tomorrow it's supposed to stop raining in the afternoon, so I'll go see what's around after the storm.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Migration update

We visited the Cherry Blossom Festival at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden on Sunday. We weren't birding, but did hear a Chipping Sparrow singing near the Eastern Parkway entrance and saw our first-of-year Eastern Kingbird perched in a cherry tree at the Japanese Garden, hawking insects just above the pond surface. We didn't have a chance to chase the Prothonotary Warbler reported in Prospect Park on Saturday.

Meanwhile in Central Park, the expected migrants are moving in. A pair of Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds was seen at Maintenance in the Ramble; an Eastern Kingbird was around the ridge in the North Woods, and a Yellow-Throated Vireo was photographed at the High Meadow and seen in other locations there. Warbling Vireos were spotted in the Ramble, to go with the White-Eyed and Blue-Headed Vireos already present. The season's first Black-Throated Green Warblers, several of them, appeared in the Ramble. Less expected was a Broad-Winged Hawk seen soaring on thermals with the resident Red-Tailed Hawks on the west side.

I'm off to the Bronx to visit my aunts tomorrow, but I hope to bird the Ramble before going up, and to look in at Van Cortlandt Park on the way home.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Miss, miss, miss, miss, HIT

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; White-Eyed Vireo, Central Park
White-Eyed Vireo

Friday I went looking for the Nashville Warbler seen at the Oven and the Point, and didn't find it. Then I looked for the Northern Waterthrush reported at the Upper lobe, and didn't see that. Next I went uptown to the Pool, where I didn't see the Spotted Sandpiper reported there in the morning; and finally walked up and down the Loch and Ravine area, where I didn't see the Wilson's Snipe that had been seen there only an hour or so before. Oh, well. It was a nice day for a loooong walk through Central Park.

Saturday, I went to the Point, which remains pretty birdy--a Prairie Warbler continues there and has been singing, and lots of Yellow-Rumped and Palm Warblers, along with a House Wren (or two). There was briefly a nice view of a Great Egret in a tree along the Riviera across the way.

Nadir Souirgi, a very fine birder who mostly stays in the North End, showed up on the Point and said he'd seen a White-Eyed Vireo at Willow Rock. That's a nice bird for the park, and off I went. I found a small crowd of birders and photographers following a small bird high up in the trees just south of Willow Rock. I got my binoculars up and saw it was indeed teh Vireo, then tried to get a photo.

Small, active bird back in tree branches; not easy. I got a few shots off before it moved farther south, but I didn't think I had anything good. Where it had moved to, it was still back in branches and the glare was fierce, making it hard to see what was in the camera's viewfinder.

The Vireo had an encounter with another small bird, and one of them flew off. It turned out that a Blue-Headed Vireo had chased it off. I never re-found the White-Eyed, and I didn't hear that anyone else had either.

So I was happy to have seen the bird--my 107th species of the year in Manhattan--but reviewing the photos was disappointing. It was hard to judge on the little screen on the camera in the glare, but it looked like I had one photo where the Vireo was recognizable, but that's about all.

So I was delighted to see the photo above when I looked at the day's shooting on my monitor at home. Lessons:

  • Keep chasing bird reports, the ones you get make up for the ones you miss.
  • When you're photographing, keep on shooting. Shoot a lot, worry about the results later. 
  • If you're in the right place and the right time, luck can work for you.
  • Needless to say, never delete anything until you take a good look at it on a proper monitor.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Everybody sing

It's Spring and everybody's singing. The sparrows are singing in their own special ways:

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Chipping Sparrow singing, Central Park
a long chittering verse

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; White-Throated Sparrow singing, Central Park
"Oh sweet Canada Canada Canada!"

Cardinals are singing unstoppably at each other:
Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Cardinal singing, Central Park
Anything you can sing, I can sing louder

Robins are singing all over:
Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; American Robin singing, Central Park
we shall sing in the trees, we shall sing in the bushes, we shall sing on the ground, we shall never go silent

This House Finch did his best to convince me he was some other bird:
Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; House Finch preparing to sing, Central Park
Take a deep breath and sing

And everybody wants to get into the act.
Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Red-Winged Blackbird calling, NY Botanical Garden
I am too a songbird

Wednesday, April 23, 2014


Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Cerulean Warbler, Central Park

Tuesday night had winds from the west, and as I hoped, that meant that the migratory birds in Central Park mostly stayed put.  So I wasn't surprised when, over breakfast, I saw a note online: "Cerulean refound by Kyu Lee at Bow Bridge".

So off I went, and shortly after I showed up at Bow Bridge, so did The Bird.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Cerulean Warbler, Central Park
Another view of the star attraction

I thought I hadn't gotten any good photos, but these don't look too bad.  It was a good thing that I got there when I did, because the cerulean then disappeared for six hours or so, and when it showed up (at Warbler Rock, maybe a hundred feet northeast of the bridge), it was 'way high up.

The winds look unfavorable for migration again tonight, so we may all get another chance to see the Cerulean tomorrow.

Having gotten a look at the Cerulean, I was free to go off and look for the Prairie Warbler people had been seeing on the Point.  Finding it proved a little more challenging than I expected from the reports, but while I was waiting, I saw a nice Blue-Headed Vireo.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Blue-Headed Vireo, Central Park
Blue-Headed Vireo, singing: "Here I am! Up in this tree! Don't look at me!"

Eventually the Prairie came out and was very cooperative about posing.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Prairie Warbler, Central Park
Prairie Warbler, ready for a screen test

Despite the poor winds, some birds did come in--I saw several other Blue-Headed Vireos, many Yellow-Rumped Warblers, and Palm Warblers were just everywhere.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Palm Warbler, Central Park
One of the crowd

The Cerulean is a life bird for me (my 199th in New York County), and the prairie is my first of the year, making 106 species for the year.

Favorable winds

Gentle southerly winds overnight brought a few new species into Central Park on Tuesday morning. The big news was a male Cerulean Warbler spotted by Miriam (whose last name I don't know) at the Gill just south of Azalea Pond about 11:30am.  She was sitting on a bench watching birds coem down to bathe, and a Cerulean came down to eye level.

Unfortunately, only a couple of other people got to see the bird before he went back up into the treetops, as a Cerulean does.  I wasn't one of the lucky ones.  I found out about the bird when I got to the Azalea Pond around noon, and stayed  in the area for an hour and a half.  As far as I know, nobody saw the bird again.

Also reported were a pair of Purple Finches and a Northern Waterthrush, but I didn't see them either. Also a Savannah Sparrow at Maintenance meadow--this one I did get:

Ed Gaillard: recent &emdash; Savannah Sparrow, Central Park
a very confiding Savannah Sparrow

A very cooperative bird. A group of birders stood off about 25 feet or so, not wanting to disturb it as it went about its lawful sparrow business foraging in the grass. It gradually worked its way closer until it was about 10 or 12 feet away. This is by far the best look I've ever gotten at a Savannah. Charming little bird.

In addition to the new species, a lot of birds from already-present species came in overnight. There were quite a few Yellow-Rumped Warblers (which I saw while looking for the Cerulean), Palm and Pine Warblers, a Blue-headed Vireo, and a number of Hermit Thrush. I did see a warbler, high up, a dull yellow breast with dark streaks; maybe a female Yellow Warbler, but not a good enough view to say for sure.

Most of the recently-seen species were still around, even if not in greater numbers.

Remember how I said in the last post that I didn't have any good photos of House Wrens? That's fixed now:

Ed Gaillard: recent &emdash; House Wren, Central Park
House Wren in action

While migration is just getting into swing, some resident birds have gotten down to the business of nesting:

Ed Gaillard: recent &emdash; Robin on nest, Central Park

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Wrens cheer me up

I find the sight of a wren immensely cheering, somehow. They're such purposeful and determined little birds: subtle, active, hard to follow. They don't have the sublime obliviousness of kinglets and gnatcatchers, who live at such a pace that to them we are just slightly unstable geological features, of no concern and no threat; they don't have the skittishness of sparrows and warblers, many of which will scatter if you look at them too hard. The wrens have a healthy skepticism about us, but remain determined to go about their lawful wren business.

Migration is still slow here, but there were a few birds out on the Point. Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher, Yellow-Rumped and Pine Warblers, Ruby-Crowned Kinglet.

Ed Gaillard: recent &emdash; Yellow-Rumped Warbler, Central Park
my best photo of the day: Yellow-Rumped (Myrtle) Warbler

I took a few photographs, and when I was getting ready to leave, I caught motion out of the corner of my eye, a little brown blur in a tree right by the water. It proved to be a House Wren, my first of the year. I enjoyed watching it busily flitting across the ground and up and down shrubs. After some time, it decided that the end of the Point was a bit too noisy, what with all the rowboats going by, and took off, gone like a shot.

Ed Gaillard: recent &emdash; House Wren, Central Park
I'm not thrilled with this, but it turns out I have no great photos of a House Wren

House Wren is the 104th species of the year for me. The winds look a little better tonight, so I'm hoping that we'll finally get some more warblers tomorrow.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Green Heron

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; having his say
not the Easter Heron

It was a slow week--mostly northerly winds, not favorable for migratory movements--though I picked up a couple of new species for the year. Northern Rough-Winged Swallows were at Turtle Pond Monday, and a male Common Yellowthroat was under the willow at the Upper Lobe on Wednesday. Those are both normal species for Central Park.

I went up to the Bronx for Easter. I saw on my phone that a Green Heron had been seen in the willow tree at the end of Point in Central Park early in the morning. That's a pretty good bird for the park; I see one or maybe two a year. So although I didn't think it would still be around when I got back to Manhattan late in the afternoon--on a beautiful Easter Sunday, there would be rowboats all over the Lake to disturb it--I needed to at least look.

So it wasn't there. People out on the Point were watching a male Yellow-Rumped Warbler, about the only warbler around the last few days. Nice-looking bird.

I swung around to Willow Rock, and I ran into a birder named Ginny--and she had spotted the Heron in a willow tree there. Perfectly logical place for the bird to wind up, but it was very well-hidden. Very good spotting, that was.

My photos of this bird are uninspiring--it was really well-screened by branches--so I'm showing off a nice photo I took of of a Green Heron at Azalea Pond a few years ago.

The Green Heron is my 103rd species of the year in New York County.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Photo interlude

I didn't go anywhere interesting today. Nothing much came in today that I heard about--maybe a few more Black-and-White Warblers out on the Point--so here's a few recent photos I haven't put on the blog already.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Cedar Waxwing, Central Park
Cedar Waxwings, I love their little pot bellies.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; White-Throated Sparrow, Central Park
It's easy to overlook what a good-looking bird a White-Throated Sparrow is.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Pine Warbler, Central Park

The drab Pine Warbler that spent most of the winter in the Ramble hasn't been seen in a while. I guess that's another story whose ending I'll never know.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Baltimore Oriole, Central Park

We're still seeing the Baltimore Orio;les who overwintered near Evodia, though. I assume this male will have his pick of the best nesting areas, since there won't be any others for another week or two yet.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Ring-Necked and Mallard ducks, Upper Lobe of Central Park Lake

I wonder if this Ring-Necked drake I saw the other week is the one who was on the Reservoir during the winter. That one liked to pal arounmd with Mallards, too.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Red-Bellied Woodpecker, Central Park
The "kwirr!" call of the Red-Bellied Woodpecker is a common sound in the Ramble now.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

It's that time of year...

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Pigeons, Willow Rock, Central Park
"In the Spring a livelier iris changes on the burnish'd dove"

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; House Sparrows, Miner's Gate, Central Park
"In the Spring a young man's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love"

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Mourning Dove on nest, Upper Lobe of Central Park Lake
But eventually the poetry of passion gives way to the prose of family life

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Surprisingly slow

Sunday and Monday were beautiful days, after nights of steady southerly winds; Tuesday came up gloomy and rainy, but again after a night of good winds.

Rainy Day Robin #12

Despite three nights of favorable winds, few migrating birds came into Central Park. There are still Blue-Gray Gnatcatchers, mostly on the Point.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher, Central Park
Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher

Ruby-Crowned Kinglets are also still around; the Golden-Crowneds seem to have mostly moved on. There are Pine and Palm Warblers, and a couple of Yellow-Rumped Warblers, but no others; except one report of a Prairie Warbler near Turtle Pond. But I'm told that one of the birding guides played recordings of Prairie Warbler songs "to bring it in closer" until the stressed bird escaped elsewhere.

Swallows are coming in, however; Tree and Northern Rough-Winged Swallows at Turtle Pond on Monday, and today one Tree Swallow and a very small, fluttery, brown swallow that from the size and flight style might be a Bank Swallow. On the other hand, Bank is highly unusual in the park, and they don't tend to travel singly, so perhaps not. I couldn't get my binoculars on it for more than a tenth of a second, so I didn't get any field marks.

At Evodia on Monday I saw an extremely pretty female Red-Winged Blackbird. The females are usually quite reclusive. Unfortunately, a female Brown-Headed Cowbird was hanging around with it. That's not good news.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Red-Winged Blackbird and Brown-Headed Cowbird, Central Park
Soap opera in progress

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Snipe success!

Elena and I were having breakfast and deciding where to go today. We had settled on the Ramble, to look for a Bluebird reported there a couple of hours earlier. I checked the NYNYBirds texts web page on my phone, and saw a very recent report from Karen Fung:
W Snipe in the Loch, found by John Wittenberg
I showed the phone to Elena. "Snipe hunt?" I asked.

She considered briefly. "Snipe hunt!" And so off we went to the North End.

It turned out to be easy. We got to the Loch, and found a group of birders. They described where it was hiding in plain sight near a log across the stream. It took some scanning, but I eventually recognized its stripy back, and then it turned its head and the beady eye came into view.

Then it was just a matter of waiting for it to decide to move out into the (relative) open for a photo opportunity. After a few minutes, a Robin walked close by and it moved out and started to forage.

Ed Gaillard: recent &emdash; Wilson's Snipe, The Loch, Central Park
Sweet mystery of Snipe, at last I've found you!

It was interesting to watch the bird moving forward in a crouch, occasionally pausing and probing the mud deeply with its long beak. The probing movement was very smooth and deliberate; a Woodcock probing into leaves is a bit jerky by comparison, for instance. The Snipe is a life bird for me, my 198th species in New York County (and 99th of the year).

We also got an added bonus, a Blue-Headed Vireo, also a first=of-year bird.

Ed Gaillard: recent &emdash; Blue-Headed Vireo, Central Park
Number 100!

We made our way back to the Ramble to look for the Bluebird. No luck, but there were compensations, such as this very cooperative Palm Warbler at Tupelo meadow.

Ed Gaillard: recent &emdash; Palm Warbler, Tupelo Meadow, Central Park
Almost within reach

In all, a beautiful day for birding.


Just a quick note--lots of Palm Warblers at Tupelo Meadow in the Ramble; they seem to have arrived in numbers. Also a few Pine and Yellow-Rumped Warblers around. Friday evening I saw my first Black-and-White warbler of the year, at Willow Rock in the Ramble.

The B&W is a bit early, as are the Blue-Headed Vireos reported by Paul Sweet of the Museum of Natural History (whose morning birding group saw one at the Upper Lobe) and by a pair of young birders from South Carolina (who saw one at the Gill Overlook).

The Snipe was alleged to have been seen again at the eastern side of the Point this morning (that is, Friday morning). A Green Heron was seen in the North Woods.

Lots of Kinglets around, mostly Ruby-Crowned but a few Golden-Crowned as well. Many Flickers and Yellow-Bellied Sapsuckers. There's still at least one Louisisna Waterthrush, around the Point.

Since my last counting update, I've had eight more species, for a total of 98 in New York County: Field Sparrows (which are being seen sporadically in Central Park), Ruby-Crowned Kinglet; Savannah Sparrow, Tree Swallow, and Barn Swallow, all in the northeast part of Randall's Island--Barn Swallows and Northern Rough-Winged Swallows have been seen on Harlem Meer in Central Park as well; the Blue-Grey Gnatcatcher from my Snipe hunt yesterday; and the Palm and Black-and-White warblers from today.

Lots of birds coming in already, and even more coming soon.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Snipe hunt

When you set someone an impossible or fictional task as a prank, that's called a Snipe hunt. There's a reason for that.

At breakfast, I check several web pages--eBird rare birds and "year needs" lists, the NYSBirds-L mailing list, the NYNYBirds text alert page--to see if anything interesting has been seen. Thursday morning, there was a report of a Wilson's Snipe seen about 7am on the Point, a little peninsula in Central Park Lake that gets interesting shorebirds and warblers. Wilson's Snipe is a good bird for New York, and would be a life bird for me, so you can probably guess where I went.

I got into the park a little after 9am, and found other Snipe-obsessed birders. The story was, the bird had been seen and photographed on the east side of the Point, along with a Louisiana Waterthrush, and then both were accidentally flushed by park workers doing maintenance and trash removal. The Snipe flew around the Point and was lost to sight.

The obvious place for such a bird to hide is the Oven, a marshy area at the base of the western side of the Point. You can't (or at least shouldn't) climb down into the Oven, but a number of sharp-eyed people scanned the area from the land above it, and saw nothing. Where had the Snipe gone?

I walked all around the Lake shore. There's some decent places for a shorebird--not as good as the Point or the Oven, but possible--but neither I nor anyone else who explored the area over the course of the day saw anything Snipe-like.

I did see a nice first-of-year bird, a Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher feasting in the Cornelian Dogwoods on the western shore. They were just now bursting with little yellow flowers that attracted a lot of insects. The Gnatcatcher is a tiny, fast moving bird, very hard to photograph.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher, Central Park
My consolation prize for the Snipe hunt

Eventually I returned to the Oven and the Point. I watched a park worker go down into the oven. He seemed to doing something with a shrub. After a while, a Louisiana Waterthrush flushed--flew out of the Oven a bit down the Lake shore. I watched another twenty minutes as the man completed his work, but no Snipe followed the Waterthrush out.

I went and had a late lunch, and then did another circuit of the Lake. The Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher was still hard at work on in the dogwoods. I finally quit the Snipe hunt just after 5pm.

When I got home, I saw reports that the Snipe had been seen under a willow on the Point, and then in the Oven. Yeah, sure. I wasn't falling for that again.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014


Sunday afternoon I took a long walk and found myself at the Mount, a big hill in northern Central Park overlooking Harlem Meer and the Conservancy Garden. The top of the Mount is used as the composting area for the park. All the leaf litter swept from the paths and raked from the lawns, all the downed tree limbs and felled trees, are brought there and turned into wood chips (spread on many of the unpaved paths of the park) or mulched. It's a good area for sparrows and warblers, and Palm Warblers had been seen there on Saturday.

There were a couple of Song Sparrows around, and a lot of Mourning Doves. A Carolina Wren popped out of a pile of logs. The recent rains had made a pool between the heaps of compost, and a pair of Mallards swam contentedly in it. Mallards will go to some lengths for a little peace and quiet. No warblers.

I heard a medley of sparrow songs--White Throated, Junco, Song, Fox, one right after another--and scanned the trees until I spotted the Mockingbird. He flew off, but a few minutes later he was back, on top of a low fence, standing guard over his mate foraging around the base of a tree. They called to each other softly, a sort of sputtering cluck.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Northern Mockingbird, Central Park
Mockingbird, poised for action

I was standing on ground a bit below the tree, so I got some close-up photos at nearly eye level before I withdrew and left them to their business, wishing them the best of luck.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Northern Mockingbird, Central Park
Mockingbird, foraging

Last year, in the late winter and early spring. I walked up Cedar Hill almost every day on my way to work. There were a pair of Mockingbirds; I saw them both as late as Friday March 15. On Monday March 18, I saw one. He was being harassed by Blue Jays in a line of Cedars on the hill, and I watched as he chased them off and remained, sentry-alert on a treetop. I surmised that the Mockingbirds had nested somewhere in those trees.

Every morning for the next three weeks, I watched the Mockingbird chase two or three, or four Blue Jays the hell away from his trees. The jays would fly in to rob the nest and--a flurry of wings, a blur of birds chasing each other through the vegetation, and finally--a Mockingbird surveying the scene from a high branch.

I can only imagine that this must have gone on all day, every day.

On April 8, I saw a very annoyed-looking Blue Jay poking around those cedars. No sign of any Mockingbirds. Mockingbirds take about 23 to 25 days from egg-laying to fledging, after which the young birds are fully independent. If the eggs were laid on March 16th, there was just enough time to get the family airborne. I think they made it.

I have great respect for Mockingbirds.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Northern Mockingbird, Central Park
the hero of our story

Saturday, April 5, 2014


I'm not a "competitive birder". I do keep track of how many birds I've seen each year in Manhattan (well, in New York County, anyway); as you may have noticed, I usually note each new species on this blog. At the moment, I'm a few days behind on the count, so I'm going to catch up now. Don't worry--at least there'll be some photos, so it won't be all OCD.

April Fool's Day, there were three Mute Swans on the Central Park Reservoir. They were hanging out pretty far from shore, so the photos were not brilliant:

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Mute Swans, Central Park Reservoir

I had thought the bills of the young birds turned from pink to black by the start of winter, and then to orange in the spring. Apparently not. Now I'm even more convinced that the swan I saw on the Hudson last month was a Tundra (Whistling) Swan, not a Mute. Anyway, Mute Swan was species number 84 in New York County

Wednesday, my first Great Egret of the year was at Turtle Pond.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Great Egret, Turtle Pond, Central Park

Isn't that a fine looking bird? It helpfully flew from the middle of the south shore to the east end just as I arrived.

Thursday, my first Golden-Crowned Kinglets of the season, at Tupelo Meadow and Azalea Pond. I got a much better photo on Friday, which is in my previous post, along with mentions of my three new species for the year from Friday: Louisiana Waterthrush, Merlin, and Winter Wren (none of which provided usable photos).

Finally, today (Saturday) there were Chipping Sparrows at the feeders in Evodia.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Chipping Sparrow, Central Park

That's species number 90 of the year. Last year I was at 74 on this date, and got my 90th on April 20. I'll shut up about my list now, and instead give you a few

Rumors of Warblers (and other birds)

There were reports of a bright Palm Warbler yesterday, on the rocks just outside the Conservancy Garden near Harlem Meer and later at Compost Hill nearby.  Several people told me there were Yellow-Rumped Warblers in the Ramble today, but they escaped me, as did the Louisiana Waterthrush reported in the cut on the west side of the Point and later in the Oven.  Megan Gavin reported a Northern Waterthrush--way early!--at the Upper Lobe;  I missed that one, too.  That's all the Warblers I know about.

My best bird today was actually a drake Ring-Necked Duck on the Upper Lobe of the Lake.  One spent a good portion of the winter on the Reservoir, but a Ring-Necked is still a good bird for the Park.

Nobody has seen the Virginia Rail again.  Tom Fiore reported on the MYSBirds mailing list that it was actually a bird released by a wildlife rehabilitator.  Hopefully it did better than another release, a common Loon seen on the Lake on Thursday which--rumor has it--died.

I've heard varying reports about whether the Red-Necked Grebe is still on the Reservoir.  Farther afield, Joseph DiCostanzo reports that White-Winged Scoter are still at Inwood Hill Park, and Ben Cacace reported two American Oystercatchers (!!) on the Lawrence Point Ledge Light, which is visible from the northeast shore of Randall's Island,.  By "visible", I mean it's about halfway to Rikers Island, so you'll need a 'scope.  Assuming the birds are still there, of course.  Well, I guess you'd need a 'scope to tell for sure that they're not there, too.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Off the Rails

So Thursday evening, I saw reports of a Virginia Rail in the Loch and Ravine area (part of northern Central Park). That's a very good bird for Manhattan. There were two last year--one at the Loch and one downtown near the Federal reserve (!). Before that, eBird has a report of one on the east side in 2008, and two in the Ramble--one in 2007 and one in 1991. And that's all.

So off I went this morning, under a gloomy sky; and up and down the Loch I walked for the next three and a half hours (with a short excursion around the rest of the north end). No Rail. There were other rewards--a Louisiana Waterthrush sashayed into (and back out of) sight a couple of times, and a Merlin soared over the Great Hill when I took a little walkabout there--those were both first of the year for me. A Golden-Crowned Kinglet popped up in front of my--a male, close enough to see the red streak in the middle of the gold crown stripe. I'd never really seen that before.

Ed Gaillard: recent &emdash; Golden-Crowned Kinglet, Central Park

Still, no Rail. Nobody else had seen it, either. A post on the NYSBirds mailing list suggested that the Rail, if still present, would likely be more active near dusk. So I went home intending to try again later.

It was starting to sprinkle rain when I got back to the park. A few Buffleheads and a single Great Egret were at the Pool. In the Loch, still no Rail.

In the gathering gloom, birds began to sing: Cardinals, Robins, White-Throated Sparrows. Flickers called. Suddenly, from across the stream, a long, high song above the rest.

a cascade of trills
cuts through the rainy gloaming
--a Winter Wren sings

The wren (also a first of year bird for me) never appeared. Neither did the Virginia Rail. The rain got harder as darkness fell. I went home. There were still Buffleheads diving in the Pool as I passed on my way out.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Great Blue Herons

I mentioned that I saw my first Great Blue Heron of the year on Friday. Usually one or two wander in during the winter--in fact, there was one during the Christmas Bird Count, but none since the New Year.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Great Blue Heron, Central Park
Handsome heron

A very beautiful bird. Perhaps my memory plays me false, but I don't think we get many in such sharp breeding plumage, black-browed and beplumed.

Speaking of Great Blue Herons...

We went to the New-York Historical Society on Sunday to see the exhibit of Audubon watercolors, "Audubon’s Aviary: Parts Unknown". This is the second of three exhibits of the Society's collection of the original Audubon paintings for Birds of America; it concentrates on waterbirds, and the cover image is, of course, the Great Blue Heron.

Audubon's Great Blue Heron

If you're in New York between now and May 26, you should go see it. When you do, take a good long look at the Magnificent Frigatebird from several distances, and extremely close-up from various angles. A remarkable graphic composition from afar, and stunning, glitteringly detailed pencil-work at extreme close-up.