Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Controversial Prothonotary

Monday afternoon a Prothonotary Warbler was reported in Central Park around Turtle Pond. I got there towards evening and didn't see it, but on Tuesday morning it was hawking insects off the Turtle Pond dock and bouncing around the low vegetation on the west side of the pond in all his egg-yolk yellow glory.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Prothonotary Warbler, Central Park
confiding Prothonotary

I've never had such a view. The Prothonotaries I've seen before were all 'way up in the treetops.

Anyway, this bird is slightly controversial, because it was just released by the Wild Bird Fund after they rehabbed it. (It had been found in the west 50s.)

So, why is that controversial? Well, for people who are competitive bird-listers, it makes a difference. You're not supposed to count a bird that got where it was with human aid--such as being recently released--according to the governing body for such things, the American Birding Assocaition (ABA). "Recently" is a little vague, and one well-known NYC birder quoted American Birding Association regulations in his report:

I claim that this is an ABA-countable bird. Recording rule 3B says that rehabbed birds are wild birds even though they have been transported. The reason this bird also passes rule 3C (and why last week''s Virginia Rail did not) is that the bird was no longer in its initial movement away from the release point. It had flown over 400 meters to the SE shore of Turtle Pond. It was actively feeding, flying across the pond several times.

There are rules, people, rules. Ahem. Sorry, I don't mean to mock, but this is the kind of thing that keeps me at some distance from the American Birding Association. Let me make it clear that I don't care what birds anyone else counts. I keep lists, but I'm not competitive. For me, if I had seen it on Monday evening, I would have put it in my eBird list, but I'd have a mental reservation about whether I'd "really" seen that species this year. But seeing the bird the day after the release, after it's had a chance to fly out, is perfectly fine to count. Somehow. By my own rules. Anyway, the Prothonotary is my 113th species of the year.

Many warblers are starting to come in. I've seen Black-Throated Green Warblers, some heard singing, and Black-Throated Blues, Common Yellowthroats, and Ovenbirds have been reported in the park, along with lingering Pine Warblers, both Waterthrush species, and a steady stream of Palm, Black-and-White, and Yellow-Rumped Warblers.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Yellow-Rumped Warbler, Central Park

Monday, April 27, 2015

Domestic arrangements

While Spring migration is in full swing, some birds are settling in for nesting season...or trying to. At Turtle Pond in Central Park, a pair of Downy Woodpeckers are excavating a nest hole in a willow tree. Saturday, we saw a Hairy Woodpecker come around...and the Downys chased him away. Elena got a photo of the action.

Downy vs Hairy
Woodpecker dispute (Photo by Elena Gaillard)

Meanwhile, on the pond's shore directly below, a pair of Mallards was browsing. A second male flew in--and then scooted right back out. The male of the pair chased the interloper all around the pond, hanging onto his tail.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Duck duel
take that, you bounder!

Things were a little calmer away from the water. Singing was everywhere, as males advertised for mates. Passing migrants sang:

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Pine Warbler singing, Central Park
it's been a great Spring for Pine Warblers in the Park.

Resident birds sang as well, some not so musically,

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Red-Winged Blackbird singing, Azalea Pond
whaddaya mean? I sound great!

while others seemed possessed by the spirit of Al Jolson.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Starling singing, Central Park
I'd walk a million miles for one of your smiles

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Right back at you

The pace of migration is picking up. In Central Park, many Pine, Palm, and Yellow-Rumped Warblers continue, some singing. There's been some reports of Blue-headed Vireos, and I saw my first Black-and-White Warbler on Sunday. The day's highlight, though, was this very late Pine Siskin at the Evodia feeders.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Pine Sisking, Evodia,  Central Park

With the warming weather, the birds are all quite busy, and I've gotten very good looks at some. This White-Breasted Nuthatch has been around Laupot Bridge all winter, and still seems to have a lot of food stashed in the bridge posts.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; White-Breasted Nuthatch, Laupot Bridge

He was making curious little grumbling sounds as he worked around the area, on occasionally giving out the typical brash "henk! henk!" call Nuthatches are known for.

The cardinals in Central Park tend to be quite tame, and will often get up close to people, like this one:

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Northern Cardinal, Central Park

And why not? People sometimes have peanuts and stuff.

Nesting season is already starting for some resident birds. I've seen some Robins on nests, and others gathering nesting material.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; American Robin with nesting material, Central Park

Cardinals and Grackles have been carrying around nesting material as well.

I've seen all three of the common swallow species (Barn, Tree, and Northern Rough-Winged) at Turtle Pond in the last week, and a bunch of cormorants has been hanging out there as well.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Double-Crested Cormorant, Turtle Pond

Sometimes you can see why the Cormorant is called the devil's bird.

Some species have already passed through. The Fox Sparrows are gone. and the bulk of the Song Sparrows and Juncos as well. White-Throated Sparrows are still plentiful at the moment.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; White-Throated Sparrow, Central Park

They'll be moving on soon, but I'm enjoying them while they're still here.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Luck and local rarities

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Savannah Sparrow, Central Park
the Savannah Sparrow who inadvertently led me to the meadowlark

I decided to swing by the Great lawn this morning, because birders who uses th3 Twitter handle @Dendroicist was in the park at 6:30am and had a Savannah Sparrow in the NW corner. A bit later he reported a Louisiana Waterthrush at Azalea Pond, but I decided to chase the Savannah--they're slightly harder to find and I hoped to get to work quicker if I didn't ramble the Ramble.

I walked past the east and north sides of Turtle Pond. The crowd of Palm and Pine Warblers that was there a few days ago had tinned out, but there were a bunch of Ruby-Crowned Kinglets. Oddly, I still didn't see any Swallows on the pond.

Walking up the west side of the Great Lawn, I scanned the grass. Amidst the Robins was a pale bird, holding itself parallel to the grass. I could see it had a chevron on its chest, and thought at first it was a Flicker. But it was small, and the back pattern was not right, and it was not really acting like a foraging Flicker. In the binoculars it had a dark eyestripe and when it raised its head I saw a straight bill and yellow on the breast and belly. Meadowlark! A life bird for me, and rather rare in the City.

Pure luck. If it hadn't been for the Savannah report, I'd never have been looking at the Great Lawn. The bird was distant but I took a bunch of photos.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Eastern MEadowlark and Robins, Great Lawn, Central Park
Meadowlark and colleagues

Park workers were cleaning up the ballfields. They were nowhere near the bird, but when a motor started, it flew a bit south. I circled back to follow it, hoping for a closer look, but the second time a motor turned over it flew up high, in a big flat curve high into the trees across from the northeast part of the lawn.

I didn't find it on the fields north of the Lawn (next to the Pinetarium), and it didn't come back when the workers left. I did find the Savannah at the backstop of ballfield #5, just where Dendroicist's report said it was. I wasn't early for work.

Then, at my desk, I saw eBird reports of a nightjar in Bryant Park, just a few blocks away. At lunch, I had an appointment to pick up stuff from my tax accountant, and I was able to twitch the bird on my way to and from it.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Chuck-Will's-Widow, Bryant Park
Chuck-Will's-Widow, a rarity in New York

People were saying this is a Chuck-Will's-Widow--the largest and rarest of the northeastern nightjars. I ID'd it mostly on the size--a Downy Woodpecker and a White-Throated Sparrow passed through its tree, and I could see it was about twice their length, so it was maybe 12 inches long; Whippoorwills and Nighthawks are about 9 inches. Also, it was browner than those birds, and the big flat head is fairly distinctive.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Chuck-Will's-Widow, Bryant Park
another view of the Chuckie

Chuck-Will's-Widow (named for the sound of it's call) is quite rare in the area, although this is the third year in a row there's been a sighting in Manhattan. A lot of people (fifty-six reports on eBird!) were able to take advantage of the convenient midtown location and very good views of this one (including Elena, who came by after work).

I was happy to learn later, that at least a couple of people had managed to refind the Meadowlark. The only think better than finding a rarity is finding one that other people get to enjoy too.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Yet another "Spring is Here" post

So it seems this my my third "Spring is here!" post in a row. Well, what can I say? The first Warblers have arrived!

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Pine Warbler, Central Park
Pine Warbler, a usual early-spring arrival

I saw my first Pine and Palm Warblers of Spring on Easter morning. The were at the southwest corner of the Great lawn, mostly ignoring the kids playing catch with their dad a few feet away.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Palm Warbler, Central Park
Palm Warbler, also a reliable early bird

They did flush into a tree when people strolled by, not noticing them.

There were some Golden-crowned Kinglets there as well, looking very much like animated Easter eggs as they foraged in the grass.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Golden-Crowned Kinglet, Central Park
Easter-egg bird

A couple of the Pine Warblers were about the most colorless I've ever seen--very drab even for a fall plumage bird, never mind Spring.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Pine Warbler, Great Lawn, central Park
I was hypnotized by their grayness.

I haven't see any Yellow-Rumped warblers yet. Up to a couple of years ago, the Ramble was ankle-deep in them by this time in April. In 2013, there were those terrible Spring storms in the Gulf of Mexico which killed a huge number of early migrants, and the whoel Spring there were string north winds, I think the Yellow-Rumpeds went north inland that year--we hardly saw any in New York. last year they were a little more abundant, but nothing like before.

Anyway, other Spring migrants are arriving apace. The Black-Crowned Night Herons have started coming in; some of them will stay. Here's six of them in two willows--you can play "find the hidden birds".

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Lake shore with herons
Landscape with herons

There's been a Common Loon on the Reservoir for about a week, and someone spotted a Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher in the North Woods the other day.
Also, a few Winter birds are still around. I went up to Inwood Hill Park last friday to track down a Horned Grebe reported there by Joe DiCostanzo. I hadn't managed to see a Horned Grebe all winter--they're a normal bird in this region, but not so abundant around Manhattan--, so I was glad to catch this one before it left.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Horned Grebe, Spuyten Duyvil Creek
at last!

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Spring begins

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; American Woodcock, Bryant Park

Spring has arrived, and with it the first migrants. American Woodcocks have been seen in the Ramble several times in the last couple of weeks; then on Tuesday, a pair showed up in Bryant Park.

Woodcocks have a terrible time navigating through cities. They migrate at night, flying very low--only about 50 feet up--and their eyes are placed so far back on their heads that their vision straight in front is poor. All this makes them the most like birds to be involved in window collisions.

These two seemed OK--they were foraging actively in the light rain, and seemed quite aware that they were being watched. They didn't flush to cover, but they did move away from the observers' lines of sight. Of course, who can really tell how a collision-dazed Woodcock would act?

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; American Woodcock, Bryant Park

It rained into the evening, so they might not have flown out tonight. If you're in New York City and reading this on Wednesday, it might be worth looking for them. Today I found them in the daffodil plantings near the birdbath in the northeast part of the park.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Swamp Sparrow, Bryant Park

Sparrows are moving through as well--this Swamp Sparrow was also in Bryant Park, and I've seen several in Central Park as well. Both parks are covered in a fine mist of Song Sparrows. Central Park has also been hosting a large number of Fox Sparrows--I've seen a dozen in a day.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Fox Sparrows, Central Park

Other recent arrivals are Black-Crowned Night Heron; one has been reported around the Lake in Central Park. I haven't seen it yet, but I did have my first Great Egret of the year at Turtle Pond on Monday evening.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; first Great Egret of Spring, Turtle Pond

And of course, Spring isn't Spring until the Phoebes arrive. They started to come in at the end of last week, hurrah!

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Eastern Phoebe, Turtle Pond

I haven't seen any warblers yet, but there was a sighting of a Pine Warbler at the Ross Pinetum in Central Park on Monday. Keep watching the skies!