Thursday, September 29, 2016

Sparrow of Clay on the Unintentional Big Day!

On Sunday morning, I was in Central Park by 7 am, and there was clearly some activity. I saw birds flying left and right as I made my way to Strawberry Field, but only identified a few, including a Winter Wren. The most impressive thing on the way there was the flight of flickers, which contained several dozen Northern Flickers all headed south. I then arrived at Strawberry Fields, where I saw the birds I wasn't looking for, which included Brown Creeper and a pair of Dark-Eyed Juncos, which seemed like omens of a migration day filled with later, less impressive migrants. However, as time went by, it changed for the better and warblers started to appear. In the end, I had about a dozen warbler species in Strawberry Fields alone. I then went through the Ramble for a bit, and then did a raptor watch at Belvedere Castle for a few hours with Ryan. Unfortunately, we failed to spot anything notable. We went back into the Ramble, and it wasn't long before we received word of a Vesper Sparrow near Nutter's Battery at the north end of the park. We decided to head up there, and we arrived in just over a half hour. We looked for the sparrow, along with a few other birders, and we also found several species of warblers there. As we were scanning at the bottom of the hill, we heard someone yell "Clay-Colored Sparrow!". Wait, what? Why would something rare like that show up as we were looking for a Vesper Sparrow? We got to the top of the hill within seconds, and after less than a minute, the bird appeared with a flock of Palm Warblers. It was like a Chipping Sparrow, but had many more shades of brown, beige, and gray than a Chipping Sparrow, as well as black lines all over the face, making this a CLAY-COLORED SPARROW(#158). Over the next 15 minutes, the bird gave great views in the flock, before flying off and disappearing for good. This species is very rare, only appearing once or twice a year in the park, if at all. Being in the right place at the right time was very good for me, giving me a life bird! I did not bird much after the sparrow, and ended the day with a whopping 73 species!

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Pintail Pond

On Wednesday, I heard that a female Northern Pintail was found on Turtle Pond. That afternoon, I headed over there to try and find it. I walked around the pond and couldn't find it. Then, I read that it was hanging close to shore on the east end of the pond. I got there and found the NORTHERN PINTAIL (#157)! It was got really close, giving amazing views. This bird is a near-annual visitor to the park, and I did not expect to see one this year.  2 more birds to go until I break my record!

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Harlem Meer Teal 2016

On Monday, I heard that a Green-Winged Teal was being seen at the Harlem Meer. Last year, I had seen one there (with an American Wigeon!) in early October, and a second one at the Lake a week later. The chase was on! Unfortunately, it was raining when I was able to go out, and I had to hope it stayed. Around midday Tuesday, I was relieved to find out the teal was still there. I went up to the Meer that afternoon and saw that it was filled with dozens of Mallards, Gadwalls, and Northern Shovelers. After much scanning through them, I was about to give up, when I spotted a small, suspicous duck through my binoculars. It then took flight revealing the large green patches on its wings that would make it a GREEN-WINGED TEAL (#156)! Just 3 birds to go to surpass last year's total of 158!

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

The Philadelphia Vireo Surrenders!

On Saturday morning, I went into the park nearly hopeless in my search for a Philadelphia Vireo. But I still didn't let a slight chance slip by me. I went to Maintenance Meadow, which seemed to be the most reliable spot for them. I spot a vireo, and it's a Red-Eyed. Good start for a comparison. Then, I spot another vireo that was smaller, grayer and yellower. A look at the yellow underside confirmed my suspicions of it being a PHILADELPHIA VIREO (#155)! This bird was probably the same one that was seen over the previous few days. Other than this, it was pretty quiet that day. With my last regular migrant out of the way, it's all up to rare migrants, wandering birds, and vagrants to push my year list past 158 species.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Failadelphia Vireo

On Thursday, several Philadelphia Vireos were found around Central Park. This would be a lifer for me, one of my two major fall targets for the year (the other was the Connecticut Warbler I found on the 6th). I went into the park that afternoon, and heard two had been seen at the Point. I ran into Ryan along the way and we agreed to split up, with him taking Maintenance Meadow for one seen earlier in the day. At the Point, I got the call that the bird at Maintenance Meadow was being seen again as I was looking at a suspicious bird. It turned out to be a Cape May Warbler. Good, but I had seen several this season. I went to Maintenance Meadow and found out I had missed the bird by a few minutes. I stayed for an hour, looking through suspicious shapes in the trees, but failed to turn up a Philadelphia Vireo. However, I did see many other nice birds that day, including a flock of several Rose-Breasted Grosbeaks in some shrubs at Azalea Pond. On Friday, the vireo at Maintenance Meadow was seen again. I looked for a long time, but still didn't see it, although there was a Common Yellowthroat without a tail there for some reason. That day there were much less birds. More attempts will be made for Philadelphia Vireo over the next couple of days.

Sunday, September 11, 2016


On Tuesday morning, I went to Central Park hoping for some warblers, since I had nothing to do that day. Before I even got into the Ramble, I spotted a small flock of warblers at the Pilgrim Statue (near the East 72nd Street entrance). As I positioned myself around the flock to pick out the birds (which were mostly redstarts and one parula.), I flushed a warbler from the huge patch of short shrubs below the grove of trees. At first I thought it was a Common Yellowthroat. After all, this seemed like habitat one would like. But then I glanced over where the bird landed and I saw it walking on the ground! This suggested it might be a rare Connecticut Warbler. I knew I must get better looks at it! However, this bird was very skulky, as Connecticuts typically are. After a few minutes of strategic flushing and brief looks, I saw all the field marks of this grey and yellow bird, I was finally able to deduce that I had found Central Park's first CONNECTICUT WARBLER (#153) of the season in a place no one would expect! I soon lost the bird and after a few minutes trying to refind it, I decided to head into the park looking for more warblers and alerting people of the Connecticut. The Ramble did not have a lot of birds (but did have a continuing Hooded Warbler at the Swampy Pin Oak), so I headed to the Pinetum, where I had warblers earlier, particularly on the eastern side (nobody goes there). I started on the western side, which had barely anything, save for an early BROWN CREEPER found by 2 other birders. I then went to the eastern side, where the optimal scenario played out. I found several species of warbler, including Cape Mays and Blackpoll, and also found other passerines such as empids and Scarlet Tanager. Back to the Connecticut, about an hour and a half after I lost the bird, birders who got word of my sighting refound the Connecticut Warbler in the same patch of shrubs where I saw it. On the way out of the park, I decided to visit the site one more time to try and get better views of the bird. Fortunately, the warbler gave great views, at times being in the open. A great day today, with multiple rarities for this time of year, and a good amount of birds.

On a side note, I added Osprey (#152) to my year list on Monday, with a bird seen flying northbound low over the Reservoir for a few minutes.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Late August Big Day

On Saturday, I participated in the NYS Young Birders Club Big Day. Instead of one team, we all do our separate big days and combine the results into one big total. I birded in (where else?) Central Park for the day. At first, things seemed quiet, but gradually, things started to improve, starting with a Mourning Warbler at Azalea Pond. I then went to Laupot Bridge, when I started hearing a call of a nuthatch that sounded like a Red-Breasted. Suddenly, a small bird flew onto a log over the Gill. It was obviously a RED-BREASTED NUTHATCH (Year Bird #149)! Ever since that bird (which the call was not coming from), I've seen several Red-Breasted Nuthatches in the park. It looks like it is going to be a big year for them. Anyway, I birded some more, and heard a report of a Solitary Sandpiper at the Upper Lobe. With a bit of searching and some help, I was able to locate the bird (Year Bird #150), which gave great views. Another year bird was seen 2 hours later in Tupelo Meadow. This was a Yellow-Bellied Flycatcher (#151). The best spot that day was the Pinetum. Despite many people there, I was still able to find many redstarts and empids, a Black-and-White Warbler, 2 Black-Throated Green Warblers (FOS), 2 Great Crested Flycatchers, a few pewees, and another Red-Breasted Nuthatch. On a side note, I also found a few Laughing Gulls (can be tricky) on the Reservoir. I got 49 species in total that day, and 4 were unique to me (Yellow-Bellied Flycatcher, Solitary Sandpiper, Mourning Warbler, and Black-Throated Green Warbler). In total, the NYSYBC spotted 137 species. A very big August day indeed!