Over the years, I've noticed a pattern. Over recent years, every November or December usually features at least one western vagrant that hasn't been seen in Manhattan for several years, and sometimes never. Among these past rarities are Varied Thrush, Rufous Hummingbird, Pacific-Slope Flycatcher, and Couch's Kingbird. But when I heard about a lone report of a Western Tanager at City Hall Park the day before Thanksgiving, I felt on edge, but kept watching the alerts carefully in case someone else confirmed it. This bird has not been seen in Manhattan since a bird appeared in Central Park in April 2008. Several birders went down to City Hall that afternoon, but nobody saw it. The next morning, a few birders lucked out and refound the tanager. I headed down there that afternoon and came across a group of birders looking at it. The WESTERN TANAGER (#164) was very high up, but it still offered identifiable views. Perhaps the strangest thing about this park was its diversity. For some reason, various species, including some that should be well south of the city, choose to linger for days or weeks in pocket parks like this one. I saw an Ovenbird, 2 Black-Throated Blue Warblers, and a Yellow-Breasted Chat, all of which gave great views and should be over 1000 miles south. Others also saw 2 Common Yellowthroats which I missed despite my best efforts. This park proved to be an amazing little patch of green, and produced almost 20 species. Here is what I saw:
2 Downy Woodpeckers
3 Yellow-Bellied Sapsuckers
3 Hermit Thrushes
2 BLACK-THROATED BLUE WARBLERS (male and female)
Sunday, November 6, 2016
On October 30th, I heard of a Yellow-Breasted Chat reported at Sparrow Rock, along with a few late migrants. I went to the park and headed towards Sparrow Rock, only to find no chat and many people. I then went to the west side of the Great Lawn in search of an Orange-Crowned Warbler and an empid. I found neither, but then ran into another birder. who told me that he saw a Blackpoll Warbler there. I kept looking, only finding a Field Sparrow. Just as I was about to leave the area, I spotted a warbler in the open in one of the trees. The Blackpoll Warbler! This is when my luck started to turn. Continuing my search or stuff in the area as well as Locust Grove, I heard that the Orange-Crowned Warbler was seen briefly at the west side of the Great Lawn. There were a bunch of birders there who arrived too late, but I spotted a rustle in some white flowers that I thought may not be a sparrow. I pished a bit and it revealed itself to be the Orange-Crowned Warbler. It stayed there for a minute before going back into the bushes. I then heard that the chat was being seen again, so I rushed over to Sparrow Rock, where I had a brief, naked eye look of what was certainly the YELLOW-BREASTED CHAT (#163), but it immediately took off and was not seen again that day. Fortunately, it remained in the area for several more days, during which I got amazing looks at it, along with a late House Wren I found there. Back to the rest of the day, I went back to the Locust Grove area trying to find late birds, when I flushed a drab, brown bird with some sparrows. An Indigo Bunting! I found this late bird on October 26th, and it's been seen by a few people since then. Overall a very good day for late October, with me seeing 5 warbler species, including the elusive Yellow-Breasted Chat!