Monday, December 14, 2009

Prospect Park Lingering Warbler

After some very cold cycling on Friday morning, I did a quick look around Prospect Park for any interesting new winter bird arrivals. The cold, gusting winds kept much of the bird activity to a minimum and I mostly observed the expected winter birds, such as sapsuckers, chickadees, nuthatches and assorted waterfowl. One bird that took me completely by surprise was an Ovenbird walking along the pathway next to the Upper Pool. If this warbler felt anything like I did, he was probably dreaming about much warmer places. As late as this date is, I have vague memories of a Christmas Bird Count Ovenbird in Prospect Park.

I searched through my Prospect Park records for dates of lingering Ovenbirds and found the following:

The previous winter sighting was on 17 January 2007 (Alex Wilson; Vale/Rose Garden). Prior to that was an individual that actually overwintered in Brooklyn. First discovered by Steve Nanz and myself on 13 December 1997 (Lookout Hill near Maryland Monument), the bird was observed throughout the rest of the month (including the Christmas Bird Count). It was then re-discovered on 2 February 1998 (Ron Ellard, Tom Fiore) on Lookout Hill near the Wellhouse, associating with a White-eyed Vireo that had also overwintered that year. What I assume was the same bird was reported again on Lookout Hill 25 March 1998 (Ron Ellard). The next dates for that year begin on 23 April, but could easily have been early Spring arrivals. I'm not sure if the winter of 1997-98 had been extremely mild or not. Either way, that Ovenbird was very lucky to have dodged the usual collection of falcons, accipiters and Red-tailed Hawks that hang around in the winter. Note that the above dates were not included in Bull's Birds of New York State.

As a relatively new birder, I never even thought about reporting the unusual sighting to the New York State Avian Records Committee. In addition, back then we didn't have all the instant birding communications such as discussion forums, online checklists, cellphones, text messaging, twittering, etc., that now exists and would have alerted the state's avian record keepers. How did we ever manage?! ;-)

*****

Location: Prospect Park
Observation date: 12/11/09
Number of species: 38

Wood Duck (2)
Northern Shoveler (75)
Ring-necked Duck (2)
Ruddy Duck
Great Blue Heron (2)
Black-crowned Night-Heron
Red-tailed Hawk
American Coot (6)
Ring-billed Gull (500)
Belted Kingfisher
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
Black-capped Chickadee (5)
Tufted Titmouse (2)
White-breasted Nuthatch (3)
Carolina Wren
Golden-crowned Kinglet
OVENBIRD (1, Found walking along footpath at back of Upper Pool.)
White-throated Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
House Finch (3)
American Goldfinch (12)

Other common species seen (or heard):
Canada Goose, Mute Swan, American Black Duck, Mallard, Herring Gull, Rock Pigeon, Mourning Dove, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker (3), Hairy Woodpecker, Blue Jay, American Crow (3), American Robin, European Starling, Song Sparrow, Northern Cardinal, House Sparrow

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