Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Fall Songbird Migration

It may only feel like the Dog Days of Summer, but the fall songbird migration is well underway. Last Saturday there were so many warblers in Prospect Park that it nearly seemed like Spring again.

I met Heydi at the north end of Prospect Park just after sunrise and we birded the Vale of Cashmere and the adjacent "Aralia Grove". The latter location is a label I gave to a wooded hillside just east of Nelly's Lawn. It's named for the abundant Aralia Spinosa plants which attract hungry southbound migrants to its tiny, purplish-black fruits at this time of year. We continued walking south through the park, sticking to all the forested areas. Keir joined us in the Ravine near the Esdale Bridge.

The most abundant species observed was easily American Redstart with Magnolia Warbler coming in a close second. There were also quite a few Black-throated Blue Warblers and Canada Warblers. Two warbler highlights were a Blackburnian Warbler near the Butterfly Meadow which was still in breeding plumage and a Cape May Warbler at the top of the Maryland Monument stairway (which was not). Flycatcher numbers seemed to have increased with several empidonax species seen but, unfortunately, not heard. Baltimore Orioles were also seen in good numbers, mainly competing with American Robins for fruit in the park's many Black Cherry trees. The latter of which, by the way, seem suddenly to be as numerous at starlings. One somewhat surprising observation was of fairly large numbers of Veeries. An estimate of 24 individuals was likely very conservative. Many were seen feeding on the park's Black Cherries, elderberry and other fruiting trees and shrubs. During the early morning hours, several were also heard making their namesake "veer" call throughout the woods.

While we never encountered any rarities during the half day spent exploring the park, the diversity and abundance of migrant songbirds was pretty impressive for the last weekend of August. Our final tally was 15 species of warbler and another dozen or so other migrants.

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Location: Prospect Park
Observation date: 8/28/10
Number of species: 58

Wood Duck (6.)
Green Heron (3.)
Red-tailed Hawk (3.)
Spotted Sandpiper (1.)
Forster's Tern (1.)
Chimney Swift
Ruby-throated Hummingbird (3.)
Belted Kingfisher (1.)
Northern Flicker
Eastern Wood-Pewee (1.)
Willow Flycatcher (1.)
Empidonax sp. (4.)
Great Crested Flycatcher (2.)
Eastern Kingbird (2.)
Warbling Vireo (3.)
Red-eyed Vireo (10.)
Tree Swallow
Barn Swallow
White-breasted Nuthatch (2.)
Carolina Wren (4.)
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (2.)
Veery (24.)
Gray Catbird
Northern Mockingbird

Blue-winged Warbler (1.)
Northern Parula (5.)
Yellow Warbler (5.)
Chestnut-sided Warbler (3.)
Magnolia Warbler (15.)
Cape May Warbler (1.)
Black-throated Blue Warbler (12.)
Blackburnian Warbler (1.)
Prairie Warbler (1.)
Black-and-white Warbler (8.)
American Redstart (20.)
Ovenbird (6.)
Northern Waterthrush (4.)
Common Yellowthroat (6.)
Canada Warbler (12.)

Song Sparrow (1.)
Common Grackle
Baltimore Oriole (12.)

Other common species seen (or heard):
Canada Goose, Mute Swan, Mallard, Rock Pigeon, Mourning Dove, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker (2.), Hairy Woodpecker (3.), Blue Jay, Black-capped Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, American Robin, European Starling, Northern Cardinal, House Finch, American Goldfinch, House Sparrow

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