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Thursday, April 28, 2011

Migration's First Wave

Within the last week magnolias have reached peak bloom and begun dropping their thick, fragrant petals. Kwanzan Cherry trees, however, have just reached peak bloom. In the avian world, New York City has just experienced its first big wave of northbound migrants. Beginning at the end of last week and extending into early this week, birders were treated to a display of colors and sounds missing since Spring 2010.

I hadn't expected to see a big surge in songbird abundance and diversity, so Heydi and I went to Plum Beach to look for shorebirds on Sunday morning. From there we headed over to Floyd Bennett Field to check the runway puddles for sandpipers or plovers. While there, we received a text message that a Prothonotary Warbler was spotted in Prospect Park. Like the Yellow-throated Warbler that I wrote about a couple of weeks ago, the Prothonotary Warbler is a southern species that occasionally strays too far north and into New York. A songbird of the swamps, this egg-yolk yellow bird is highly sought after in the Spring. We turned around and headed to Prospect Park.

To make a long story short, we spent 4 hours searching for the Prothonotary Warbler that day and never found it. The good news is that there were lots and lots of other new birds around. A week earlier we had tallied 10 species of wood-warblers, with yellow-rumped and palm the most abundant. This week we added seven more: Blue-winged Warbler, Nashville Warbler, Northern Parula, Black-throated Blue Warbler, American Redstart, Prothonotary Warbler and Worm-eating Warbler. Yes, we eventually did locate the prothonotary later in the week, which is a good thing, because I think Heydi's head would have exploded if she hadn't. A few other new birds this week of the non-warbler variety (but no less beautiful) were Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Orchard Oriole and Baltimore Oriole. The full list is at the end of this posting.

Getting back to the Prothonotary Warbler, both a male and female were found feeding on insects in an area just north of the Prospect Park Zoo. This small semi-wooded area is adjacent to the Dongan Oak monument and bounded by the zoo to the south and Flatbush Avenue to the east. The parks department recently cleared nearly all of the understory here and is using it for storing woodchips/compost. There is a perennial water source under the bridge next to it so this new, "improved" woodland has been attracting a really good number of birds. I think that the composting might have created a concentration of insects, the primary food source for warblers. On the morning that I finally got to see the prothonotary I noted 9 species of warbler in only 15 minutes. On an old map of the park I discovered that this spot is officially known as the "East Woods". Here's a link to a map if you are interested in checking it out (and you should).

With strong winds and storms blowing through the area today, I expect many of the birds have moved out, but this weekend should mark the start of the next wave of migrants.

Adam Welz took some great warbler photos in Prospect Park this week and has kindly allowed me to post them here:

Prothonotary Warbler

Black-and-white Warbler

Northern Parula

Palm Warbler

Prairie Warbler

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Date Range: 04/23/11 - 04/29/11
Locations: Floyd Bennett Field, Prospect Park
Total Number of Species: 94

Wood Duck
Northern Shoveler
Green-winged Teal
Hooded Merganser
Ruddy Duck
Ring-necked Pheasant
Common Loon
Double-crested Cormorant
Great Blue Heron
Black-crowned Night-Heron
Glossy Ibis
Cooper's Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
American Kestrel
Wilson's Snipe
Laughing Gull
Chimney Swift
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Belted Kingfisher
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
Northern Flicker
Eastern Kingbird
White-eyed Vireo
Blue-headed Vireo
Warbling Vireo
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Tree Swallow
Bank Swallow
Barn Swallow
Black-capped Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
Red-breasted Nuthatch
White-breasted Nuthatch
Brown Creeper
House Wren
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Hermit Thrush
Gray Catbird
Northern Mockingbird
Brown Thrasher

Blue-winged Warbler
Nashville Warbler
Northern Parula
Yellow Warbler
Black-throated Blue Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Pine Warbler
Prairie Warbler
Palm Warbler
Black-and-white Warbler
American Redstart
Prothonotary Warbler
Worm-eating Warbler
Northern Waterthrush
Louisiana Waterthrush
Common Yellowthroat

Eastern Towhee
Chipping Sparrow
Field Sparrow
Savannah Sparrow
Swamp Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Scarlet Tanager
Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Common Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
Orchard Oriole
Baltimore Oriole
American Goldfinch

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

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