Thursday, May 24, 2012

Green-Wood Cemetery Trip Roundup

Participants on this Wednesday's tour of Green-Wood Cemetery were rewarded with an unexpected fallout of late-Spring migrants. Given the previous weekend's scarcity of birds, I was anticipating a very short species list. A couple visiting from California were delighted with the outcome as they went home with 8 life species.

On Saturday my birding pals and I were grumbling about the dearth of birds around Brooklyn and how it seemed that Spring migration had abruptly ended. As I began walking up the hill inside the entrance of Green-Wood Cemetery on Wednesday morning, however, there appeared to be at least one last Northbound push of birds moving through the area. Several Blackpoll Warblers were singing their high-pitched, squeaky wheel song. A monotonous Red-eyed Vireo vocalized from the same tree. Then I spotted a Black-throated Green Warbler, followed by a Northern Parula. We were only about 50 yards from the cemetery entrance and already located our first mixed songbird flock within a single oak tree.

As we passed the DeWitt Clinton monument I heard a Scarlet Tanager singing from somewhere near Fern Avenue and decided to follow it to the bird. Getting closer I noticed the burry song of a Yellow-throated Vireo. These lemon-yellow birds are scarce around New York City on migration, so I decided to give up on the tanager and try to find the vireo. He was singing from somewhere near the top of a hickory tree and while scanning for the source of the song noticed several other songbirds moving within the canopy. I walked up the hillside towards Warrior Path to get a better perspective of the tops of a stand of oaks and hickories. The vireo continued to elude our bins, but the trees were loaded with other birds. Feeding within the tree's dangling catkins were Eastern Wood-Pewee, Warbling Vireo, Red-eyed Vireo, American Redstart, Northern Parula, Magnolia Warbler, Blackburnian Warbler, Blackpoll Warbler, Black-throated Green Warbler and Canada Warbler! Eye-level views of the blackburnian's flame-colored throat and face elicited a spontaneous chorus of "oos" and "aahs".

Throughout the morning we continued to locate scattered pockets of songbird activity, primarily within the flowering hickory trees. One interesting observation on Wednesday was of a calling White-breasted Nuthatch. I've never located a nuthatch nest in Green-Wood Cemetery, but the presence of one at this date indicates that perhaps they are actually breeding here.

In addition to the warblers and vireos we also encountered several Swainson's Thrushes and Veeries. More often than not, we were made aware of the Swainson's presence by their upward spiraling, flute-like song. Listen to the song of the Swainson's Thrush:


Next week I'm taking a short break so there won't be a Green-Wood tour on May 30th. I'll be resuming on June 6th. Hope to see you then.

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Green-Wood Cemetery
May 23, 2012 8:00 AM - 12:00 PM
45 species

Common Loon (1, Flyover.)
Double-crested Cormorant (1, Flyover.)
Red-tailed Hawk (3; 1 adult, 1 juvenile and at least 1 hatchling on nest.)
Monk Parakeet
Chimney Swift
Northern Flicker
Eastern Wood-Pewee (4.)
Yellow-throated Vireo (1.)
Warbling Vireo
Red-eyed Vireo
Tree Swallow
White-breasted Nuthatch (1, Heard only.)
House Wren
Veery (4.)
Swainson's Thrush

Common Yellowthroat
American Redstart (abundant.)
Northern Parula
Magnolia Warbler (common.)
Blackburnian Warbler (2.)
Chestnut-sided Warbler (1.)
Blackpoll Warbler (abundant.)
Black-throated Green Warbler (5.)
Canada Warbler (3.)

Chipping Sparrow
Scarlet Tanager (4.)
Rose-breasted Grosbeak (1.)
Red-winged Blackbird
Common Grackle
Baltimore Oriole

Other common species seen (or heard):
Canada Goose, Mallard, Herring Gull, Rock Pigeon, Mourning Dove, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Blue Jay, Tufted Titmouse, American Robin, Northern Mockingbird, European Starling, Northern Cardinal, House Finch, House Sparrow

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