Friday, August 22, 2014

Fall Songbird Migration

I hadn't spent any time looking for songbirds in Prospect Park this month, opting to stick with shorebirds and terns along the coast. Reports coming out of the park of southbound migrants last week made it seem like warblers had begun to move through the area in earnest. I would normally expect to encounter a handful of these neotropic migrants, but during a trip into the park at the end of the week birders collectively found an astounding 16 species!

When Will Pollard tweeted at 8:50am, "South side of lookout mildly active. Blue-winged and chestnut-sided", I thought, "cool", but continued to work. At 10:50am he tweeted, "Male hooded warbler btwn nether mead arches and lower pool", and he piqued my interest, but I went back to what I was doing. When this tweet came in at 11:31am, "Golden-winged horse path near Quaker cemetery", I grabbed my bins, hopped on my bike and zipped up to the park.

Golden-winged Warbler populations have been declining over the past few decades and I've seen less and less of them in Brooklyn and other New York City locations. They are no longer an annual species for me. Fortunately I was able to chase this individual.

I met Will at the bridle path between Center Drive and the edge of the woods of Quaker Hill. He explained that he had been following a mixed flock of warblers feeding along the ridge from the Nethermead Arches, south, towards the Quaker Cemetery. I had only been there a few minutes when I spotted a pair of Blue-winged Warblers, a redstart, a couple of Black-and-whites and a Chestnut-sided. A Northern Parula joined the flock and sang a muted version of his spring song from a low branch in a spindly sapling. I tried briefly to "pish" in the golden-winged, but only managed to attract a Northern Waterthrush, who perched on a low fence, then dropped to the ground before disappearing onto the wooded hillside. Finally, Will spotted the golden-winged just above eye level foraging in a sapling only a short distance from the bridle path. I tweeted the news and received a call from our friend Bobbi a minute later. She was close by, but when I hung up the phone and looked back for the golden-winged, I couldn't find it.

Lady Luck (or Warbler) then struck again when Bobbi was about 100 yards down the path. Will and I were searching for the golden-winged, but when another bird popped up in the flock we were pleasantly surprised to focus our bins on a female Cerulean Warbler. My first instinct was to try and turn it into a Blackpoll Warbler, but the bird was too green on top, too yellow below, lacked the pronounced streaking and had a distinct, white supercillium. By the time Bobbi made it down to us the flock had dispersed.

Several more birders arrived in the area responding to the golden-winged and cerulean tweets. I spent a couple of hours trying to help them relocate the mixed flock with which these two birds were associating, but was unsuccessful. My friend Sean, who had remained near the entrance of the Quaker Cemetery eventually spotted the Cerulean Warbler, but the Golden-Winged Warbler vanished on the wind.

September is usually a good month for tracking down fall migrants, so it was really nice getting an early preview. Can't wait to see what's going to show up around Brooklyn next month.

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Date: Aug 15, 2014 - Aug 21, 2014
Locations: Coney Island Beach, Green-Wood Cemetery, Plumb Beach, Prospect Park Species: 89

Wood Duck (7.)
Black Scoter (2.)
Double-crested Cormorant (70.)
Great Blue Heron (1.)
Great Egret (3.)
Green Heron (2.)
Black-crowned Night-Heron (1.)
Osprey (2.)
Red-tailed Hawk (6.)
Clapper Rail (1.)
American Oystercatcher (8.)
Black-bellied Plover (4.)
Semipalmated Plover (5.)
Spotted Sandpiper 2.)
Greater Yellowlegs (2.)
Ruddy Turnstone (1.)
Red Knot (3.)
Sanderling (1.)
Least Sandpiper (10.)
Semipalmated Sandpiper (1.)
Short-billed Dowitcher (4.)
Laughing Gull
Common Tern (6.)
Forster's Tern (1.)
Black Skimmer (125.)
Chimney Swift
Ruby-throated Hummingbird (6.)
Northern Flicker (1.)
American Kestrel (1.)
Monk Parakeet
Eastern Wood-Pewee (1.)
Alder/Willow Flycatcher (Traill's Flycatcher) (3.)
Eastern Kingbird (1.)
Warbling Vireo (1.)
Red-eyed Vireo (3.)
Tree Swallow (4.)
Barn Swallow (19.)
Black-capped Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
White-breasted Nuthatch (3.)
House Wren (1.)
Carolina Wren
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (5.)
Gray Catbird
Northern Mockingbird (4.)
Cedar Waxwing (7.)

Ovenbird (6.)
Worm-eating Warbler (1.)
Northern Waterthrush (4.)
Blue-winged Warbler (3.)
GOLDEN-WINGED WARBLER (1.)
Black-and-white Warbler (17.)
Common Yellowthroat (1.)
American Redstart (11.)
CERULEAN WARBLER (1.)
Northern Parula (1.)
Yellow Warbler (3.)
Chestnut-sided Warbler (2.)
Prairie Warbler (1.)
Canada Warbler (1.)

Eastern Towhee (1.)
Chipping Sparrow
Field Sparrow (1.)
Saltmarsh Sparrow (3.)
Common Grackle
Boat-tailed Grackle (29.)
Brown-headed Cowbird (10.)
Baltimore Oriole (7.)

Other common species seen (or heard):
Canada Goose, Mute Swan, American Black Duck, Mallard, Ring-billed Gull, Herring Gull, Great Black-backed Gull (4.), Rock Pigeon, Mourning Dove, Red-bellied Woodpecker (1.), Downy Woodpecker (2.), Hairy Woodpecker (1.), Blue Jay, American Crow (1.), American Robin, European Starling, Northern Cardinal (1.), Red-winged Blackbird, House Finch, American Goldfinch, House Sparrow

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