Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Migration Ramping up at Green-Wood Cemetery

We had another great dawn walk at Green-Wood Cemetery this past Sunday with a moderate increase in migrant species, including one unexpected surprise.

I decided to take a slightly different route to start the walk. We were only a few minutes into the tour when I stopped to scan a large pine tree to try and locate a singing Ruby-crowned Kinglet. Their twittering song is nearly as cute as this diminutive bird's appearance. Anyway, after a moment, Linda Morry pointed to something moving midway up the tree. When I point my bins on it I was surprised to see it was a Yellow-throated Warbler! This mostly southern wood-warbler is a rare but regular visitor to NYC and was my first for Green-Wood Cemetery. He was pretty cooperative as he foraged for insects among the pine's needles, allowing nice views for everyone in the group.

Yellow-rumped Warblers are starting their annual "invasion" with several dozen seen throughout the morning. Their distinctive "pip" call note was also heard nearly everywhere. Within the next couple of weeks this species will become ubiquitous as thousands stop off here to fill up and rest before continuing their northward journey. Palm Warbler numbers have also increased. At the Crescent water I counted a group of 5 Pine Warblers.

Another new arrival on Sunday was a Yellow Warbler. We were walking along the edge of the Valley Water a few minutes after basking in the glow of the Yellow-throated Warbler when I heard a familiar song. The bold, rapidly increasing melody of the Yellow Warbler is often described as saying, "sweet, sweet, sweet, a little more sweet!" It only took a moment to find this vibrant little songbird perched out in the open high up in a deciduous tree. Most of the trees have yet to leaf out, so finding all these colorful birds is still pretty easy.

Seemingly overnight Chipping Sparrows have descended on the cemetery. On Saturday I spotted only 3 of these slender, rusty-capped sparrows. By Sunday morning there were small flocks of them scattered through Green-Wood feeding on grass seeds. "Chippies" pass through Brooklyn in large numbers, but some also remain in the cemetery, nesting within the healthy evergreen stands. They are pretty easy to see in Green-Wood during the summer as they raise their offspring. Also seen in much smaller numbers among these flocks were Field Sparrows. Field Sparrows, like the Chippings, are members of the genus spizella. Meaning "small finch", these sparrows are New World sparrows mainly characterized as being fairly small and slim, with short bills, round heads and long wings. They don't nest here, but if you're interested in finding some breeding locally, Floyd Bennett Field is your best bet.

Near the Dell Water we had a brief encounter with one of Brooklyn's Common Ravens. This huge bird's deep, croaking call caught my attention and I whipped around to see one perch low in a tree above Orchard Avenue. Unfazed by our presence, he or she flew down to the ground for a second, then took off flying towards the train yard. Extirpated from New York City for a couple of hundred years, this highly intelligent corvid has started making a comeback, nesting in Queens, Manhattan and now somewhere to be discovered in Brooklyn. So, if you see a large, dark raptor circling that turns out to be "just a crow", it's probably a raven.

Finally, one other new arrival on Sunday was Blue-headed Vireo. When slowly making our way around the Crescent Water, I heard a slow, burry, up and down, "See you, be-seeing ya, so long". Unlike their more hyperactive cousins the warblers, vireos tend to move more slowly and methodically. This allowed the whole group to get good looks at him as he foraged in a Red maple at the edge of the pond. A short while later I heard another one singing from somewhere up the rise near Samuel F. B. Morse.

We have another early morning tour coming up this Sunday. I can't wait to see what new birds come in this time!

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Location: Green-Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn
Date: Sunday, April 16, 2017
Species: 45 species (+1 other taxa)

Canada Goose
American Black Duck (3.)
Mallard
Double-crested Cormorant (35, flock flying over in V formation over cemetery.)
Great Egret (1.)
Laughing Gull
Herring Gull
Sterna sp. (3.)
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Belted Kingfisher (1.)
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Monk Parakeet
Eastern Phoebe
Blue-headed Vireo (2.)
Blue Jay
Common Raven (1. First hear making nasal "cronk" call, then seen very close near Dell Water.)
Barn Swallow (1.)
Black-capped Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
Red-breasted Nuthatch (2.)
White-breasted Nuthatch
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Hermit Thrush
American Robin
Northern Mockingbird
European Starling
Yellow Warbler (1.)
Palm Warbler
Pine Warbler (9.)
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Yellow-throated Warbler (1.)
Chipping Sparrow  (Approx. 30-40.)
Field Sparrow (5.)
Dark-eyed Junco (1.)
White-throated Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Northern Cardinal
Red-winged Blackbird
Common Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
House Finch
American Goldfinch
House Sparrow

1 comment:

Gordon Lam said...

Hi Rob,

We just returned from a weekend birding in cape may, assateague, and bombay hook and we must have seen well over three dozen yellow-throated warblers. So I suspect they had a banner winter down south and hopefully will start breeding further north this year!

We hope to see you at the cemetery this Sunday.

Gordon & Lori

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