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Sunday, September 17, 2017

Green-Wood Cemetery Special Visitors

Forgive my late update. I've been busy with lots of things, including preparing for my two day "Birding Basics" class, which was held at the cemetery this weekend. Anyway, participants on last Sunday's walk were rewarded with lots of warblers heading south, as well as, two rare sparrows.

During the past couple of weekend walks the dominant small songbird in Green-Wood has been the American Redstart. Sunday was no different. I don't recall a fall migration in past years where this small warbler was so abundant. Perhaps they all had a very successful breeding season. Their loud "chip" call was heard the moment we walked into the cemetery. Several were hawking for insects from the trees next to the Valley Water. With few exceptions, they were in their more subdued non-breeding plumage.

One pleasant surprise was hearing the distinctive "pink" call of Bobolink, then seeing a flock of them dropping down and perching near the top of the trees adjacent to the Sylvan Water. A few yards away from them, at the peak of a pine tree, a Baltimore Oriole glowed in the early sunlight. One of the Bobolinks decided to fly over and check him out. Mike Yuan suggested it was merely stopping by to say hello to his Icterid cousin. It was only my second sighting ever of Bobolink in Green-Wood Cemetery ... the first being the day before.

We wound our way up the ridge from the Sylvan Water, up to Samuel B. Morse and then down to the smaller bodies of water, the Crescent and Dell Waters. Around the edges of the Dell we watched many more American Redstarts and Magnolia Warblers, but also added Northern Parula, Northern Waterthrush, Black-and-white Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, Yellow Warbler, Chestnut-sided Warbler and Black-throated Green Warbler. Corey, who is relatively new to birding, was hoping for his first Cape May Warbler. The birds (and birding Gods) were very obliging Sunday and handed us not one, not two, but three feeding together in a conifer next to the Crescent Water. One individual was in such dull plumage that, if it were not for the yellow rump, I could have mistaken it for a fall Pine Warbler. By the end of the walk we had 15 species of warbler under our belts.

The day before a rare Lark Sparrow had been reported near the Sylvan Water. Having searched unsuccessfully for it early on in our walk, we decided to go back and try again. We ran into other birders doing the same. About 15 minutes into our second attempt, I got word from a couple of friends up the ridge that they had seen it in a tree above Sylvan Avenue. We dragged our weary butts back up the hill, but it was no longer there. Harumph. Birders began to spread out along the steep ridge above the cemetery's largest pond. Some folks stayed on the road, some walked along Cliff Path. Myself and one other person decided to check the open lawn above Landscape Avenue. Within a minute or two someone relocated it foraging on Cliff Path. Texts were sent out, Tweets were chirped and phone calls were made. Birders were on their way.

As if it wasn't exciting enough to see this striking sparrow of open country west of the Mississippi River, it appeared that he had a buddy of equal local interest. If the Lark Sparrow is a boldly marked, robust, unmistakable species, this other visitor could possibly be described as the complete opposite. The Clay-colored Sparrow is tiny, slight and delicate with a color palate of subtle buff, tan and gray. Unlike the similar (and common in NYC) Chipping Sparrow, this lovely bird has only a partial eyeline giving its face a softer look than the chipping. The Clay-colored Sparrow is common in the northern prairie and Great Plains. As we were leaving three cars of birders had just arrived. A few of my friends we rushing in as we headed towards the entrance and stopped to ask more specific directions.

At least one person on my walk was very new to birding and this was her very first experience with the electricity and excitement of a rare bird sighting. If she wasn't already, I suspect that after Sunday's experience, the birding bug has zeroed in on her and sunk its teeth in.

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Location: Green-Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn
Date: Sunday, September 10, 2017
Species: 66 species

Canada Goose (28.)
Green Heron (1.)
Osprey (1.)
Cooper's Hawk (1.)
Red-tailed Hawk (2.)
Ring-billed Gull (1.)
Herring Gull (2.)
Rock Pigeon (3.)
Mourning Dove (4.)
Common Nighthawk (1. Flying/feeding around 9:30am.)
Chimney Swift (5.)
Belted Kingfisher (1.)
Red-bellied Woodpecker (1.)
Hairy Woodpecker (1.)
Northern Flicker (3.)
American Kestrel (1.)
Monk Parakeet (1.)
Eastern Wood-Pewee (9. Seemingly all over.)
Great Crested Flycatcher (2.)
Red-eyed Vireo (4.)
Blue Jay (7.)
Northern Rough-winged Swallow (1.)
Barn Swallow (2.)
Cliff Swallow (1. Over Dell Water.)
White-breasted Nuthatch (2.)
House Wren (1.)
Carolina Wren (2.)
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (2.)
Ruby-crowned Kinglet (1.)
Veery (5.)
Swainson's Thrush (3.)
Wood Thrush (1.)
American Robin  15
Gray Catbird (2.)
Northern Mockingbird (2.)
European Starling (35.)
Cedar Waxwing (10.)

Ovenbird (5.)
Northern Waterthrush (1.)
Black-and-white Warbler (11.)
Common Yellowthroat (2.)
American Redstart (45.)
Cape May Warbler (6.)
Northern Parula (2.)
Magnolia Warbler (5.)
Blackburnian Warbler (2.)
Yellow Warbler (1.)
Chestnut-sided Warbler (2.)
Prairie Warbler (3.)
Black-throated Green Warbler (4.)
Canada Warbler (1.)
Wilson's Warbler (1.)

Chipping Sparrow (7.)
CLAY-COLORED SPARROW (1. Above Sylvan Water.)
LARK SPARROW (1. Above Sylvan Water.)
Song Sparrow (1.)
Scarlet Tanager (1.)
Northern Cardinal (8.)
Rose-breasted Grosbeak (2.)
Bobolink (7.)
Baltimore Oriole (1.)
Brown-headed Cowbird (3.)
Common Grackle (5.)
House Finch (1.)
American Goldfinch (2.)
House Sparrow (30.)

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