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Wednesday, September 16, 2020

A Rescue in Green-Wood Cemetery

Yesterday was an amazing day for southbound migrants in Green-Wood Cemetery. My friend Mike and I arrived just as the main entrance was being unlocked. We spent the next 10 hours riveted by the sudden explosion of bird life.

Our first stop was at the ridge above Sylvan Water next to the George Caitlin memorial. There was a nice chill in the air from the overnight cold front. Dozens of songbird "chip" calls were coming from the surrounding trees, as well as, from small flocks dropping into the cemetery after a long night of flying.

In recent days much of the bird activity had been centered around the fruiting Kousa Dogwoods and yew trees. Yesterday, however, birds seemed to be feeding just about everywhere: the upper story of mature, towering trees; within dense shrubs; the leaf litter beneath tree stands; unmowed sections of overground grass.

Warblers were ubiquitous with American Redstarts dominating our list with 62 counted. Northern Parulas came in a distant second at 28. By far the most exciting member of this bird family seen yesterday was a Connecticut Warbler. Found around NYC only during the fall leg of this bird's migration, they are notoriously difficult to observe as they spend most of their time quietly foraging on the ground within dense vegetation.

Late in the day we returned to the Dell Water hoping for a better observation of the Connecticut Warbler. That never happened but a nice consolation prize was close looks at the scarce Philadelphia Vireo:


At around noon, Mike and I decided to take a walk along a narrow path at the edge of Ocean Hill. Within the first 50 yards a flash of bright yellow caught our eyes. Unfortunately it was coming from behind the glass window in the wrought iron door of a stone mausoleum set in the hillside.

Somehow a Magnolia Warbler had managed to get trapped inside the stone structure. I climbed up on the hill to examine the section of exposed roof. Nothing. I then noticed farther back on the ridge a brass vent pipe sticking out of the dirt. Our best guess was this little bird was chasing an insect that then dropped into the opening. Here he is flying against the inside of the glass:

"Please let me out." We felt completely helpless to free this poor thing.

I called Tommy, who was the security guide on duty. He came right away. After assessing the situation he told us that he couldn't access the keys to the mausoleums, but called someone who might be able to help. Within a few minutes Neela, the Director of Restoration and Preservation, arrived with the key and two of her staff. With the warbler periodically fluttering at face level, she and her workers sprayed the lock with WD40 and tried to work the ancient locking mechanism loose:


The warbler was so stressed that we could hear his alarm chip calls echoing within the stone vault. It took about 10 minutes but eventually they managed to get the door opened. Freedom! The tiny, yellow warbler flew through the doorway and immediately perched on the low railing in front of the Morgan family mausoleum:


We stood motionless and watched as it rested and got its wits back. It then dropped down onto the pathway where it began searching for insects to eat at the edge of Dawn Path.


After about 5 minutes on the ground it flew up into the safety of a dense stand of viburnum.

A huge thanks to Neela Wickremesinghe and her staff for coming through and saving this approximately 10 gram songbird on his way back to his winter home in the tropics of southern Mexico and Central America. Photos by Mike Yuan.

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Location: Green-Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn, New York
Date: Tues, Sep 15, 2020 7:04 AM - 5:19 PM
Checklist Comments: A truly outrageous day, with something to see at every location.
Species: 68 (+3 other taxa)

Canada Goose  8
Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon)  4
Mourning Dove  3
Yellow-billed Cuckoo  1
Chimney Swift  6
Ruby-throated Hummingbird  3
Laughing Gull  5
Great Egret  1
Belted Kingfisher  1
Red-bellied Woodpecker  2
Downy Woodpecker  3
Northern Flicker (Yellow-shafted)  8
American Kestrel  5
Merlin  1
Olive-sided Flycatcher  1
Eastern Wood-Pewee  3
Alder/Willow Flycatcher (Traill's Flycatcher)  1
Eastern Phoebe  1
flycatcher sp. (Tyrannidae sp.)  1
Philadelphia Vireo  1
Red-eyed Vireo  13
Blue Jay  5
Common Raven  1
Red-breasted Nuthatch  10
White-breasted Nuthatch  1
House Wren  5
Carolina Wren  3
European Starling  1
Gray Catbird  6
Brown Thrasher  2
Northern Mockingbird  7
Veery  13
Gray-cheeked Thrush  2
Gray-cheeked/Bicknell's Thrush  1
Swainson's Thrush  18
Wood Thrush  2
American Robin  11
Cedar Waxwing  26
House Sparrow  7
Purple Finch  1
American Goldfinch  1
Chipping Sparrow  3
White-throated Sparrow  1
Savannah Sparrow  1
Song Sparrow  1
Lincoln's Sparrow  1
Swamp Sparrow  1
Red-winged Blackbird  1
Ovenbird  13
Northern Waterthrush  3
Black-and-white Warbler  20
Tennessee Warbler  5
Nashville Warbler  1
Connecticut Warbler  1
Common Yellowthroat  24
American Redstart  62
Cape May Warbler  4
Northern Parula  28.
Magnolia Warbler  17
Bay-breasted Warbler  4
Yellow Warbler  9
Chestnut-sided Warbler  5
Black-throated Blue Warbler  12
Palm Warbler (Western)  2
Pine Warbler  1
Prairie Warbler  1
Black-throated Green Warbler  4
Scarlet Tanager  7
Northern Cardinal  6
Rose-breasted Grosbeak  21
Indigo Bunting  2

1 comment:

Andyplant said...

I was hoping the poor thing wouldn’t suffer a heart attack from the anxiety of being trapped and the attempted rescue

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