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Tuesday, September 22, 2020

North Winds & Southbound Birds

The winds changed direction, the temperature dropped and all the southbound migrants started heading towards their wintering grounds. Thankfully, one of their stop offs for resting and refueling for the long journey is Brooklyn's historic Green-Wood Cemetery.

As I noted in my previous update, last Tuesday was an extraordinary day for birding in Green-Wood. There was a noticeable reduction in abundance when I went back on Thursday, but the were still lots of birds around. Another round of migrants arrived in time for my Saturday Linnaean Society walk and, thankfully, many stayed on for Sunday brunch.

As they has been the entire fall migration, American Redstarts continue to be the dominant species of Wood Warbler. The vast majority of them being of the "yellowstart" plumage, although an occasional, unexpected male holding on to his breeding plumes still wows me. My response of late has been, see  movement in the canopy or within a shrub, expectantly focus my bins on a mystery bird, it comes into full view ... "just another redstart".

Been seeing a lot of Northern Parulas showing up over the past week, as well. Like the redstarts, most have been in much more subdued plumage than the one in this photo. The biggest surprise for me on Thursday was stumbling on a stunning male Golden-winged Warbler. Unfortunately, no pics. Was able to get the word out quickly so a few folks got to see this increasingly scarce bird.

Another species in rapid decline is the Olive-sided Flycatcher. At least one and possible two were present in the cemetery on Saturday and Sunday. Other flycatchers making there way through Brooklyn were Eastern Wood-Pewee and Eastern Phoebe. There were also some impossible to identify (for me anyway) empidonax flycatcher in the mix.

The steep ridge adjacent to the historic chapel has been beautifully restored and planted with native wildflowers and grasses. It has become my favorite fall spot for birds and butterflies or just looking at the plants. Over the weekend it was loaded with an assortment of warblers, some sparrows, flycatchers and several Indigo Buntings. One Black-throated Green Warbler was so intent on feeding that it seemed to ignore this woman's close approach and offer of a perch.

As part of a habitat restoration program the cemetery has been allowing some grasslands to grow long in the fall. One example, the Hill of Graves, has become an extraordinary area for birds. In addition to warblers, this spot of Saturday held several species of sparrow and a rare Dickcissel.

I went back to the Dickcissel spot a few times with friends both on Saturday and Sunday to try and relocate the bird. Part the challenge was that the local kestrels also recognized the abundance of birds there or as they would call it - food. We never did refind it, but Connecticut and Mourning Warblers, as well as, a pair of Lincoln's Sparrow were nice consolations.

For the first time in my memory, Lincoln's Sparrows were fairly abundant in the cemetery. It's usually a nice find to see one on migration in Brooklyn. Over the weekend there were 5 or 6 seen in the cemetery. This cooperative individual was drinking and bathing in the bottom of the Dell Water.

With the arrival of the songbirds, there are also the expected predators trailing behind them. This Cooper's Hawk was not just terrorizing the little birds, but also harassing any Red-tailed Hawks in the area.

The next phase of the migration should see a decreasing number of warblers, but an increasing abundance and diversity of sparrows. I expect that my next update will be mostly about sparrows and raptors.


Location: Green-Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn, NY
Dates: 9/17/20, 9/19/20, 9/20/20
Species: 89

1) Canada Goose
2) Mute Swan
3) Wood Duck
4) Mallard
5) Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon)
6) Mourning Dove
7) Common Nighthawk
8) Chimney Swift
9) Ruby-throated Hummingbird
10) Herring Gull
11) Double-crested Cormorant
12) Great Egret
13) Turkey Vulture
14) Osprey
15) Cooper's Hawk
16) Red-tailed Hawk
17) Belted Kingfisher
18) Red-bellied Woodpecker
19) Downy Woodpecker
20) Northern Flicker
21) American Kestrel
22) Monk Parakeet
23) Olive-sided Flycatcher
24) Eastern Wood-Pewee
25) Empidonax sp.
26) Eastern Phoebe
27) Yellow-throated Vireo
28) Blue-headed Vireo
29) Red-eyed Vireo
30) Blue Jay
31) American Crow
32) Common Raven
33) Tree Swallow
34) Golden-crowned Kinglet
35) Ruby-crowned Kinglet
36) Red-breasted Nuthatch
37) Brown Creeper
38) House Wren
39) Carolina Wren
40) European Starling
41) Gray Catbird
42) Brown Thrasher
43) Northern Mockingbird
44) Veery
45) Gray-cheeked Thrush
46) Swainson's Thrush
47) Wood Thrush
48) American Robin
49) Cedar Waxwing
50) House Sparrow
51) House Finch
52) American Goldfinch
53) Chipping Sparrow
54) Field Sparrow
55) Dark-eyed Junco
56) White-throated Sparrow
57) Savannah Sparrow
58) Song Sparrow
59) Lincoln's Sparrow
60) Swamp Sparrow
61) Common Grackle
62) Baltimore Oriole

63) Ovenbird
64) Northern Waterthrush
65) Golden-winged Warbler
66) Black-and-white Warbler
67) Tennessee Warbler
68) Nashville Warbler
69) Connecticut Warbler
70) Common Yellowthroat
71) American Redstart
72) Cape May Warbler
73) Northern Parula
74) Magnolia Warbler
75) Bay-breasted Warbler
76) Yellow Warbler
77) Chestnut-sided Warbler
78) Blackpoll Warbler
79) Black-throated Blue Warbler
80) Palm Warbler
81) Pine Warbler
82) Yellow-rumped Warbler
83) Black-throated Green Warbler
84) Wilson's Warbler

85) Scarlet Tanager
86) Northern Cardinal
87) Rose-breasted Grosbeak
88) Indigo Bunting
89) Dickcissel

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