Check out City Birder Tours, and Green-Wood sponsored tours on their calendar pages here.
Celebrate your inner nerd with my new t-shirt design! Available on my Spreadshirt shop in multiple colors and products.

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Treehugger Tuesday


Engineered "super-enzyme" gobbles plastic waste at six times the speed
By Nick Lavars
3-4 minutes

Back in 2018, scientists in Japan made the key discovery of a bacterium with a natural appetite for PET plastics. This raised the prospect of a low-cost solution to some of the most common forms of plastic pollution, and now scientists have used this bacterium as the basis for a newly engineered “super-enzyme” that can digest plastic waste six times faster.

Known as Ideonella sakaiensis, the bacterium discovered by scientists at the Kyoto Institute of Technology a couple of years ago showed a remarkable ability to use PET plastics as its energy source. These are the materials used to construct everything from soda to shampoo bottles, with hundreds of millions of tons produced every year, and the team was excited to find that the bacterium could completely break it down within a matter of weeks.

The bacterium was found to do so through a pair of enzymes, one of which, called PETase, was soon engineered in the lab by researchers from the University of Portsmouth and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) to be around 20 percent faster at breaking down plastic than it was originally. Now, the same team has succeeded in combining it with its partner enzyme, called MHETase, to up the digestion rate even further.

The scientists achieved this by first studying the atomic structure of the enzymes with a synchrotron that uses X-ray beams 10 billion times brighter than the Sun. This serves as a microscope, allowing the team to solve their 3D structure and use these insights to engineer connections between the two enzymes. Simply combining the two enzymes doubled the speed of the plastic digestion, but engineering special connections between them resulted in a “super enzyme” that again increased the rate of plastic degradation by another three times.

“Our first experiments showed that they did indeed work better together, so we decided to try to physically link them, like two Pac-men joined by a piece of string,” says the University of Portsmouth’s Professor John McGeehan, “It took a great deal of work on both sides of the Atlantic, but it was worth the effort – we were delighted to see that our new chimeric enzyme is up to three times faster than the naturally evolved separate enzymes, opening new avenues for further improvements.”

Just like its predecessors, as the new super-enzyme digests PET plastics it returns the material to its original building blocks, which means the technique could be used as part of an infinite recycling loop. The original enzyme couldn’t do this fast enough to account for the huge amounts of PET waste generated around the globe each year, so producing an engineered version that increases the rate six-fold is seen as a significant step forward.

The research was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America.
...Read more

Monday, September 28, 2020

Winter Finch Forecast

Every year at around this time, biologist Ron Pittaway gives his forecast for iruptive winter species, collectively referred to as "Winter Finches". These are species that typically spend their winter well north of New York City and the surrounding area. Ron recently announced his retirement and has passed the baton to Tyler Hoar.

There are several factors that influence the southward movement of these birds and this chart from the Cornell Lab does a nice job of illustrating the drivers:

You can read the entire article here. Tyler's forecast for the 2020-2021 winter season can be found here. The good news is that Brooklyn birders (well, NYC as a whole) should expect to see:

Purple Finch (already seeing some)
Evening Grosbeak
Red-breasted Nuthatch (already been seeing them)

Keep your feeders cleaned and well stock and you shall be rewarded with lots of hungry northerners this winter.

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Throwback Thursday

Below is one of my very early Fall blog postings. The date was September 24, 2005. I had to update one of the links as the website no longer exists and re-upload the photos as my old Flickr account has vanished into the ether. Enjoy:

Northeast Winds

A cold front moving through New York helped make today one of the most active days of the fall migration. It seemed like all of Prospect Park was bustling with birds. The Peninsula in the park appeared to be the best spot for uncommon birds. Seen by several individuals over the course of a few hours was a Yellow-breasted Chat, a Connecticut Warbler and a Dickcissel.

The chat was located by Shane Blodgett and Mary Eyster in the underbrush near the water beneath the Terrace Bridge. Later, when several people converged next to the weedy, fenced-in area at the east end of the meadow, a Connecticut Warbler was sighted. It was relocated later, after we had left...we'll, when we were trying to leave. Shane caught a glimpse of an unusual sparrow feeding within the mugwort at the west end of the meadow. We waited out the bird for probably thirty minutes until it finally perched on the steel fencing that "protects" the mugwort. It was a Dickcissel, along with some House Sparrows, nibbling on the tops of the grass, smartweed and other seed-bearing plants. This is the same spot that Sean and I found one last year on October 5th.

Mary and I also witness an unusual bird/insect interaction. While we stood at the Sparrow Bowl scanning the sparrows that were present something began flying towards us. A Chestnut-sided Warbler was pursuing a very large, green thing that seemed to have streamers trailing behind its body. The hunter and hunted passed very close to us at eye level then dropped to the ground. I looked through my bins to see the hungry warbler pecking at and attempting to eat a katydid. My mother used to say, "Your eyes are bigger than your stomach". In this particular case I'd say his meal is bigger than his head. I tried crawling over to take a photo. The katydid ultimately took off and the warbler began walking towards me. His eyes are definitely much bigger than his stomach if he was checking me out.

Chestnut-sided Warbler and katydid

Sorry about the poor quality but you can see the size comparison
(Photo credit - Rob J)

True Katydid (Pterophylla camellifolia )
(Photo credit - Steve Nanz)

-Click here to listen to a katydid-

While standing at the Sparrow Bowl I began lamenting the symbolic passing of summer. Dark-eyed Juncos and White-throated Sparrows foraged along the uncut grass at the edges of the field. Recently arriving on the north winds, many will spend the winter in the park then depart in the spring.

- - - - -

Prospect Park, 9/24/2005
Northern Shoveler
Cooper's Hawk (Ravine.)
Red-tailed Hawk (Adult and juvenile soaring over Lookout Hill.)
Merlin (Flying over Breeze Hill.)
Chimney Swift
Ruby-throated Hummingbird (2 or 3.)
Northern Flicker
Eastern Wood-Pewee (1, Near Nethermead Arches.)
Eastern Phoebe (Several.)
Red-eyed Vireo (Fairly common.)
Black-capped Chickadee
Red-breasted Nuthatch (1, Peninsula.)
House Wren (2 or 3.)
Winter Wren (1, Peninsula.)
Ruby-crowned Kinglet (Fairly common.)
Hermit Thrush (1, next to Esdale Bridge.)
Wood Thrush (1, next to Esdale Bridge.)
Cedar Waxwing (Several flyovers.)
Nashville Warbler (4.)
Northern Parula (3 or 4.)
Chestnut-sided Warbler 2.)
Magnolia Warbler (Several.)
Black-throated Blue Warbler (Common.)
Yellow-rumped Warbler (1.)
Black-throated Green Warbler (3.)
Palm Warbler (Common.)
Blackpoll Warbler (2.)
Black-and-white Warbler (4.)
American Redstart (Approx. 8-10.)
Ovenbird (2.)
Connecticut Warbler (Peninsula, weedy area at east end of meadow.)
Common Yellowthroat (Common.)
Wilson's Warbler (1, weedy area at east end of meadow.)
Scarlet Tanager (Common.)
Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Indigo Bunting (Approx. 12 between Peninsula Meadow & Sparrow Bowl.)
Dickcissel (Feeding with House Sparrows at West end of Peninsula meadow.)
Chipping Sparrow (Approx. 20, Sparrow Bowl.)
Savannah Sparrow (1, Sparrow Bowl.)
Lincoln's Sparrow (1, Sparrow Bowl.)
Swamp Sparrow (2.)
White-throated Sparrow (Several, Sparrow Bowl.)
Dark-eyed Junco (Approx. 6., Sparrow Bowl.)
Common Grackle
Baltimore Oriole

Other common birds seen (or heard):
Canada Goose, Mute Swan, American Black Duck, Mallard, Herring Gull, Rock Pigeon, Mourning Dove, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Blue Jay, American Crow (1.), American Robin, Gray Catbird, Northern Mockingbird, European Starling, Northern Cardinal, Song Sparrow, Red-winged Blackbird, House Sparrow ...Read more

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

Treehugger Tuesday

From the website "Science Digest":

Tree planting has potential to increase carbon sequestration capacity on Nation's forests

September 21, 2020
USDA Forest Service - Northern Research Station
 USDA Forest Service scientists have published an in-depth study on the value of tree planting as a means of offsetting carbon emissions in the United States. An analysis based on publicly available data from more than 130,000 forested plots in the Forest Service's Forest Inventory & Analysis Program found that fully stocking non-stocked and poorly stocked forests would result in an annual increase of 20 percent in the amount of carbon sequestered by forests.

Forests and harvested wood products annually offset the equivalent of more than 14 percent of economy-wide carbon dioxide emissions in the Nation, however, almost 33 million hectares of productive forestland are understocked due to harvesting, natural disturbance, limited seedling availability and the infrastructure necessary to reforest, among other factors.

Published by the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), the study by a team of USDA Forest Service scientists suggests that concentrating tree planting on understocked forest land, particularly in western states, Florida, and the Northeast, may substantially increase carbon sequestration capacity in the United States.

"Targeted tree planting on existing productive forestland has the potential to enhance the capacity of forests to provide a multitude of ecosystem services," according to lead author Grant Domke, a research forester with the USDA Forest Service's Northern Research Station. "Our analysis suggests that concentrating plantings on productive areas with the fewest trees has greater potential for enhanced carbon sequestration capacity than distributing the same number of trees over larger areas." The analysis takes into consideration growth, removals and mortality and focuses on productive forestlands available for forest management across all land ownerships.

"It is always worthwhile to plant a tree, they have a myriad of benefits wherever they are, but this study delivers sound science on which we can base tree planting efforts on forestland," Domke said.

Saturday, September 19, 2020

New York City Rare Bird Alert

Below is the New York City Rare Bird Alert for the week ending Friday, September 18, 2020:

* New York
* New York City, Long Island, Westchester County
* Sep. 18, 2020
* NYNY2009.18

- Birds mentioned
(+ Details requested by NYSARC)

Caspian Tern
Blue-winged Teal
Northern Shoveler
Long-billed Dowitcher
Yellow-billed Cuckoo
Black-billed Cuckoo
Red-headed Woodpecker
Purple Finch
White-throated Sparrow
Lincoln's Sparrow
Philadelphia Vireo
Worm-eating Warbler
Mourning Warbler
Hooded Warbler

- Transcript

If followed by (+) please submit documentation of your report electronically and use the NYSARC online submission form found at

You can also send reports and digital image files via email to nysarc44 (at)nybirds{dot}org.

If electronic submission is not possible, hardcopy reports and photos or sketches are welcome. Hardcopy documentation should be mailed to:

Gary Chapin - Secretary
NYS Avian Records Committee (NYSARC)
125 Pine Springs Drive
Ticonderoga, NY 12883

Hotline: New York City Area Rare Bird Alert
Number: (212) 979-3070

Compiler: Tom Burke
Coverage: New York City, Long Island, Westchester County

Transcriber: Ben Cacace


Greetings. This is the New York Rare Bird Alert for Friday, September 18th 2020 at 10pm. The highlights of today's tape are RED PHALAROPE, YELLOW-HEADED BLACKBIRD, EURASIAN WIGEON, MARBLED GODWIT, WILSON'S PHALAROPE, LARK SPARROW, CLAY-COLORED SPARROW, GOLDEN-WINGED, CONNECTICUT and other warblers, BLUE GROSBEAK and more.

Last Saturday a RED PHALAROPE was found feeding in the East River at Stuyvesant Cove Park around 20th Street in lower Manhattan where enjoyed by many before it moved on overnight.

Even more accommodating has been an adult male YELLOW-HEADED BLACKBIRD in fresh fall plumage but with ragged wings and tail that has stayed put for the most part since being spotted Wednesday along the east shore of Meadow Lake at Flushing Meadows-Corona Park in Queens. Still present this afternoon the blackbird is usually seen feeding along an open stretch of shoreline about one to two hundred yards south of the boathouse just before a long dense stretch of phragmites. The parking lot by the boathouse is easily accessed from the park exit off the southbound Van Wyck Expressway.

A EURASIAN WIGEON in eclipse plumage has been frequenting the south end of the East Pond at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge at least since Monday usually with a few American Wigeon. Currently now better suited for waterfowl than shorebirds the number of ducks there is impressive with good numbers especially of BLUE-WINGED and GREEN-WINGED TEAL and NORTHERN SHOVELERS. The shorebirds have been mostly peeps and both yellowlegs highlights including a WILSON'S PHALAROPE at the south end last Saturday, a MARBLED GODWIT on Wednesday and a BAIRD'S SANDPIPER photographed at the south end today. A WHIMBREL was noted from the West Pond last Saturday while other East Pond highlights have featured SORA and CASPIAN TERN. Another BAIRD'S SANDPIPER was spotted at Montauk Point last Saturday and 4 - 5 LONG-BILLED DOWITCHERS have been noted at Santapogue Creek off Venetian Boulevard in West Babylon during the week. Other CASPIAN TERNS this week included one at Shirley Chisholm State Park, two at Mecox, one at Sagg Pond and one at Orient Point.

An EASTERN WHIP-POOR-WILL visited Central Park's Ramble Saturday. A RED-HEADED WOODPECKER appeared at Marshlands Conservancy in Rye last Sunday and 4 continue along the Paumanok Trail by Jones Pond in Manorville. One or two CLAY-COLORED SPARROWS and a LARK SPARROW were present in Central Park's north end at the composting area late in the week with one of each there today. Another LARK SPARROW was at Jones Beach West End last Monday.

At least 6 CONNECTICUT WARBLERS were reported this week including one at night at the 9/11 Tribute in Light in lower Manhattan with other locations including Central, Bryant and Prospect Parks and Green-wood Cemetery in Brooklyn. A GOLDEN-WINGED WARBLER found at Muttontown Preserve last Sunday was followed by another in Green-wood Cemetery yesterday.

A BLUE GROSBEAK was still at the Suffolk County Farm and Education Center Wednesday.

Other migrants this week included both YELLOW-BILLED and BLACK-BILLED CUCKOOS, several PHILADELPHIA VIREOS, PURPLE FINCH, LINCOLN'S and WHITE-THROATED SPARROWS and roughly 30 species of warblers including WORM-EATING, MOURNING and HOODED WARBLER.

To phone in reports call Tom Burke at (914) 967-4922.

This service is sponsored by the Linnaean Society of New York and the National Audubon Society. Thank you for calling.

- End transcript

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.


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

Saturday, September 12, 2020

New York City Rare Bird Alert

Below is the New York City Rare Bird Alert for the week ending Friday, September 11, 2020:

* New York
* New York City, Long Island, Westchester County
* Sep. 11, 2020
* NYNY2009.11

- Birds mentioned
(+ Details requested by NYSARC)

Royal Tern
Long-billed Dowitcher
Stilt Sandpiper
Pectoral Sandpiper
White-rumped Sandpiper
Western Sandpiper
Yellow-billed Cuckoo
Black-billed Cuckoo
Red-headed Woodpecker
Olive-sided Flycatcher
Philadelphia Vireo
Golden-winged Warbler
Cape May Warbler
Bay-breasted Warbler
Palm Warbler
Mourning Warbler
Hooded Warbler

- Transcript

If followed by (+) please submit documentation of your report electronically and use the NYSARC online submission form found at

You can also send reports and digital image files via email to nysarc44 (at)nybirds{dot}org.

If electronic submission is not possible, hardcopy reports and photos or sketches are welcome. Hardcopy documentation should be mailed to:

Gary Chapin - Secretary
NYS Avian Records Committee (NYSARC)
125 Pine Springs Drive
Ticonderoga, NY 12883

Hotline: New York City Area Rare Bird Alert
Number: (212) 979-3070

Compiler: Tom Burke
Coverage: New York City, Long Island, Westchester County

Transcriber: Ben Cacace


Greetings. This is the New York Rare Bird Alert for Friday, September 11th 2020 at 10pm. The highlights of today's tape are WESTERN KINGBIRD, WILSON'S PHALAROPE, MARBLED GODWIT, BUFF-BREASTED and BAIRD'S SANDPIPER, WHIMBREL and other shorebirds, LEAST BITTERN, SORA, CASPIAN TERN, LARK SPARROW, PINE SISKIN, KENTUCKY and other warblers, BLUE GROSBEAK, DICKCISSEL and more.

A moderate week for migration did feature a WESTERN KINGBIRD appearing briefly Tuesday morning at Dix Hills Park in Dix Hills before flying off.

A good variety of shorebirds included a WILSON'S PHALAROPE out at Sagg Pond in Bridgehampton Saturday followed by another spotted at the very wet north end of the East Pond at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge on Monday. A MARBLED GODWIT was featured on the video cam at Oceanside Marine Nature Study Area as it visited the channels there from Wednesday through today. Single BUFF-BREASTED SANDPIPERS were found at Croton Point Park in Westchester Wednesday and at Timber Point Golf Course in Great River Thursday while single BAIRD'S SANDPIPERS this week were noted at Jamaica Bay Monday, at Mecox Monday through Thursday and at Heckscher State Park Wednesday. A WHIMBREL visited Timber Point yesterday and a couple of calling LONG-BILLED DOWITCHERS flew around the traditional site at Santapogue Creek in West Babylon last Monday. Other shorebirds seen at multiple locations this week included STILT, WHITE-RUMPED, WESTERN and PECTORAL SANDPIPERS with 17 of the latter counted at Timber Point Thursday.

At Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge Monday both the LEAST BITTERN and the SORA appeared around the East Pond while on Tuesday another LEAST BITTERN was spotted at Arshamomaque Preserve in Greenport on the north fork and much more unexpectedly a SORA appeared in Bryant Park in central Manhattan.

During the week single CASPIAN TERNS occurred at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge and at Timber Point as well as farther east at Mecox Bay and Sagg Pond while a high count of ROYAL TERNS reached 64 at Timber Point Thursday.

Two RED-HEADED WOODPECKERS were still along the Paumanok Trail near Jones Pond on Wednesday this off Schultz Road in Manorville.

Both YELLOW-BILLED and BLACK-BILLED CUCKOOS were seen during the week as were a few OLIVE-SIDED FLYCATCHERS and various species of empidonax flycatchers.

Still sparse, single PHILADELPHIA VIREOS were noted Saturday in Prospect Park and at the Quogue Wildlife Refuge. Three LARK SPARROWS this week featured singles at Floyd Bennett Field Tuesday, Jones Beach West End by the Coast Guard Station Wednesday and Thursday and Stony Brook Thursday. A PINE SISKIN was spotted at Teatown Reservation in central Westchester Monday.

A KENTUCKY WARBLER was a surprise at Fort Tilden last Saturday and among other warblers noted this week were GOLDEN-WINGED, MOURNING, HOODED, CAPE MAY, BAY-BREASTED and PALM.

A BLUE GROSBEAK was found at Robert Moses State Park Monday and a DICKCISSEL has been visiting the north end of Central Park since Wednesday.

To phone in reports call Tom Burke at (914) 967-4922.

This service is sponsored by the Linnaean Society of New York and the National Audubon Society. Thank you for calling.

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Tuesday, September 08, 2020

Upcoming Trips

As you are aware, the current pandemic has stopped birding walks city-wide since March. Beginning this month, however, some conservation/birding organizations have begun rescheduling trips for small groups. I will be leading two trips in September and one in October. For my Linnaean Society of New York walks, see their calendar page here:

I will be leading one trip for the Brooklyn Bird Club in October. See their calendar page here:

Looking forward to see you in the field. Stay safe.

Saturday, September 05, 2020

New York City Rare Bird Alert

Below is the New York City Rare Bird Alert for the week ending Friday, September 4, 2020:

* New York
* New York City, Long Island, Westchester County
* Sept. 04, 2020
* NYNY2009.04

- Birds Mentioned
(+ Details requested by NYSARC)

Stilt Sandpiper
Pectoral Sandpiper
Western Sandpiper
Caspian Tern
Yellow-billed Cuckoo
Black-billed Cuckoo
Olive-sided Flycatcher
Purple Martin
Cliff Swallow
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Purple Finch
Yellow-breasted Chat
Worm-eating Warbler
Tennessee Warbler
Mourning Warbler
Hooded Warbler
Cape May Warbler
Bay-breasted Warbler

Brown Booby (extralimital)
American White Pelican (extralimital)

If followed by (+) please submit documentation of your report electronically and use the NYSARC online submission form found at

You can also send reports and digital image files via email to nysarc44nybirdsorg

If electronic submission is not possible, hardcopy reports and photos or sketches are welcome. Hardcopy documentation should be mailed to:

Gary Chapin - Secretary
NYS Avian Records Committee (NYSARC)
125 Pine Springs Drive
Ticonderoga, NY 12883

Hotline: New York City Area Rare Bird Alert
Number: (212) 979-3070

Compiler: Tom Burke
Coverage: New York City, Long Island, Westchester County

Transcriber: Gail Benson


Greetings! This is the New York Rare Bird Alert for Friday, September 4, 2020 at 8:00 pm.


Just in, an adult BLACK-THROATED GRAY WARBLER was found this afternoon at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge. The bird was seen around the junipers along the West Pond trail near the bat house.

A nice variety of shorebirds this week featured two special finds on the flats at Sagg Pond in Bridgehampton – first a RED-NECKED PHALAROPE early last Saturday, followed by a WILSON’S PLOVER spotted early Sunday morning. A BAIRD’S SANDPIPER was also there Sunday. Then today six HUDSONIAN GODWITS dropped in on the flats at Mecox Bay.

Also out on eastern Long Island four BUFF-BREASTED SANDPIPERS plus a BAIRD’s SANDPIPER were noted Monday along Oregon Road between Depot Lane and Alvah’s Lane in Cutchogue, while two BUFF-BREASTEDS and a BAIRD’S appeared Tuesday off Doctor’s Path north of Riverhead. Another BAIRD’S SANDPIPER visited Robert Moses State Park yesterday. Regional mud flats have also lately been producing PECTORAL, WESTERN and STILT SANDPIPERS among a decent assortment of shorebirds.

Single CASPIAN TERNS appeared at Coney Island Creek last Sunday and Mecox today.

A follow-up visit Monday to the currently restricted landfill at Freshkills Park on Staten Island located two nesting pairs of SEDGE WRENS.

Interesting among a good variety of WARBLERS this week were a PROTHONOTARY on Fisher’s Island today and four reports of GOLDEN-WINGED WARBLER, including from Central Park Monday, Greenwood Cemetery in Brooklyn Wednesday, at Floyd Bennett Field yesterday and by Flax Pond in Old Field today – photo analysis of a couple of these might indicate signs of hybridization. Other WARBLERS this week included WORM-EATING, TENNESSEE, CAPE MAY, BAY-BREASTED, HOODED and three or more MOURNING, while a YELLOW-BREASTED CHAT was reported from Central Park Saturday.

Four LARK SPARROWS this week featured one at Jones Beach West End last weekend, one in the southwestern section of Flushing Meadow Park from Sunday on, and singles Thursday at Fort Tilden and Robert Moses State Park.

A GRASSHOPPER SPARROW was found at Canarsie Beach Park Monday.

Two BLUE GROSBEAKS were spotted last Sunday at Shirley Chisholm State Park, joined there by two DICKCISSELS. Other BLUE GROSBEAKS included one at Robert Moses State Park Thursday and two at the Suffolk County Farm and Education Center in Yaphank Thursday and today. DICKCISSELS had a good week, with up to four noted at Robert Moses State Park, often during early morning flights, and one at Sunken Meadow State Park yesterday.

Also notable among the migrants this week have been both YELLOW-BILLED and BLACK-BILLED CUCKOOS, OLIVE-SIDED and various other FLYCATCHERS, CLIFF SWALLOW, RUBY-CROWNED KINGLET, a few PURPLE FINCHES, and a nice gathering last Saturday of around 275 PURPLE MARTINS at Floyd Bennett Field.

And north of us, both the BROWN BOOBY and the AMERICAN WHITE PELICAN were still up on Ashokan Reservoir in Ulster County today.

To phone in reports call Tom Burke at (914) 967-4922.

This service is sponsored by the Linnaean Society of New York and the National Audubon Society. Thank you for calling.

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Friday, September 04, 2020

Green-Wood Cemetery Updates

As I'm sure you've noticed, I haven't been doing regular updates to this blog for quite a long time. After 16 years, you probably can't blame me. I'm trying to get back to my old form, so bear with me.

Green-Wood Cemetery, in strict accordance with the Governor's guidelines, hasn't restarted their tours. I will be leading a few small tours for the Brooklyn Bird Club and the Linnaean Society of New York in coming weeks, so stay tuned.

I've been wandering around the cemetery on my own over these very trying months, and lately the southbound birds haven't been social-distancing. Wednesday of last week (August 26th) saw a huge movement of migrants through the NYC area. At Green-Wood I observed 65 species in 6 hours. 17 of those were just warblers; the most abundant being American Redstart, followed closely by Black-and-white Warblers. A Worm-eating Warbler foraging within an azalea shrub at Pine Hill was my first for Brooklyn this year. In that same spot was a flock of 8 Ovenbirds wandering around beneath the huge pines. Two days ago a beautiful male Golden-winged Warbler was found in a mixed flock near the Crescent Water. I sped over on my bicycle and was fortunate enough to find it. This was only the second time I've seen this species in the cemetery in two decades. My friend Daisy has some nice pics of it here.

It's interesting to note that Red-breasted Nuthatches have returned with a vengeance. After a near complete absence from NYC last winter, it looks like we'll be seeing them and hearing their adorable "yank, yank" calls for the next several months. I hope that it is a sign we'll be experiencing an invasion of winter finches from the north this winter. I'll post that forecast here as soon as it becomes available. In the meantime, here's some of my recent images from Green-Wood Cemetery: