Snow Goose…in May?

16 05 2010

Nothing says mid-May birding less to me than a Snow Goose, but that’s what we got on our weekend Sunrise Birding extravaganza to New York State. One of many highlights – some a little more expected including: 25 species of Warbler including 2x Mourning, Bay-breasted, Tennessee, killer Blackburnian views, more Hoodeds than you could shake a stick at, Golden-wingeds and ‘Brewsters’ as well as 2x American Bittern, Virginia Rail, 3x Upland Sandpiper, Olive-sided Flycatcher, Orchard Orioles aplenty, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, 6 White-crowned Sparrow all on the same square yard of road, Lincoln’s Sparrow etc – oh and obviously Snow Goose. Trip report and species list to come.

‘Booming’ Bittern!

16 05 2010

Just one of the highlights from a wonderful weekends birding in NY State with Sunrise Birding. Is there anything more magical than a calling American Bittern at dusk? One of two seen exceptionally well on the trip. A little shaky hand held to the scope – still could be worse. More to follow from the trip soon!

Sunrise Birders go to Central Park – May 8th

12 05 2010

Black&White Warbler - Walt Duncan

Saturday saw me heading off to Central Park for the almost annual Sunrise Birding trip to Central Park. I have to say I love birding Central Park. It is the place that really introduced me to how great spring migration could be and it also fits in with my enjoyment of finding birds in the most unlikely of urban and suburban confines. I have posted before about how to approach birding Central Park on the blog (here). There are a few options but mainly I like to work the west side of the park and the Ramble areas. The forecast for Saturday (scattered thunderstorms and winds later in the day) was not wholly promising and I tinkered with delaying the trip, however a glimmer of hope appeared in the shape of a light southerly wind the night before the walk after a few days of northerly winds which. It was this that I hoped might bring a fresh influx of new birds in New York City.

We picked up the majority of the group at Grand Central Station off of the early Metro North train and then awaited others who decide to meet us at the park itself. Ably assisting on the day as co-leader was Catherine ‘birdspot’ Hamilton (blog here)– crack NYC birder and someone who knows the ins and outs of the parks ramble like the back of her hand. These are two key skills, as although I have visited the park a number of times, there is still the propensity to get turned around whilst wandering the warren that is the Parks Ramble area.

As we stepped into the park I quickly realized that the gamble was going to pay off. The first few trees that we encountered at the 81st Street entrance, although not as loaded as they had been on a previous visit on April 30th, were obviously hopping with recently arrived birds. A stop at a productive clump of trees quickly garnered us views of at least a half dozen warbler species, as Yellow Warbler, Black-throated Green, Black-throated Blues, Parula’s and Black and Whites jostled for position in the feeding scrum. Other highlights included a first ‘Traills’ type flycatcher of the year – if you put a gun to my head I’d have gone for Willow (almost no eye-ring) – luckily though no-one was.

We then swung past a few of the parks hot-spots. The Upper Lobe produced a nice Swainson’s Thrush, and a fairly uncooperative Lincoln’s Sparrow, as well as another mix of more common warblers. We were soon at the Belvedere Castle to pick up a few more warblers but managed to miss out on a Cape May that seemed only to return to the locust tree there whenever we weren’t in sight. After sitting out the only heavy burst of rain under the pagoda at the castle (which annoyingly seemed to drive off or at least shut up the only Tennessee I heard on the day), we were soon picking up more goodies including both male and female Rose-breasted Grosbeaks and Baltimore Orioles.

With a tip to try the point next up, we soon had our only Canada Warbler of the day amongst the usual throng of Magnolias, BT Blues and Parulas. Another treat was getting to see the Common Moorhen that was resting up in the park after having been discovered wandering on Broadway the day before – doesn’t everyone have a NYC story like that 😉 As we wandered away from the point I spotted a Bay-breasted Warbler scuttling through the canopy and people got long although somewhat distant views of the bird. Blackpolls seemed to be everywhere again – reflecting a somewhat early seeming movement for them this year – but at least one male showed particularly well here. Amongst the ever present Ovenbirds we picked up a singing Chestnut-sided Warbler in the area around Captains/Commanders Bench (anyone know the real name – I’ve seen both used recently!)

After spending a little time at the Boat House having a well earned lunch break we were back on the trail of our feathered friends adding a few nice species both to the trip list, including Blackburnian Warbler, and to many people’s year lists. By about 2:30pm most of the group had had their fill and with the wind finally picking up decisively we decided to call it a day after we had shown the group the famous Tanners Spring (number one photography site in the park). A couple of us ventured to the north end to look for a Kentucky that had been reported but almost thankfully it was a no show as I would have hated to have seen it without the whole group. A really nice day in the park with a really fun group of Sunrise Birding regulars and a few new people to my walks – I went home tired but satisfied with another great days birding in Central Park under my belt.

Trip List (67 Species)

Canada Goose, Mallard, Double-crested Cormorant, Great Egret, COMMON MOORHEN, Red-tailed Hawk, Spotted Sandpiper, Herring Gull, Rock Pigeon, Mourning Dove, Northern Flicker, Chimney Swift, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Willow Flycatcher, Great-crested Flycatcher, Warbling Vireo, Red-eyed Vireo, Blue Jay, American Crow, Barn Swallow, Tufted Titmouse, Black-capped Chickadee, White-breasted Nuthatch, House Wren, Carolina Wren, American Robin, Wood Thrush, Veery, SWAINSON’S THRUSH, Gray Catbird, European Starling, Nashville Warbler, Northern Parula, Chestnut-sided Warbler, Magnolia Warbler, Yellow-rumped Warbler,  Black and White Warbler, Black-throated Blue Warbler, BLACKBURNIAN WARBLER, Black-throated Green Warbler, BAY-BREASTED WARBLER, Blackpoll Warbler, CANADA WARBLER, Ovenbird, Northern Waterthrush, Yellow Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, American Redstart, Scarlet Tanager, Eastern Towhee, LINCOLN’S SPARROW, Song Sparrow, Swamp Sparrow, White-throated Sparrow, Chipping Sparrow, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Northern Cardinal, Indigo Bunting, Common Grackle, Red-winged Blackbird, Brown-headed Cowbird, Baltimore Oriole, House Finch, American Goldfinch, House Sparrow

Where to start…

3 05 2010

Nashville Warbler - Mike Ferrari

Well it’s been a little while since I posted anything here mainly because life has been hectic what with trips to Colorado (see Dominic Mitchell’s blog entrys from the tour here), a little birding at my mini patch in NYC and a fair amount of birding in Central Park in preparation for this weekends Sunrise Birding tour. Couple that with preparations for a Sunrise Trip to NY State and North Carolina and it’s been a rather busy few weeks. Anyway I’m sure I’ll post some thoughts on all of the above in the not too distant future but for now lets update on the latest walk with Sunrise Birding.

At the weekend we popped over to Trout Brook Valley on the Weston/Easton border and spent our time looking for some early spring warbler migrants. Although predictions for a big movement this weekend were not forthcoming there was a nice selection of quality birds around but nothing in the way of large numbers. Highlights of the trip were an incessantly singing Nashville Warbler which showed down to just a few feet from the group (see Michaels picture above), it was so close it even allowed great views of the sometimes difficult to see chestnut cap. Other highlights included a few first of year birds for Connecticut including a singing Wood Thrush (does bird song get any more enchanting?), an fantastically obligingly perched Scarlet Tanager which picked the one fairly bare tree to parade from (why does everything have to be so leafed out already this year – frustrating!!!!), a brilliant male Baltimore Oriole and one of Trout Brooks breeding specialties Worm-eating Warbler. Thrown in Warbling Vireo, Blue-grey Gnatcatcher and Blue-winged Warbler and you had quite a representative mix of early May migrants but just not the large numbers that one might have hoped for.

Trout Brook Valley really is an exceptional spot in lower Fairfield County with its large size and varied habitats providing nesting sites for a large variety of neotropical migrants. It really is one of my favorite places to bird locally and although I am not going to be around for much of the rest of May I hope that others will avail themselves of this great site for some spring birding. I had helped to put together some information on the site for Frank Gallo’s book on birding in Connecticut and Rhode Island and hope that that publication sees the light of day soon. It’s a great but rather underbirded site which really deserves more attention. After all it’s not every place in the state where you might find a singing Dickcissel and a Mississippi Kite in the same day as I did one June a few years back.

Trip List (includes heard only species): Red-tailed Hawk, Belted Kingfisher, Pileated Woodpecker, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, Tufted Titmouse, Black-capped Chickadee, White-breasted Nuthatch, House Wren, Carolina Wren, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, American Robin, Wood Thrush, Gray Catbird, Black-throated Green Warbler, Black and White Warbler, Yellow Warbler, Blue-winged Warbler, Worm-eating warbler, Nashville Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, Scarlet Tanager, Northern Cardinal, American Goldfinch, White-throated Sparrow, Chipping Sparrow, Swamp Sparrow, Song Sparrow, Common Grackle, Red-winged Blackbird, Brown-headed Cowbird, Baltimore Oriole.