A Travellerspoint blog

Central & Prospect Park in migration

New York, NY

semi-overcast 55 °F

I managed to get out twice this week despite a packed performance schedule. Unfortunately, we have been deadlocked by northerly winds and cold temps, so migration isn’t as wild as it can get in April, though I suspect there will be a large push of birds with the next southerly winds.

I scootered over to Central Park on monday morning since there were reports of decent birds like White-eyed Vireo and Prairie Warbler on sunday afternoon. Upon arriving to the Loch, I got my first-of-the-year YELLOW WARBLER:





The biggest surprise of the day was this high-flying migrating COMMON LOON over the park. You have to wonder if these birds notice the peculiar Manhattan landscape as they migrate over — in some form, this bird must have, considering how high it was flying (thousands of feet up), probably to avoid skyscrapers. Honestly, Manhattan must be like a mountain range for migrating birds to navigate through.

It was awesome to get my first NORTHERN WATERTHRUSH of the year at the edge of the “Pool:”

Then, some birders alerted me to the fact that there were Prairie Warblers up on the Great Hill by the blockhouse. Honestly, I am usually just too lazy to hike up the Great Hill, but it certainly paid off as I quickly found two beautiful male PRAIRIE WARBLERS, also an FOY bird for me! It was great to get a target bird, made even better by the fact that they were extremely responsive to spishing and came right in for great views.

My first OVENBIRD of the year was also nice to see:



Bird-of-the-day for monday definitely goes to the Prairie Warblers with runner-up to the Common Loon. One aspect of Manhattan birding that I love compared to Chicago birding is that the first few real pushes of warblers occur 1-2 weeks earlier in the spring. In Chicago it seems like they take forever to appear and then always pass through in a couple hectic days in mid-May.

Today, thursday April 28, I was alerted to the presence of a Black-throated Gray Warbler in Prospect Park, Brooklyn, so…you know the drill! Finish class, subway, chase bird. An interesting tidbit about Prospect Park is that it is just a couple blocks away from where my grandparents on my dad’s side grew up. One of these days I will walk by the particular house in which my grandma grew up.

Black-throated Gray Warblers are native to shrubby habitats of the inter-mountain west, so they therefore qualify as a vagrant to New York. I have seen them before in California and Idaho so it would be just a New York lifer if found.

The warblers were high in the canopy today so it was a lot of warbler neck for the hour I was there. BLACK-AND WHITE:




My first WARBLING VIREO of the year was great too:

Unfortunately, the Black-throated Gray Warbler never materialized while I was there, so I will have to leave the bird-of-the-day to a heard-only WOOD THRUSH on my way back, my first-of-the-year. That song is unmistakable. You win some, you lose some. Onward to May! The good news is that I will be much freer for birding and herping starting May 3.

Good birding,
World Life List: 1129 Species

Posted by skwclar 16:52 Archived in USA Comments (1)

Central Park again

New York, NY

sunny 70 °F

With southerly winds forecast last night, I figured there would be a few new arrivals today so I headed over to Central Park again in the early morning.

I was quickly greeted in the Loch by a LOUISIANA WATERTHRUSH, possibly the same individual from the other day:

It even jumped up on a branch and sang for me once.




My first-of-the-year BLUE-HEADED VIREO was great to see:


And a PALM:

The PROTHONOTARY WARBLER had moved up to the Pool today and will have to take bird-of-the-day for today as it stayed in this beautiful flowering tree:

Stay tuned — I hope to get out on sunday as well!

Good birding,
World Life List: 1129 Species

Posted by skwclar 04:50 Archived in USA Comments (0)

The warblers are back!

Central Park, NY!

overcast 55 °F

Between classes today, I was overjoyed to see on the Manhattan groupchat that it was birdy at Central Park North with both Hooded & Prothonotary Warblers giving good lucks, among more common species. So, since classes ended at 3:15 for me today, I rode my scooter over to the park in hopes of getting some good photos of these warblers. It certainly feels great to be birding again after about three extremely intense weeks of some of the most demanding performances of my life.

Upon arriving to the north of end of Central Park at the Harlem Meer, my first OSPREY of the year winged over:

Further in the Loch, this WHITE-THROATED SPARROW was fairly obliging — they are passing through in large numbers now:

Then, I saw a group of birders gathered at the “Cut-out” and sure enough, they all had their cameras pointed at a lemon-yellow passerine!

My FOY PROTHONOTARY WARBLER! Sweet, sweet, sweet!

And it got extreeeemely close to us, seemingly unafraid. Warblers tend to feed lower down on chillier days like today as that’s where the bugs tend to be. And it wasn’t just the case with the Prothonotary — take note throughout the post of all the different birds where water is clearly visible in the background — the majority of the insectivore passerines were feeding low and close to water today since temps were in the lower 50’s.

After nearly a half an hour of photography, I wondered through the Loch to see what else I could see. Here is a RED-BELLIED WOODPECKER:

YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLERS also abounded today:

And the trusty pair of GADWALL at the Pool is always nice to see:

A couple PINE WARBLERS were around:




The most ironic bird sighting of the day was a Chicken that was probably dumped in the park by an irresponsible owner.

This beautiful male BLACK-AND-WHITE WARBLER was an FOY bird for me:

And I was overjoyed to here from a couple of birders that one of my favorite species, the Hooded Warbler, was still hanging around. Sure enough, after about five minutes of searching in the area they pointed out, I heard its chip call and tracked down this beautiful male HOODED WARBLER, another FOY bird! Yay!

This time of year has to be my absolute favorite. There’s nothing like seeing the return of neotropical migrants, the emergence of reptiles and amphibians, and actually having time to find all my favorite creatures before the sun sets each day. Bird-of-the-day has to go to the Hooded Warbler which has always been my favorite warbler species as it is just such a smartly-plumaged bird with its dynamic yellow and black, plus it is uncommon enough to be exciting every time one is found. Runner-up to the show-stopper Prothonotary Warbler. I will get extremely busy again end of April/early May but hopefully will find some time for birding before and after that period, too.

Good birding,
World Life List: 1129 Species

Posted by skwclar 01:58 Archived in USA Comments (1)

The Easter Duck

Copiague, NY

semi-overcast 57 °F

Happy Easter! Today, after singing a morning Mass, I convinced Tian to join me on a foray out to Long Island to chase a would-be life bird: the Mottled Duck! This particular waterfowl was a lone male found about a week ago at a random preserve about halfway down Long Island. The species itself is quite rare for New York — its closest regular range is the swampland of Florida and coastal Georgia.

We stopped at Wendy’s to break up the long walk from the train and Tian enjoyed a Wendy’s hamburger in front of the Easter Bunny!

We arrived at the Ketchum Creek Wetland Preserve at about 4pm and I immediately noticed a group of passerines in the trees, mainly consisting of ubiquitous HOUSE SPARROWS, but there was a warbler among them — a YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLER:

Of course, I immediately shifted gears and started peering into the wetland area at the intermittent breaks in the vegetation allowing for views from the road. There was a nice number of ducks including a drake GREEN-WINGED TEAL:

I was hoping, though, to see groups of Mallard-looking ducks as not only is the Mottled a Mallard look-alike, but this particular individual had apparently paired up with a female Mallard since arriving at the preserve at least a week ago. The Mottled’s main distinctions from a female Mallard (its direct look-alike) are its bright lemon-yellow bill but otherwise slightly darker coloration overall.


Nice to have Tian along to document the act of birding.


I became excited when I saw these AMERICAN BLACK DUCKS because they are very closely related to Mallards and sometimes associate with them (and Mottleds down south):

Notice the nice purple speculum on these birds showing visibly here:

BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT-HERON, a first-of-year, FOY, sighting for me:

I crossed the Montauk Highway to look at the adjacent wetland and didn’t see much aside from this DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANT:

So I crossed back over to the preserve, found a break in the vegetation, and crept up as close as I could get to the water without sinking into the mud. Then, lo and behold, just swimming ten feet in front of me was the female MALLARD, and her mate, the male MOTTLED DUCK, life bird #1129 for me! Hell yeah!

I quickly called Tian as she had parked herself in a sunny spot about thirty minutes prior, having had enough walking for the time being. Despite briefly hiding themselves, the two ducks soon came out again and Tian was able to get looks at them as well as document my watching them!

In these photos you can barely see the Mottled Duck and Mallard as blurs about to disappear behind me. This is how close we were!

Bird-of-the-day to the Mottled Duck, made more special in that I was able to share this lifer with Tian, but not before the runner-up bird of the day flew over the train station while waiting to return to NYC: my first-of-the-year LAUGHING GULL! It was great to see this species here as one seldom sees them away from the ocean in this part of the state:

We them took the train back to Manhattan afterward and enjoyed Chinese food for Eastern dinner — it was a wonderful holiday. Tian will be attending grad school for music composition at Rice University in Houston next year so we are trying to spend as much time together this year as possible!

Good birding,
World Life List: 1129 Species (1 life bird today: Mottled Duck)

Posted by skwclar 03:42 Archived in USA Comments (3)

Amphibian migration 2022?

East Brunswick, NJ

rain 43 °F

Although my schedule has been absolutely non-stop as of late, I did manage to make it down to New Jersey this evening for a special evening of naturing. Early every spring when the temperatures rise into the 40’s and drenching rains soak eastern forests, a phenomenon of amphibian movement happens during the nighttime: frogs, toads, salamanders, and newts all move to the fish-less pools of the forest to lay their eggs for the next generation. So far this spring, the two nights that have produced migration (Feb 22 & Mar 7) in the NYC area, I have either been busy or out of town.

Tonight, though, was shaping up to be different as temperatures were to hold steady around 43F and there should be intermittent rain throughout the evening. So, I took the subway, NJTransit, and an uber to Beekman Road in rural Middlesex County, NJ to hopefully observe amphibian migration. Spotted Salamanders, Eastern Newts, and Spring Peepers are the most conspicuous migrants here, though occasionally one can find less common species such as Four-toed Salamander, Pickerel, & even New Jersey Chorus Frog (the latter two would be lifers).

Upon arriving, I heard a smattering of “peeps” from Northern Spring Peepers in the vernal pond deep in the woods. Hopefully a good sign!

As it happened though, the rain showers turned out to be more intermittent than I would have hoped (early spring is pretty much the only time a herper hopes for rain!), and it became evident that after an hour of walking the road fruitlessly, amphibians would be hard to come by tonight.

Therefore to my amazement, after walking up and down the road for nearly two hours in the cold rain showers, I was rewarded with a beautiful male Spotted Salamander s l o w l y making his way across. He was cold!

I had studied a map of the vernal pools nearby early today and interestingly enough, this salamander was migrating east, away from these particular pools — meaning breeding has already taken place and I had come for the tale end (and usually less exciting part) of salamander migration.

Even though I ended up only finding this one salamander, I consider tonight to be a success because shortly after moving the salamander off the road, two cars cruised by from both directions — there is a good chance it would have been crushed had I not been there. Here he is after being moved off the road:

A conservation organization closes off the road to vehicular traffic on large migratory nights but apparently they had the foresight to understand that there would be fewer amphibians out tonight, so therefore cars would occasionally whiz by.

A quick uber and long train ride back to the city landed me back to the dorms by 2am, so let’s just say it wasn’t your average weeknight. Even just seeing one salamander migrating was an amazing phenomenon, and I pray that these remaining population fragments of these vulnerable species will be here for us to see and appreciate for many generations to come.

Bird-wise, I may have seen an owl at one point but I wasn’t sure, so my bird-of-the-day designation will just have to go to some distant Canada Geese I heard honking while I was walking the road!

Good birding,
World Life List: 1128 Species

Posted by skwclar 16:42 Archived in USA Comments (0)

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