Thursday, April 29, 2010

Prothonotary, and a few other species, 4/29

Weekday coverage of spring migration in Central Park for me involves waking up at 0430 and getting the 0537 train to Manhattan. What joy. Some days are more rewarding than others in that context, and Thursday was not an epic day although it did hold one special bird: a singing male Prothonotary Warbler present for the fourth day in a row. I think most or all of the few Prothonotarys that I've seen in NYC have been males, but I don't recall any of them singing. I heard this bird before even seeing it, and from time to time it approached relatively closely although almost invariably occluded by some leaves.

There was also a sign of some decent migration, although not yet in big numbers. The vibe was still of early season migration (still only Hermit Thrush; Yellow-rumped and Palm Warblers predominating) with the leading edge of other species starting to arrive.

Broad-winged Hawk (single fly-over)
Accipiter sp (1 Sharp-shinned-like, the other uncertain)
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (2 males)
Blue-headed Vireo
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Hermit Thrush
Brown Thrasher
Cedar Waxwing
Yellow Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Black-throated Green Warbler
Pine Warbler
Palm Warbler
Black-and-white Warbler
Prothonotary Warbler
Eastern Towhee
Chipping Sparrow

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Wet Sunday, 4/25

Since there was a southerly wind Saturday night, and particularly because there was a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher in my garden on Sunday morning, I headed out to Princeton's Institute Woods on Sunday afternoon. The woods themselves were deathly quiet and dark, but there were a few migrants around the road leading to the water plant: House Wren and Gray Catbird were new for this season for me, there was a small flock of Yellow-rumped Warblers and that was pretty much it for migrants.

(House Wren was singing in my yard on 4/27)

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Central Park 4/24

Judging from the sheer lack of anything in Strawberry Fields at 8am I felt lucky to be able to come up with 6 warbler species for the day after 3 hours birding. Numbers of migrants weren't too bad in the end, although it was really only 3 species - Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Palm Warbler, Yellow-rumped Warbler with the rest being singles or very low numbers.

Blue-headed Vireo
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Hermit Thrush
Northern Parula
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Pine Warbler
Palm Warbler
Black-and-white Warbler
Northern Waterthrush
Eastern Towhee
Song Sparrow
Swamp Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
Brown-headed Cowbird

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

A little migration

(And some cynicism about migration prediction hype).

I did a little birding this morning in Princeton before work. Migrants were scarce and limited to a nice singing Blue-gray Gnatcatcher and a female Eastern Towhee. The brief lack of familiarity with the Gnatcatcher song makes me think I should dig out the spring bird song DVDs (or the playlist on the iPhone) before I get surprised again.
The pond has retreated to a puddle and but there are some optimistic Tree Swallows hanging around.

Now for your regularly scheduled cynicism. A post on JerseyBirds this morning cited

"...the floodgates indeed were opened last night-
and New Jersey experienced the heaviest migration event this season..."

from the person that runs Nice hype, not borne out with a reality in Princeton or on Staten Island based on early reports and there appeared to be a lack of epic movement in Central Park although there was certainly some. But my pet peeve about this sort of rhetoric is that given the poster is a scientist with a PhD (as I am) a lot of these reports are associated with hype and no attempt at quantitation. As such they barely survive the BS filter, although I've got expectations that there's a decent correlation between radar reflectivity and migration. Quantitation is necessary if this sort of migration detection/prediction is to get much above the level of voodoo, because as it stands I usually do at least a good job at qualitative migration prediction from checking the overnight wind direction or forecast high temps.

As for actually making predictions, the weatherunderground and Accuweather diverge on wind direction forecasts - if you believe the former there's a predominant west-to-southwest flow over the area in the next few days which augers well for migration. Accuweather's wind direction prediction is much more variable and murky. So let's invoke the tie-breaker via the
NOAA forecast which suggests potential southerly winds overnight but swinging around to north-west for at least two days after that.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

My default Central Park birding map

As of writing I've only birded Central Park once this year. However periodically I field help requests from people surfing my web pages so this morning I ended up creating a quick Google map of the birding way-points I hit on a typical good May migration day. I nearly always start at Strawberry Fields and work into the Ramble either via the Upper Lobe or via Bow Bridge.

As an experiment, let's see if I can inline the Google map I created:

View Default CPK Birding Route (Ramble-centric) in a larger map

There's no right way to bird the Ramble, but I aim to start at the sunny edges at Strawberry Fields and the Maintenance Field in the Ramble, then work into the more contiguous canopy. But this varies a lot: some days the south side of Turtle Pond is "hot", some days it's the Point or the trees next to Belvedere Castle, and by mid May the bridle path on the south side of the Reservoir has been good in recent years.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Easter weekend migration

Thurs Apr 1st: Pine Warbler on Princeton campus

Sat Apr 3rd: Yellow-throated Warbler and Pine Warbler singing in the southern NJ pine barrens at Belleplain State Forest and Jakes Landing Road. In the saltmarsh herons dominated the still-quiet marshland with Great Egret, Snowy Egret and Little Blue Heron. An adult female Northern Harrier still lingered.

Sun Apr 4th: a mostly uneventful trip to NYC yielded Ruby- and Golden-crowned Kinglets, Eastern Phoebe, Cedar Waxwing and a possible Barn Swallow on the train ride up. That morning Chipping Sparrow was at my feeders in Ewing.

Mon Apr 5th: on Princeton campus was my FOY Red-breasted Nuthatch, Chipping Sparrow.
Tues Apr 6th: two Yellow-rumped Warblers in my yard