Saturday, April 14, 2012

Birdwatching in the Bronx at Van Cortlandt Park...

Today, I was back in the Bronx to lead my Saturday morning walk at Van Cortlandt Park. I setup near our meeting area, the ranger station, next to the parade grounds and began to scan the fields while waiting for the attendees to show up. It was not long before I picked up a couple of Savannah Sparrows along the eastern edge of the fence that surrounds a section of the field and I immediately tried to get two of the early arrivals on the birds. We relocated for a better angle with light and observed that the Savannah Sparrows had increased in numbers to 9. Soon, other birders arrived and got in on the action.

Digiscoped Eastern Meadowlark - a new bird for our Van Cortlandt Park Bird Walk.
While others observed the Savannah Sparrows, I scanned the field for other possible migrants, hoping for an Upland Sandpiper or Eastern Meadowlark (Sturnella magna). Neither species were ever seen on the walk, but I am always hopeful to add to our growing list of birds that we have seen on the walk. We had pulled away heading towards the lake when another of our regulars, Hilary Russ, showed up, “right on time chuckled Alex Pirko”, another of our regulars. Reluctant to leave without giving Hilary a chance at seeing the Savannah Sparrows, I turned back and scanned the area we had just seen the birds. I found a few Savannah Sparrows feeding on the field and got Hilary on them. Just on principle, I gave another scan along the fence and saw a flash of yellow that gave me a start. Meadowlark…it had to be, was my thought. I kept my eyes on the area and sure enough, a lone Eastern Meadowlark poked its head up from behind a tuft of grass. I quickly gathered the group together and we all got good looks.

Red-necked Grebe - another new bird for our walk and possibly a 1st for the Park.
We moved in closer and got better looks, plus some photos, which I was keen on getting since it was a new bird for our walk. We then left the parade grounds and took the Bridle Path that leads into Putnam Trail skipping part of the Van Cortlandt Lake, which is covered by the John Kieran Trail. As a result, we missed picking up a Red-necked Grebe (Podiceps grisegena) that was reported to be on the lake. While, we did look for the Grebe from the bridge we could not see all the way to the South End and birding the inside trail would have given us an opportunity to check the edges. Much later, we made amends; after a long hike in the North Woods, a few of us made it back to the lake around 2:15 p.m. to find the Grebe thanks to a phone call from Alex Pirko who left the North Woods earlier than us. I had asked Alex to take a crack at finding the Grebe on the lake and he came through.

The Red-necked Grebe was another new bird for our walk and could very well be a first for the park since it is not even listed on the "Birds of Van Cortlandt Park Checklist". For those interested in these types of statistics, this would be bird number 147 for our Bird Walk, which is almost 62 percent of the 240 species that are listed for Van Cortlandt Park.

Yellow-rumped Warbler in the North Woods at Van Cortlandt Park.
Other highlights from today's walk included, 5 species of Warblers along with 4 species of Woodpeckers, I had 5, given I had seen a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (Sphyrapicus varius)on my way into the park. Lots of Ruby-crowned Kinglets (Regulus calendula) in the Northwoods, a conservative count was 19, the most that I have ever seen there since I began the walk; in addition, there were many Yellow-rumped Warblers and Hermit Thrushes. A total of 49 species of birds were seen today, see the list below.

American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos)
American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis)
American Robin (Turdus migratorius)
Black-and-white Warbler (Mniotilta varia)
Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus)
Black-throated Green Warbler (Setophaga virens)
Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata)
Blue-headed Vireo (Vireo solitarius)
Brown Creeper (Certhia americana)
Canada Goose (Branta canadensis)
Carolina Wren (Thryothorus ludovicianus)
Chipping Sparrow (Spizella passerina)
Common Grackle (Quiscalus quiscula)
Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis)
Double-crested Cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus)
Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens)
Eastern Meadowlark (Sturnella magna)
European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)
Gadwall (Anas strepera)
Golden-crowned Kinglet (Regulus satrapa)
Great Egret (Ardea alba)
Hairy Woodpecker (Picoides villosus)
Hermit Thrush (Catharus guttatus)
Herring Gull (Larus argentatus)
House Sparrow (Passer domesticus)
Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)
Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura)
Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis)
Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus)
Northern Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos)
Northern Rough-winged Swallow (Stelgidopteryx serripennis)
Palm Warbler (Setophaga palmarum)
Pine Warbler (Setophaga pinus)
Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus)
Red-necked Grebe (Podiceps grisegena)
Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis)
Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus)
Rock Pigeon (Columba livia)
Ruby-crowned Kinglet (Regulus calendula)
Savannah Sparrow (Passerculus sandwichensis)
Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia)
Swamp Sparrow (Melospiza georgiana)
Tree Swallow (Tachycineta bicolor)
Tufted Titmouse (Baeolophus bicolor)
Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura)
White-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis)
White-throated Sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis)
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (Sphyrapicus varius)
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Setophaga coronata)

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hilary said...

Thanks for another awesome day of birding Andrew! Nice Meadowlark pic too. :)


You are most welcome Hilary. The walk is only as good as the participants and I am lucky to have you on the walks, with that sense of humor of yours :) Hope to see you next week.

Cindy said...

If it's there you will find it..& that is the best YRWarbler picture I have ever seen..