After several false alarms, it seems that winter has finally departed New York for the season. The current 10-day forecast for NYC doesn’t show a single day below 60. Although we were fortunate to have a mostly mild winter in the Empire State, there were several times where the weather fought back with a frosty bite. This week has seen a definite shift. Flowers are blooming, bees are buzzing, and with any luck the icy winds are behind us. Best of all, days continue to grow longer and longer as we march towards the summer solstice.
Almost all of the winter wildlife of Long Island have departed for points north, and the spring specialties have begun to slowly trickle back. Reports from local parks have turned up some early arrivals and nice surprises, teasing resident naturalists with glimpses of what’s yet to come. During the work week, I don’t get much opportunity for explorative birding or searching on my own. If something is reported close to home, I have enough daylight for a quick jaunt to pursue a target. Anything more substantial in the search department generally has to wait for the weekend.
This past Saturday I had a morning grad school class, but that gave me an excuse to bring my binoculars to Manhattan for some Central Park birding. The professor let us out a little early, and I headed up time to explore the Ramble. Leaves are just stating to come in on deciduous trees, and flowering plants are beginning to lend a touch of color to the urban green space. The Park’s lawns have opened up for the warmer months, and there were scores of picnickers lounging in the sunlight. People were happy to be out and about to take in the agreeable weather.
The stars of spring migration in New York are the warblers. These colorful songbirds travel to the Neotropics for the winter months and breed in wooded habitats across North America. Birders await their return with great anticipation each year. The variety of species in this family features a number of stunners, and watchers search for their bright feathers and strain to hear their lively songs as the weather turns warm. Prime time for warblers reaches its peak in May, but the earliest arrivals start to show up in April.
Several locations in lower New York have reported Yellow-throated Warblers: a more southerly species whose range just barely reaches our state. One had been putting on a show in Central Park during the week, so I dedicated some time to searching for it. Unfortunately, I came up empty on this attempt, and there were very few warblers even for this early date. I also dipped that day on Louisiana Waterthrush, Black-and-white Warbler, Palm Warbler, and Pine Warbler. However, there was a Yellow-rumped Warbler, commonly seen through winter in these parts, who was sporting full breeding plumage and singing his little heart out. A nice reminder of the upcoming excitement.
There were a few other migrants to be found in NYC that afternoon, including a singing White-eyed Vireo and several Hermit Thrushes, but the activity level was a little low overall. I rested on a park bench to enjoy one of the quietest areas in the City before heading home to the Island. I dropped my bag at the house, took Koda out for a bit, and returned to Manhattan to meet my friends for the night.
Sunday saw several errands in need of completion, with the whole family tidying the house and preparing the property for summer. I got a chance in the early afternoon to hit the beach with Brigid for a little while, which proved to be a lovely use of my time. The sunshine was bright, and the breeze had much less of a nip to it than we’ve experienced lately. There were some handsome Common Loons and a Black Scoter floating in the boat basin, and we admired a Piping Plover bathing in a puddle at the West End swale. I also found my first Brown Thrashers of the spring at the median, noticing that one of them was gathering twigs to construct its nest. A pair of American Crows were also spotted with nesting material, and a brief stop at the Monk Parakeet nests in Freeport found that they too were refurbishing their homes. The day ended in Lynbrook with a delicious family meal and servings of ice cream. Ahhh, spring.
Year List Update, April 17 – 264 Species (+ Brown Thrasher)