Friday, May 25, 2012

The Birds of Central Park

1. magnolia warb-kab Magnolia Warbler 5-18-12

Though I am in New York City with my husband to celebrate our anniversary I cannot help but take a bit of time to count birds in Central Park. I have never been here during spring migration and I am hoping to add at least a few warblers to my New York Life List. Gus and I arrived on a bus Wednesday evening. After unpacking and eating pizza at our newest favorite pizza place we walked down to Columbus Circle and then on to Times Square. I was so tired by then and did not take a camera. It was near midnight and I was shocked by all the bright lights and all the people! Sorry, no pics! We fell into bed after 1 AM but I read for awhile before drifting off to sleep. The next morning it soon becomes apparent that we have different agendas, so while Gus goes in search of tickets to a show, I head to Central Park.

2. the lake-kab The Lake 5-17-12

My first instinct is to head for The Ramble but I soon find my way obstructed by construction at Cherry Hill. Opting to walk down the west side of the lake instead I soon find a little path down towards the water where there is a little shaded bench to sit on. As I start down the path a dull brown bird hops up on the branch in front of me. I know immediately that it is a thrush, but what species? It does not have the big dark spots of the Wood Thrush, nor the rusty warmth in its wing and tail feathers of a Hermit Thrush. However, it does have the buff spectacles of a Swainson’s Thrush, but it is gone before I can get a photo as a group of people comes down the path behind me headed for the little pavilion to look out over the lake.

3. COYE-kab Common Yellowthroat 5-17-12 by The Lake on west side

I continue down the path and past the benches along the lake edge. I soon find myself alone watching bird. I spot a Canada warbler in the leafy undergrowth and then another small bird appears. Just as it hops up on the fence my cell phone rings. It is Gus and he is ready for me to join him, so I snap off a few shots of a Common Yellowthroat and leave, thus ending my birding expedition before it even gets started!

4. AMRO-kab American Robin in Central Park

The next morning we take our coffee and pastries over to the park together and sit on a bench. It is Friday morning now and more people are starting to gather in the park. While Gus valiantly stays with me, I am wanting to be alone to find birds. I know he would rather be elsewhere but I have never been in Central Park alone and I think he is wanting to protect me. I tell him I will be fine, and so he finally leaves me at Bethesda Fountain. He is going shopping and to buy tickets to a play and I am going birding!

5. the ramble-DSCN1183 Entrance to The Ramble behind Loeb’s Boathouse

It is a gorgeous sunny day with perfect temperatures and a dry air mass. I quickly head past Loeb’s Boathouse where I turn the corner to head into The Ramble. I have only been this way one time before with my brother but I remember that we saw a lot of birds over here. It isn’t until later that I discover this part of the Ramble is known as The Point and it is a favorite place to bird.

6. Mag warb-kab Magnolia Warbler

I have not gone very far down the path before a Magnolia Warbler makes an appearance! I am just thrilled as I have only seen this species of bird once before in Aroostook County, Maine! 

7. magnolia-DSC_0031 Magnolia Warbler in The Ramble flashing tail spots

Magnolia Warblers are identified by their yellow throats and bellies with black streaks, white wing patches, a white eyebrow and white tail spots which they kind of flash like a redstart. I snap several pictures of this little beauty with my heart racing with joy!

8. CEWA-DSC_0039 Cedar Waxwings in The Ramble

Right past the Magnolia Warbler I hear the “zee, zee, zee” of waxwings. I soon find them eating fruit from the branches of a tree along the lake edge.

9. Lake view-DSC_0052 View across The Lake from The Point in The Ramble

As I follow the path down to The Point I not only get a great view of The lake, I also find a Yellow-rumped Warbler, a Canada Warbler, some house finches and some grackles.

10. black n white-DSC_0057 Black and White Warbler in The Ramble

Around another bend a little black and white bird comes creeping along the bark of a tree. Always on the move, it is difficult to get a shot of this Black and White Warbler for it never stays still! This is the first time I have found this species all by myself and I am glowing with pride and excitement! I am wishing that my brother was here though so I could show him the birds of the park and the city that he loves so much! But, he will not be joining us until tonight. So, I take more pictures hoping that he will get to see the birds of Central Park this way.

11. Redstart-kab Out-of-focus female American Redstart

For the most part I keep to the water’s edge at first as that is where I am seeing all the warblers. A female Redstart puts in an appearance, as well as a Wilson's Warbler. Then I spot a Green Heron as it moves through the undergrowth down the bank near the lake. It is so lovely, cool and green in here. I pass other birders with bins and cameras and while we have a brief chat, we each move on to our own birding adventure. I must say that I am enjoying this chance to go at my own pace and find the birds on my own.

12. NOCA-DSC_0070 Northern Cardinal in The Ramble

Of course, there are always the “normal” birds to be found!

13. Mallards on path-DSC_0077 The Ducks take a walk in The Ramble

But I am surprised to find this pair of mallards taking a stroll down the path!

14. female mallard-kab Mallard Hen


15. male mallard-kab Mallard Drake

The male finally got tired and laid down for a snooze in the sun!

16. BAOR-kab Baltimore Oriole in the Canopy

I continue on to find a Baltimore Oriole high in the tree canopy!

17. WOTH-kab Wood Thrush in The Ramble

But then I hear the song of a Wood Thrush and go in search of this sweet bird. I come around another bend and find a larger wooden pavilion on the crest of a hill. The Wood Thrush is moving in the leaf litter around it. I watch as it comes boldly towards me. I sneak up behind the trunk of a tree and, using the tree as a blind, brace myself and snap away. The Wood Thrush pictures are my favorites of the whole trip and the best I have ever gotten of this species.

18. algae-kab Green Water

If the water looks green in the photos, it really is. I assume it is some kind of algae.

19. path-kab Path along the lake edge in The Ramble

As I walk up a steep and shaded path I look out over the tree canopy toward the lake and the oak bridge. I let my Nikon D80 drop to my side and pull out my smaller Coolpix to take a landscape shot. Suddenly I notice a male Blackpoll Warbler sitting on a snag right in front of me! However, before I can get it put away and get my Nikon up for a shot the bird flies off! Sometimes one can have too much gear! I like to use the Coolpix for landscape shots and keep my D80 with the 70-300mm zoom for bird shots. So, I turn back to taking more landscape photos when Gus calls again. Time to head back to civilization. Besides, I am starting to get hungry! Coffee and a pastry just isn’t enough to last all day!

20. bridle path bridge-kab Westside Bridle Path Arch

So, down to the bridle path I go…

21. arch-kab Under the Arch

…and under the arch where I meet my husband and we spend the rest of the day shopping and napping, because I know that when my brother arrives tonight we will hit the ground running and who knows when we will go to bed!

22. Centra; Park lake-DSCN1184 The Lake at Central Park

Birds seen in Central Park on May 17 and 18, 2012:

  1. Rock Pigeon 5-17-12
  2. Blue Jay
  3. American Robin
  4. European Starling
  5. Common Grackle
  6. House Sparrow
  7. Canada Goose
  8. Mallard
  9. Swainson’s Thrush*
  10. Common Yellowthroat*
  11. Canada Warbler*
  12. Red-tailed Hawk 5-18-12
  13. Gray Catbird
  14. Green Heron
  15. Mourning Dove
  16. Red-bellied Woodpecker
  17. Downy woodpecker
  18. Eastern Wood Pewee*
  19. Wood Thrush
  20. Cedar Waxwing
  21. Ovenbird*
  22. Black and White Warbler*
  23. American Redstart*
  24. Magnolia Warbler*
  25. Blackpoll warbler*
  26. Yellow-rumped Warbler*
  27. Wilson’s Warbler*
  28. Northern Cardinal
  29. Red-winged Blackbird
  30. Brown-headed Cowbird
  31. Baltimore Oriole
  32. House Finch

*New York Life Birds! (First time seen in New York for my personal list.)


  1. Looks like a great trip, congratulations again on your anniversary.

    That Magnolia Warbler is one sweet sweet bird, I'd love to catch a glimpse of that. Even in New York City, the urban birding options abound!

    1. Laurence, I have come to just love Central Park and it is definitely worth the trip!

  2. Hi Kathie, what a great time you had birding in Central Park. The Magnolia Warbler shots are awesome. Wonderful bird sightings and photos. I love the shot of park with the bridge, it is a very pretty spot. Have a Happy Memorial Day weekend.

  3. A wonderful Central Park birding adventure Kathie. It is such a long time since I was there.

  4. It really doesn't feel like being in a city in The Ramble. Glad you got out to bird and got some excellent photos. I like the Wood Thrush best of all.

  5. It's wonderful to know there is so much bird life in the big city! You saw more birds there than I see in more country areas :-) Great shots of them!

  6. It sounds as though you had a wonderful anniversary weekend Kathie, Congratulations to you and Gus.
    Beautiful Wood Thrush photo.

  7. One doesn't always think of seeing so many different birds in a big city. I love your shots of the Magnolia Warbler...the light was so right!

  8. I am so happy I discovered your blog! I LOVE birds, and your photography is phenomenal. I love all the shots in this post, but the wood thrush is by far the most outstanding. I have never even SEEN this shy bird in person, though I love it's song.

    I was recently out in Wisconsin and Minnesota, birding along the Mississippi River. What a beautiful area!

    I'll be back for more.


  9. What a nice crop of birds, Kathie. I love your pics of the Magnolia Warbler! People living on Manhattan are so lucky to have Central Park - it's a birding hotspot during migration.

  10. Love that you got to see all these beauties! Central Park during migration can be a blast!

  11. Very nice! Yes, those Wood Thrush photos are great. What a bunch of beautiful warblers you saw too. HBO is going to show this documentary "The Central Park Effect" about birding.

  12. Correction: Wood Thrush photo (singular)

  13. Absolutely wonderful photographs! Your Central Park visit was very rewarding I can see! Interestingly you saw a Magnolia Warbler. I had never even heard of them and recently saw a post by Stephen Lyn Bales on Nature Calling about this bird. He has an incredible blog if you haven't checked it out, and also wrote the book Ghost Birds about the Ivory-bill. Anyway, it's a lovely little bird! But I think my favorite of your sightings is the wood thrush. Great post!

  14. it's amazing isn't it...when most people think of NYC...they don't think of all the beauty...and you've shared here!
    it's beautiful!
    i LOVE the magnolia warbler!! what a colorful bird with a striped belly! and that wood thrush!! awesome shot!!

    thanks kathie...i'm really enjoying these posts!!


Welcome to my nest! I hope you will enjoy spending time here with me and the birds. Thank you for your comments. I will try to get back to you as soon as I get back from counting more birds.