Sunday, September 26, 2010

Great Manhattan Birding- Central Park and the Empire State Building at Night

New York City at night.

Last night and this morning I went on the New York State Young Birders' Club (NYSYBC) trip to New York City- first to check out the nocturnal migration from the top of the Empire State Building, and then birding Central Park in the morning.

On a fall night, the 86th floor of the Empire State Building is a great spot to witness the spectacle of nocturnal songbird migration. There are spotlights at the top of the building, which illuminate the birds as they fly by- last night the lights were yellow, making all of the birds look unmarked gold in color. The experience was almost surreal- watching glowing gold warblers fly by while 1,200 feet over downtown New York City- and incredible. In the hour and a half that we were there, we counted 815 migrant birds. Unfortunately, identification is virtually impossible for most of the birds, but we did I.D. a few flickers and Downy Woodpeckers, a Great Egret and Great Blue Heron, a flock of geese,  a couple of catbirds and grosbeaks, and 5-7 cuckoos. The rest were vireo-type, warbler-type, thrush-type, and the very vague "bird sp."

As if that wasn't enough, a Peregrine Falcon added to the excitement by diving at many of the birds flying by, catching 3-5 of them, including an unlucky Black-and-White Warbler.

Here is a (very) brief, and really bad clip of a dendroica warbler flying by. I would recommend viewing full screen and pausing it so as to actually see the bird:
video

I highly recommend an Empire State Building trip. Go on a night with Northwest winds, go to the northwest corner of the building, get there early, and, perhaps most importantly, buy your ticket online ahead of time.

This morning we went to Central Park for more migrants. We did not see as many birds as the previous night might have suggested, but there were a lot of species, and the birding was quite good. Highlights were Yellow-bellied Flycatcher, Gray-cheeked Thrush, 13 Warbler species,  Common Nighthawk, Winter Wren, and Purple Finch. Other migrants included lots of sapsuckers, both kinglets, creepers, Red-breasted Nuthatches, tanagers, thrashers, all three falcons, osprey, and Wood and Swainson's Thrushes. The species total for the day was 71, which is one of the best totals for a NYSYBC trip.

Overall it was an extremely fun weekend of birding, with the unorthodox skyscraper birding, as well as the always rewarding central park.

Next weekend I'm off to Cape May- Migration is awesome!

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