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Saturday’s New York Times had a long article on birding that compared the different approaches and techniques used by older and younger birders.  They used Pete Dunne to represent the more seasoned birders.  Pete, a well known birder, is the author of a dozen bird books, created the World Series of Birding, and until recently was the head of the Cape May Bird Observatory.

For the younger, up-and-coming, tech-wise birder they selected Westchester’s own Benjamin Van Doren, a junior at Cornell.

The article compares their different approaches to birding.  Read the complete article at the following link




Someone predicted that Benjamin might be the next birding “star” and he  is off to a good start


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Central Park Birding

I usually don’t believe in omens, fortune telling or other ways to predict the future. But driving down the West Side Highway on the way to Central Park I had hints that this would be a good day. First, the rising sun was striking the towers of the George Washington Bridge at an angle that made them glow and sparkle like tinsel on a Christmas tree. Spectacular.   A little farther south a mammoth cruise ship floated in the middle of the Hudson River. I’ve seen them docked at the passenger piers before but they looked totally different on the water. Looked like a 12-story hotel perched precariously on top of a barge, very top-heavy. Don’t understand why they don’t tip over in rough seas.  

I wonder if these two new sights were foretelling more interesting sights ahead.

Maybe they did – the birding in Central Park was exceptional. It was one of those days that birders talk about for years. Every tree was dotted with colorful spring migrants. Our birding group tallied 62 species that morning, including 16 different warblers. We had a large group, about 35 people, so there were a lot of eyes looking for birds. But we didn’t a lot of eyes, birds were everywhere. Even before the walk officially started, while the group was assembling, four brilliant red Scarlet Tanagers stopped traffic on Central Park West.

When we actually started into the park itself, the going was very slow. It probably took us 20 minutes to travel the first 300 feet, not because of crowds, obstacles or rugged terrain. Because there were so many nice birds. The first trees yielded Chestnut-sided, Magnolia and Black-throated Blue warblers. A good start to a memorable day.

Colorful birds were everywhere. Here is a bit of anthropomorphism: Cardinals, with their brilliant color are used to being stared out. Not today. Birders focused on warblers instead. And it appeared that the cardinals were jealous. At least twice a male cardinal perched in the open on a low limb just off the path. He seemed to be saying “Hey, don’t forget me. Remember I’m colorful too.”

It was that kind of day. But you never get tired of too much of a good thing.

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Well, no, you can’t really use birds to pay bills.  That was just advertising hype to get you to read this far.  However, the Postal Service has recently released new stamps featuring terrific images of bright, colorful songs birds.  Scarlet Tanager, Meadowlark, Rose-breasted Grosbeck, Goldfinch.  10 species in total.  These “forever” stamps are lovely. 

Next time you need to buy stamps, buy these bird stamps.  At least you see a nice bird as you apply a stamp to your credit card payment


Songbird Stamps









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Today I got the first report of the year about hummingbirds in Westchester.  Seen in New Rochelle. 

I always tell people that hummingbird begin showing up around the first of May.  This one was pretty much on schedule.  I find it semi-amazing that this tiny 1/8 of ounce bundle of feathers can leave its winter territory in Central America, fly 2,000 miles and arrive in Westchester on schedule.  My experience suggests that many people are late for meeting, even though they only have to walk down the hall to the conference room.

Almost every hummingbird seen around here is a Ruby-throated Hummingbird.  Ocassionally a rare species may show up, but that is very unusual.  Most other species do not venture east of the Missipppi River, and when they do, it is ususal in southern state, such as Florida


ruby throated hummingbird

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Who ever heard of National Poem in Your Pocket Day?   The concept is to keep a poem on hand to share if someone asks you.

I was sent the poems below and plan to keep them in my pocket should someone ask.

Feel free to share them yourself




Three Things to Remember
A robin redbreast in a cage
Puts all Heaven in a rage.
A skylark wounded on the wing
Doth make a cherub cease to sing.
He who shall hurt the little wren
Shall never be beloved by men.

— William Blake

Trying to understand the words
        Uttered on all sides by birds,
I recognize in what I hear
        Noises that betoken fear.
Though some of them, I’m certain, must
        Stand for rage, bravado, lust,
All other notes that birds employ
        Sounds like synonyms for joy.

— W. H. Auden

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Spring has been highly anticipated this year because of the harsh winter. People are anxious for the slightest hint of spring. The first signs of early spring flowers is like a miracle.  Life is suddenly better.

I’ve heard joyful reports of returning spring migrants being seen. Phoebe, Tree Swallows, Pine and Palm Warblers are all present. Goldfinch are turning yellow. Birds sing in the early morning. After our bleak winter the first glance of these early birds lifts one’s spirit and hints at better times ahead. Birders eagerly await the first sight of a returning migrant.

But hardly anyone notices the sudden absence of our winter visitors. Juncos and White-throated Sparrows have quietly left town for their northern breeding grounds not to be seen again until fall. No one misses them. We are too busy anticipating spring.

The birds are simply following their normal pattern but human look forward to spring.

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Spring means warblers are coming. Birders get excited. 28 species of little yellow birds return from their wintering grounds and pass thru for only a brief period of time on their way to breeding grounds farther north.

Every year I have to prepare, re-checking my field guide to get reacquainted with these spring visitors. It is like starting over every year. I haven’t seen even the most common warbler since last spring.

It is time to re-learn the basic warbler ID. 

 Warblers - Head Comparison

Otherwise, they all seem like little yellow birds flitting around.


Warbler ID

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Hummingbirds are headed north from their winter down south. This charts shows their progress. Each point identifies a location where they were first report this spring. There is a different color dot for each month. You can trace their northern trip. First they were only seen in the very southern states. By late March and early April they had moved as far north as Virginia.
The first hummingbirds appear in Westchester around the first of May, not far off. Keep your eyes open. Clean your hummingbird feeder and put it in the yard

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After the terrible winter we had, any excuse for being outdoors is welcome. Fresh air is the best cure for cabin fever. So our monthly birdwalk was perfect medicine for 17 deprived birders. It was officially spring. The birds knew. People sensed it. Even the weather was spring like. Everything combined for a pleasant morning walk.

The official tally of birds seen was 38 species, a nice total. Many of these were the same winter hardy species we have been seeing for the past few months – wintering ducks, Juncos, White-throated Sparrows, Cardinals.

But we also celebrated the return of several early spring arrivals, friends who had travel south for winter and were just now returning home. Friends we haven’t seen for months.

Early Spring Arrivals : E. Phoebe, E. Wood Pewee, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Tree Swallow, Great Egret,
Waterfowl: Mute Swan, Canada Goose, Mallard, N. Shoveler, Hooded Merganser, Red-breasted Merganser, Double-crested Cormorant, Gadwall,
Backyard Birds: Cardinal, Titmouse, White-breasted Nuthatch, Robin, Mourning Dove, Blue Jay, House Sparrow, Goldfinch
Woodpeckers: Downy, Hairy, Red-bellied
Birds of Prey: Osprey, Red-tailed Hawk
Common Birds: Grackle, Starling, Red-winged Blackbird, Ring-billed Gull
Others: Great Blue Heron, Brown Creeper, Song Sparrow, Carolina Wren, Junco, White-throated Sparrow.

No single sighting or species stood out above the crowd. The real highlight of the day was the return of spring and (hopefully) the end of winter.

Particpants included: Avril Armstrong, Billy and Joanne, Bill Anderson, Johnny, May, Bernadette, Issac, Fred and Liz, Don and Sue, Sandy, Larry & daughter,

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Bird TV

Not your typical backyard birder feeder.
Birds star in Reality TV program in Norway


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