Pied-billed Grebe should be back soon. It's easiest to find them in the lake at Van Cortlandt Park.
All photos and text by Jack Rothman. All rights reserved. No photo may be copied or duplicated without written permission.Copyright 2023
City Island Birds
Welcome to City Island Birds. My name is Jack Rothman. I created this website and birding club because this area of New York City is little known and underutilized by birdwatchers and other nature lovers. Pelham Bay Park, with its woods and wetlands is a critical stopover and nesting area to many migratory species.
City Island Birds was created in 2007 to bring birders, and would be birders, to the park. Everyone has always been and always will be welcome. Our walks are always inclusive, friendly, non-competitive, fun and free. We all love to see great birds, but without each other, it's never as enjoyable.
Saul's Science Watch
My birding buddy Saul has been writing wonderful science articles for the Hudson River Audubon Society. You can link for years of wonderful insights and information. Just scroll to the bottom of the page for a complete list of the articles.
Jack's talk , "Pelham Bay Park"
On March 14, 2023, I did a Zoom talk for the Saw Mill River Audubon. If you would like to view it, it is available on YouTube, Just link here.
Watch a City Island Birds birdwalk here,
and another walk here.
A pandemic interview about birding here.
Five Quick Beginning Birding Suggestions
1. Go out with a group or an experienced leader. You'll learn how to use binoculars, find birds, meet interesting and friendly people.
2. Wear appropriate clothes. Weather is always a little more extreme in open spaces. Don't wear your brand new $200 running shoes. It can be muddy.
3. Most leaders have binoculars to lend if you don't have your own. Opera glasses are pretty useless for birding. If you want to buy a pair, email me and I will make suggestions depending on your budget.
4. Bring a snack and water. Most walks are a few hours. You'll see that birding is not fast walking. Expect to be moving slowly.
5. Get a portable field guide to bring with you when you bird alone. Use it at home too. Look for the Peterson or Sibley guide.
One of our early migrants is the Eastern Phoebe.
A Rusty Blackbird in early March in Pelham Bay Park. "Rusties" are considered a threatened species because they are declining in numbers. Check the flocks of Red-winged Blackbirds and Grackles you find and you might be lucky enough to find a Rusty mixed in with them.
The American Woodcocks are already here. They are being seen at the south end of Orchard Beach in the wooded areas. I made the above video last year after seeing this Woodcock in Bryant Park in Manhattan. They are also called Timberdoodles, Hokumpokes or Bogsuckers. There are many theories about the strange and amusing way they walk. It is theorized that the woodcock's bobbing walk is telling it's predators that it is aware of their presence. It also would enable them to spring up and fly away quickly should the predator decide to attack.
Spring Walks in Pelham Bay Park and Van Cortlandt Park
Spring is almost here and that means the migration is beginning. The spring migration is definitely the most fun for birders. There are already some early arrivals. However, March can be disappointing. Sometimes the winter birds leave behind a vacuum when the spring migratory species have not yet arrived.
NYC Audubon is sponsoring free walks in the Bronx beginning in late March. You can go to their website to see who will be leading the tours. They are all free here. I will be leading some of the walks along with Joseph McManus. There will also be some new guides. Saturday walks will be at Van Cortlandt and Sunday walks will be at Pelham Bay Park. The walks will run until mid-June.
Link to see the first walk results at Pelham Bay Park on 3/26. Joe will be in Van Cortlandt on 3/25 and 4/8. As the season progresses, I will update the walk leaders. If you like to plan way ahead, check nycaudubon.org, many of the trips and leaders are announced along with other events at other venues.
Joe and I will likely do some mid-week walks if we see a big influx of birds or if something special is seen. Remember to look up, the warblers are coming
Here's a list of the approximate times of bird arrivals for spring migration, according to the famous "Bull's Birds of NY State." Some of the listed birds have already arrived or have over wintered here.
I don't remember seeing a single Fox Sparrow in the park this winter. This is a photo taken a few years ago near the swinging gate going up the hill to Hunter Island.
A Brown Creeper in early April.
Male and Female Wood Ducks at the Bronx Botanical Garden. You can also find them at Van Cortlandt Park. I've seen them rarely at Turtle Pond. This photo was taken in mid-March.
Eastern Meadowlark may also be here soon. You can find them in the southern zone of the park. Another good spot is Ferry Point Park.
Killdeer have already returned. You can find them in the small traffic circle, near the Orchard Beach Oval.
Mid March (11-20)- Northern Gannet, Black-crowned Night Heron, Snow Goose, Turkey Vulture, Piping Plover, Wilson's Snipe, Mourning Dove, Belted Kingfisher, Northern Flicker, Eatern Phoebe, Fish Crow, American Pipit, Eastern Meadowlark, Brown-headed Cowbird.
Late March (21-31) DC Cormorant, Osprey, Greater Yellowlegs, Laughing Gull, Tree Swallow, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Savannah Sparrow, Vesper Sparrow, Field Sparrow
Early April (1-10) Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Bittern, Blue-winged Teal, Broad-winged Hawk, Merlin, Pectoral Sandpiper, Sapsucker, Brown Creeper, Hermit Thrush, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Pine Warbler, Palm Warbler, Towhee, Chipping Sparrow Swamp Sparrow.