Bronx Bird Count

Boxing day I did the Bronx/Westchester Christmas Bird Count for the first time. I was on the Van Cortland Park team led by Christopher Lyons. John Young and Chuck McAlexander were the other two birders. Not counting the European Starlings and Rock Pigeons in the subway station, my first birds were five American Robins on the Parade Ground as I walked in to meet up with the team at the North end of the lake.

The lake had about 700 Canada Geese, four Mute Swans, some Mallards, some American Black Ducks, and about a dozen Hooded Mergansers. (I wasn’t keeping the official count for the day, so don’t expect exact numbers here.) A large mixed flock of blackbirds, starlings, and grackles was roosting in nearby trees across the water. However in the cloudy early morning light it was difficult to identify or count them with any certainty. Ring-billed gulls flew over regularly.

Next we walked to the wooden bridge where Chris spread out some sunflower seed that attracted numerous Tufted Titmice, Black-capped Chickadees. White-throated Sparrows, a Song Sparrow, Downy Woodpecker, and Red-bellied Woodpecker. We added several more black ducks and mergansers.

After we’d satisfied ourselves that we were mostly seeing the same birds repeatedly, we turned around to walk back to the north end of the lake. I did a quick scan of the golf course, and spotted our first American Tree Sparrow feeding on the green. I misidentified it as a Chipping Sparrow, but fortunately Chuck and Chris corrected me. (I’m not very familiar with tree sparrows. For some reason they’re much more common in the Bronx than here in Brooklyn. I’m not sure why.)

We walked over to Tibbett’s Wetland, which was one of the most productive sites of the day. I spotted our only Eastern Towhee that day. Chuck found a Ring-necked Pheasant. Fox Sparrow, Northern Flicker, and Northern Mockingbird followed in rapid succession. Chris found a Swamp Sparrow. I also heard our first American Crow. Nobody else heard it, but it soon flew over confirming my auditory ID.

We walked back along the lake, and heard a Belted Kingfisher calling. We also spotted the first and only Gadwall of the day on the water. Throughout this time, it had been drizzling off and on. However as we walked up into the Northwest woods, the heavens opened; and we got thoroughly soaked. It was never quite pouring, but it was quite cold and quite wet. Thoroughly miserable all around, plus the birds went into hiding. All we found were Northern Cardinals, Blue Jays, some more Black-capped Chickadees, and a few American Robins.

Around noon the Sun finally came out as we headed into the Northeast Woods. Here we found Hermit Thrush, more robins, some House Sparrows, Red-winged Blackbirds, White-breasted Nuthatches, Fox Sparrow, and Red-tailed Hawk. We looked for owls, but none were found. We finished up in the nursery where a large flock of American Goldfinch (previously only heard) and Dark-eyed Juncos was feeding.

At 2:00 we joined up with several other groups in Woodlawn cemetery to compare notes. I had planned to stay for the whole day, but I was cold and wet, so when a ride back to Brooklyn presented itself, I took it. (Thanks Steve!)

I’m not sure what the final count for the day was. Here’s my personal tally:

Species Name

Number Reported
Canada Goose X
Mute Swan 4
Gadwall 1
American Black Duck 6
Mallard X
Hooded Merganser 11
Ring-necked Pheasant 1
Red-tailed Hawk 3
Ring-billed Gull X
Rock Pigeon 30
Mourning Dove 6
Belted Kingfisher 1
Red-bellied Woodpecker 3
Downy Woodpecker 4
Northern Flicker 1
Blue Jay X
American Crow 2
Black-capped Chickadee X
Tufted Titmouse X
White-breasted Nuthatch 4
Hermit Thrush 2
American Robin 25
Northern Mockingbird 2
European Starling X
Eastern Towhee 1
American Tree Sparrow 2
Fox Sparrow 2
Song Sparrow 4
White-throated Sparrow X
Dark-eyed Junco X
Northern Cardinal 4
Red-winged Blackbird X
Common Grackle X
American Goldfinch 2
House Sparrow 10

One Response to “Bronx Bird Count”

  1. Mokka mit Schlag » #338-340 at Arastradero Says:

    […] Birding in the rain is not the best, but this was at least California rain: not especially cold or heavy. It wasn’t nearly as bad as 2005’s Bronx Bird Count. We aimed across the road an up the hill picking up California Towhee. […]

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