#390 Connecticut Warbler at Metrotech

I’ve gotten a lot of life birds in Prospect Park, Central Park, Jamaica Bay, and other sites around New York City; but despite working there for ten years, yesterday is the first time I got one in downtown Brooklyn, right in the middle of Metrotech. A Connecticut Warbler, the most elusive of our local warblers, was flitting around in some shrubbery right outside of Rogers Hall at Polytechnic University where I teach.

No pictures yet, but it looks a lot like a female Common Yellowthroat, one of which was also present just to confuse things. However the Connecticut Warbler has a more distinct eye ring and much more yellow all the way down its chest to the undertail coverts, not just on its throat. It usually has a hooded look to it, though that wasn’t as apparent on this individual, apparently a first winter female. Still the yellow was missing from the throat, exactly where you’d expect to find it on the Yellowthroat. This individual was also quite a bit fatter and rounder than the Yellowthroat.

The bird was found Wednesday by Monica Berger and subsequently spotted by Marisa Wohl and several other observers. Connecticut Warblers usually hide in the undergrowth. They’re very shy birds, and consequently quite hard to find. They also only come through our area on Fall migration. During the Spring, they move through the center of the continent; and they never nest around here.

I arrived about 4:30, just in time for my usual office hours. I almost immediately ran into fellow Brooklyn Bird Club members Peter Dorosh, Mary Jo Eyster, and Inara Schwartz who were also out looking for the bird. They’d seen it about 15 minutes earlier, so I decided to hang out a little bit. The bird cooperated, and came out within a couple of minutes. I got a good look at the eye ring but not the rest of the bird.

Since it promptly hid again (they do that a lot) I went inside to drop off my bag, and put a note on the door telling students where to find me; and then went back out. The bird was still hiding, but I sat down on a bench with the group and waited. Then the bird flew out, right into the open on the ground! Oh, wait. That was the Yellowthroat. Damn. (The females of the two species really do look a lot alike.)

Eventually our patience was rewarded as the real Connecticut was spotted several more times (mostly when it flew from branch to branch within the shrubbery) and although it never came out into the open I did get several full-on looks at the bird, and was able to convince myself that I was seeing a Connecticut Warbler and not another Yellowthroat. The light was fading by now (about 5:15 P.M.) but the eye ring and shape of the bird were clearly visible, and so was the yellowish wash all the way down the chest. I never did get a good look at the undertail coverts though.

At one point we were visited by someone who claimed to be the director of public safety (he didn’t specify for what) and wanted to know what we dangerous types were up to. One of the birders who worked two blocks away told him more than he ever wanted to know about Connecticut Warblers, and I think he may have regretted asking the question.

The bird may well have left in last night’s storm, but nonetheless I’m going to stop off there on my way to work this morning and see if I can get it again. It’s been more actively feeding in the morning. This is such a shy bird that seeing it anywhere in the open is a surprise, and seeing it in the middle of hundreds of people moving back and forth all day is a real shock; but sometimes birds on migration take what green space they can find. Still this one must have been pretty tired and hungry to stop at Metrotech.

One Response to “#390 Connecticut Warbler at Metrotech”

  1. Ken Januski Says:

    well told!

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