An expert birder and naturalist, Gabriel Willow leads walks and excursions all over the world, yet he has an easygoing and accessible way of encouraging new birders without overwhelming them with information. His walks are a regular feature of each season at Wave Hill.
On my last Wave Hill Birding blog post, I celebrated our 100th bird species sighting, and explored the use of the website eBird.org as a database to track bird sightings. We recently had another milestone: the most species of birds spotted in a single day at Wave Hill! This first shot is of a black-throated green warbler, photographed by Jim Wright on a previous birding walk at Wave Hill.
Appropriately, it was during our Mother’s Day walks on May 8th. We had an unusually small group of 3 participants on the morning bird walk, but these lucky few were treated to an amazing spectacle of warblers, orioles, vireos, and other gorgeous spring migrants. It was a cloudy morning, which can be the best weather for birding: it’s easier to see them than in the glare of a bright sunny day, and bird activity tends to be highest when it’s cool and cloudy or even drizzly. They are hungry from flying long distances and need to feed more on cooler days when they are using more energy to keep warm.
We spotted 41 species in 90 minutes on the morning walk, and 35 species on the afternoon family walk. The combined total was exactly 50 species! That’s nearly half of all species previously recorded at Wave Hill. We also added five species that hadn’t previously been seen (or reported at least). It’s entirely possible that someone has seen more species in a day before, but if so, I don’t have access to their records. That’s one of the nice things about the eBird website: it’s a public database, and anyone can access others’ sightings and add their own to a birding “Hotspot” such as Wave Hill.
Now, birding isn’t all about numbers of course. The best part was just being outside on a lovely morning, and appreciating the diversity and beauty of all the birds passing through. Highlights included an adult bald eagle soaring overhead; a broad-winged hawk, en route from South America to its breeding grounds in mature deciduous forest upstate, in New England, or in Canada. We also caught sight of four different species of vireo; 15 species of warbler and both species of oriole found in our region. This next shot is of a Baltimore oriole, taken here at Wave Hill.
Unfortunately, there aren’t that many birders who visit Wave Hill on a regular basis and add their bird observations to eBird.org. Often the only Wave Hill observations recorded are the ones I add after my monthly walks. You can add your voice and your sightings as well! And experience the satisfaction of adding new species to the Wave Hill bird list, which has now reached 108 species. By comparison, Bryant Park in midtown Manhattan has 121 species on its list, but I suspect in reality more species pass through Wave Hill, which certainly has more habitat.
It is currently the later stage of peak spring migration season, so now’s the time to make the most of it and get out looking for migrant birds!
My next Wave Hill walks will be on June 12—a Birding Walk and a Family Nature Walk—, but many birds could be passing through the area between now and then. I hope some readers will head to Wave Hill to look for birds on your own (you can even borrow a pair of binoculars at the Perkins Visitor Center), and also join me on June 12 for the next walks. And don’t forget to add your sightings―whether from your balcony, back yard, or Wave Hill―to eBird.org.