Birding on Governors Island with Annie Barry, May 2010
May 11, 2010
50-55 degrees, partly cloudy, windy
Spring migration is underway but off to a slow start, as weather conditions have prevented large movements of birds. But some migrants are passing through, and some were stopping over on
Other migrating birds included a wood thrush, a female scarlet tanager, catbirds, a Baltimore oriole, and one I've never spotted on the island before, a male rose-breasted grosbeak.* He was foraging among the leaves of a tree in Nolan Park. These birds might spend the summer right here in
Summer residents were on
Permanent residents spotted today included crows, starlings, grackles, robins, mockingbirds, a red-bellied woodpecker, a song sparrow, cardinals, mourning doves, and house sparrows. Great black-backed gulls, laughing gulls, herring gulls, ring-billed gulls, double-crested cormorants, and an American black duck were on island structures or in the surrounding waters. And many, many geese.
Finally, though winter is over, some winter residents remained. A single white throated sparrow foraged in shrubbery in Colonels' Row. Brants still plied the waters around the island in good numbers. Both will be gone before long, but today they reminded me of the overlapping of seasons for birds during migration.
*I am not the first to record birds on
May 17, 2010
65-70 degrees, overcast with some spots of sun, breezy
Other migrants included 4 wood thrushes and a hermit thrush. I especially enjoy the wood thrush, which is a bird which favors deep forests. It has a complicated syrinx, or song box, which allows it to sing two notes at the same time. It can also harmonize with its own voice**. A favorite sound of mine is the haunting song of a wood thrush in the forest of Inwood Hill Park near my home in Upper Manhattan on a summer evening. But alas, these wood thrushes were just visiting
Other birds with interesting singing voices on the island today were catbirds and mockingbirds. When not mewing like a cat, a catbird will string together sounds, often in imitation of other birds. But the best mimic on the island is the mockingbird. A catbird imitation of another bird is often slurred, and it is usually obvious that it is a catbird. The mockingbird, on the other hand, can really fool you as it expertly mimics the birds in its surroundings in a long string of sounds. And it constantly learns new songs and calls as it comes into contact with new birds. A mockingbird on a light stanchion in
There was also an actual blue jay in the Historic District. These birds continue to visit the island in relatively small numbers, except when acorns are abundant. Other birds spotted or heard within the district were cardinals, a Baltimore oriole, house finches, a red-bellied woodpecker, starlings, grackles, house sparrows, a female brown-headed cowbird, a warbling vireo, mourning doves, an adult red-tailed hawk and a black-crowned night heron. A house wren seems to be taking up residence in
On the water were double-crested cormorants, laughing gulls, herring gulls, mallards,
**These and other bird facts from All About Birds.
Did You Know?
West Point graduates William Sherman and William P. Jones started their military careers on Governors Island in 1840. Sherman would fight and survive the Seminole, Mexican and Civil Wars. Jones was posted to Fort McHenry in Baltimore killed when thrown from a horse in 1841. Sherman died in 1891.