Spring 2011 Bird Census
Birding Governors Island
April 18, 2011
Park Volunteer Annie Barry
The day began with a fine spring morning, sunny, cool and breezy. The weekend before had been rainy and windy, the kind of weather that keeps migrating birds from taking off for their summer stomping grounds. But today was another matter, with weather just right for a wave of early migrants to begin their journey. There was not a huge number on the island today, but enough to announce that migration is underway. They shared the island with year-round residents, winter lingerers and a few early summer arrivals, reminding us once again that avian migration is not like a changing of the guard, but rather a constant shifting and overlapping of arriving and departing birds.
Migrating birds included palm warblers (14), yellow-rumped warblers (1 female, 5 male), an eastern phoebe, ruby-crowned kinglets (5), a golden-crowned kinglet, brown thrashers (2), a winter wren, and hermit thrushes (4). I spotted 9 song sparrows, some of which will continue on while a few will remain for the summer. I also saw a lot of northern flickers, which are short-distance migrants. The Parade Ground was covered with at least 40 of these ground-foraging woodpeckers. The Parade Ground on Governors Island is the only place in New York where I’ve seen such large gathering of flickers in one place. It is a large field with very light human traffic in the off-season, so it is a perfect place for flickers to stop for a day or two during their migration, as long as they avoid the hawks and falcons in the area.
Winter lingerers included buffleheads (3 female, 1 male), a female red-breasted merganser, brants (13-significantly down from the 400 I spotted back on 3/15/11!), white-throated sparrows (33), and juncos (8 female, 15 male, 1 unknown).
There were a few summer residents already on (or over) the island. Laughing gulls (2) a killdeer and northern rough-winged swallows (10) have already arrived. The swallows may stay for only a short time. In past years they always departed by early summer.
Finally, there were plenty of year-round residents to see. Canada geese (61) were scattered about the island, with many of them hissing at me to keep me away from their nests. So I kept away. There were also mallards (4 females and 4 males), a male American black duck, double-crested cormorants (4), herring gulls (8), a great black-backed gull, an immature Cooper’s hawk, mourning doves (3), pigeons (3), crows (13), a grackle, robins (24-some of these may have been migrating), mockingbirds (3), a brown creeper, chickadees (3), two female white-breasted nuthatches, a male downy, starlings (59), four male brown-headed cowbirds, a male northern cardinal, house sparrows (50) and house finches (1 female, 2 male).
Did You Know?
In 1860, nearly half of the enlisted men stationed on Governors Island had immigrated to New York from either Ireland or Germany. Women immigrants from these countries also took their first jobs "off the boat" as maids and servants in the officers' homes on the island.