Best Spots to Watch Spring Bird Migration Through the City

By Aidan Gardiner on May 9, 2014 6:51am 

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 Hundreds of species of birds will make their way through New York City during May as they travel north.
Spring Migrants Visit City
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NEW YORK CITY — Spring migration is bringing some 300 species of birds through city parks this month, giving birders an opportunity to gawk at a colorful spectacle and notch unusual sightings.

On May 4, a birder spotted the bright blue Indigo Bunting on a lawn northwest of Central Park's Lake. Another saw a Scarlet Tanager, a puff of bright red with black wings, in Inwood Hill Park's Clove area.

A lanky Great Egret was seen gliding over Queens' Forest Park.

Migrants are funneled into city parks because they're the few areas of green in the middle of miles of concrete, said Rita McMahon of the Wild Bird Fund, which rescues injured birds.

"We offer places for the birds to rest after they've flown hundreds of miles. It's nice to have a place for 'R and R,'" McMahon said.

"But they do have to make it through the maze of our city and all that glass."

The winged travelers have spent the winter in warmer areas in the south and are returning north to breed, said the New York City Audubon Society's Tod Winston.

"The birds that birders are most excited about tend to be the warblers. They're in their most colorful plumage," Winston said.

A Prothonotary Warbler, with its bright yellow body and gray wings, made camp on May 5 in the bushes around Shake Shack in Madison Square Park. Several Hooded Warblers, little yellow songbirds with a black Balaklava-like patterns on their heads, have been seen around Central Park and a Yellow-throated Warbler was seen singing atop Prospect Park's Lookout Hill on May 4.

Check out the best spots to watch birds this weekend:

► BROOKLYN

On Saturday in Prospect Park, Brooklyn Bird Club will lead an Introduction to Birdwatching at noon. The tour will begin at the parks' Audubon Center near the Lincoln Road/Ocean Avenue Entrance. The tour is an hour long and will be repeated every Saturday through June 28.

The Bird Club will also lead a walk through Greenwood Cemetery. The tour will meet at Prospect Park West and 20th Street at 8 a.m.

Then on Sunday, the Bird Club will participate in what they call the "Big Sit" in which birders will meet at 7:30 a.m. in Prospect Park's Butterfly Meadow.

On both Saturday and Sunday in Prospect Park, anyone can visit the park's Binnen Bridge at 2 p.m. where they'll learn how to make their own binoculars and identify birds during the Prospect Park Alliance's Pop-Up Audubon.

► THE BRONX

On Saturday, the New York City Audubon Society will give a free tour through Van Cortlandt Park along with the park conservancy's staff. The tour will start at 8 a.m. at the park's nature center, near 246th Street and Broadway.

City Island Birds will also meet at 8 a.m. Saturday in Rodman's Neck parking lot in Pelham Bay Park for a morning of bird watching. The walk is advertised as "a more challenging experience" than Central Park bird walks. Attendees should prepare for unpaved paths and insects.

The New York Botanical Garden also hosts a free weekly bird walk lead by Debbie Becker on Saturdays at 11 a.m. and meets at the reflecting pool in the Leon Levy Visitors Center, near Southern Boulevard and Bronx Park Road.

On Sunday, the Audubon Society's Gabriel Willow will guide a tour through Wave Hill park. The tour is free, but admission to the park costs $8 for adults and $2 for children. The tour will begin at the Perkins Visitor Center at 9:30 a.m. Register here.

► MANHATTAN

On Saturday morning at 9 a.m., the Wild Bird Fund will give a guided tour through Central Park that doubles as a photography class with Charles Chessler. The tour will cost $20 and requires a registration email.

The Central Park Conservancy will host a birding event at noon at the park's Belvedere Castle on 79th Street in the middle of the park.

Another Central Park tour on Sunday will begin at 10 a.m. inside the park at 110th Street between Lenox and Fifth Avenue. The tour, which is free, will cater to families and binoculars can be borrowed from the Dana Discovery Center. Only 20 people can participate in the tour so participants should arrive early.

► QUEENS

On Saturday, the Queens Bird Club will go on excursion in Alley Pond Park. They dubbed the event their "Big Day" with the aim of spotting as many species as possible. They'll meet at 6:30 a.m. in the park's parking lot on 76th Avenue, near Springfield Boulevard.

On Sunday, the Urban Park Rangers will lead a free birding walk around the Ridgewood Reservoir in Highland Park. The tour will begin at 10 a.m. in the Vermont Place parking lot.

Also Sunday, the American Littoral Society will lead a free nature hike through Breezy Point. The tour will meet at 10:30 a.m. at Fort Tilden's Building 1 and then carpool to the point. To RSVP email this address or call 718-474-0896.

The Audubon Society also has an in-depth look at birding spots in the borough. Notable areas include the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, Forest Park and the Gateway National Recreation Area, which encompasses Breezy Point, Jacob Riis Park and Fort Tilden.

► STATEN ISLAND

On Wednesday May 14, an organized tour will meet in Mount Loretto Unique Area's DEC parking lot, near 6450 Hylan Blvd. The tour is free.

An intrepid Staten Islander also wrote out birding guides for the island's parks including Cloves Lakes Park, dubbed "the premier migrant trap on Staten Island," Conference House Park, Blue Heron Park and Great Kills Park, which can be a good spot to see water birds.

The Audubon Society also has an in-depth look at birding spots in the borough.

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