2017 Field Observations
Contributed by LSNY Members
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American Woodcock Event in Central Park — March 15 – 17, 2017
Submitted by: Anders Peltomaa
The 2000-5 Atlas of Breeding Birds in New York State reports that American Woodcock was found breeding in 204 out of 5333 atlas blocks. This was a 49 percent decline from the first atlas, which was conducted 20 years earlier.
The maxima counts reported in Bull’s Birds of New York State (1998) in the state are: 30 Monroe Co. 26 March 1963; 25 near Rochester, Monroe Co. 7 April 1954; 18 East Hampton, Suffolk, Co. 31 October 1944. After a snowstorm on 26 February 1992 a flock of 20 birds landed at a feeder in Calicoon Center, Suffolk Co. The high count in the eBird data for New York State is 30 Rensselaer Co. April 6 2015.
The sighting in 1992 seems to have been after similar weather conditions that led to the large numbers of American Woodcocks that were found after the passage of winter storm Stella on March 14. During the storm 7.6 inches of snow fell in Central Park and the maximum, resp. minimum temperature for the period 3/11 through 3/17 stayed below freezing. The temperature fluctuated between a low 17 to a high slightly above freeing.
During the day there were many reports of multiple American Woodcock sightings from Central Park in New York City so I rallied around the Ramble between 6:20 and 7:15pm. I counted no less than THIRTEEN Woodcocks: 2 in the stream from Azalea Pond to the Oven, 5 in the Oven, 1 by the Rustic Bridge where the Gill flows into the Lake, 1 at the Upper Lobe, and 4 by Triplets’ Bridge.
I went into the park at around 8:20am in a search of Timberdoodles. By Triplets Bridge I directly saw 2 woodcocks feeding near the Rustic Bridge, another birder showed up and with more eyes, we quickly found more. Two were standing close together a bit downstream. Five were huddling in two groups near a boulder about 15 feet from the bridge. Then as the icing on the woodcock bonanza we spotted a Wilson’s Snipe, which is a much rarer sight in the park. So a total of NINE American Woodcocks within 50 feet of each other and one Snipe. Amazing!
From there I walked into the Ramble proper. By the Rustic Bridge by the Lake, where the Gill flows out, I found Woodcock number 10. Following a tip from Ed Gaillard I next went to the stream above the Oven, where he had just seen 2 woodcocks and they were still there. My count rose to twelve.
In the Oven proper I saw a group of no less than 5 Woodcocks snuggling together near a rock as a single bird walked nearby. Out on the Point, I found one Woodcock sitting in the water stream. On the opposite shore by the Riviera I spotted 2 more. Running count was now TWENTY-ONE.
An incredible morning and I couldn’t believe the numbers of American Woodcocks I had seen. Mindboggling!
Later in the day I read reports from the North End of the park, where another birder had counted 19 American Woodcocks. Andrew Farnsworth (pers. comm.) figured that the total number for Central Park for the day was 46 American Woodcock. He had seen a few in the South End of the park himself and then when he left, actually found one underground in the Columbus Circle subway station!
The timing of Winter Storm Stella created a Woodcock Bonanza for birders, but a precarious situation for the woodcocks themselves. During the day of March 16 several reported seeing raptors predating on woodcocks. A few were also found dead without visible injuries. They had probably succumbed to the harsh conditions.
I found one dead in the Oven. It was lying in the same location, where the Woodcock group had been sitting in the morning. In the field I had noted 5, but later when studying my photos I could see that there had been 6 in the group. So my count for the day was actually 22, not 21.
The Wild Bird Fund rehab center admitted 55 American Woodcocks.
The Wilson’s Snipe continued by Triplets Bridge together with a much reduced number of American Woodcocks. In the Oven birders reported 3 American Woodcocks. The count for the day did not reach double digits.
- “An Early Bird Gets Caught in the Snowstorm”, New York Times - 3/18/2017
- Woodcock Fall by Sherry Felix - 3/17/2017