Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Prospect Sept 19th ; Winter Finch Forecast

No reports received from anyone today. I had little spare time to see a few spots active, most notably Battle Pass West, the dense foliage "pit" adjacent to the Tunnel Arch stairs where several warblers and a few other species mingled. But the highlight  was after work, a LINCOLN SPARROW in the "Sparrowbowl " along the right side fence , perched in re-sprouted mulberry. It's likely the same bird I saw last week. Check my google maps to see where this spot is if you dont know.

But the Real Spectacle to see took place over the Nethermead. Swarms of CHIMNEY SWIFTS patrolled the late afternoon skies, my conservative estimate is 300 birds..Its probably more but unfortunately I can't count that fast --KB

Prospect Park, Kings, US-NY

Sep 19, 2012 thru the day

Protocol: Incidental

30 species

Canada Goose 56 Lake

Mute Swan 6

Mallard X

Northern Shoveler 6 Lake

Great Blue Heron 1 f/o Nethermead

Red-tailed Hawk 1

Rock Pigeon X

Mourning Dove X

Chimney Swift 300 flyover Nethermead late afternoon

Ruby-throated Hummingbird 1 Well Dr, Jewelweed

Red-bellied Woodpecker 2

Least Flycatcher 1 Batle Pass

Red-eyed Vireo 4

Blue Jay 7

Swainson's Thrush 1 Wellhouse
American Robin X

Gray Catbird X

Northern Mockingbird 1

Black-and-white Warbler 4

Common Yellowthroat 5

American Redstart 3 - 1 Battle Pass

Northern Parula 1 Battle Pass

Magnolia Warbler 2 Battle Pass

Chestnut-sided Warbler 1 Battle Pass
Blackpoll Warbler 1 Well Dr

Black-throated Blue Warbler 2-females, maryMont, Battle Pass

Palm Warbler 1 Maryland Monument

Lincoln's Sparrow 1  Sparrowbowl

Northern Cardinal 2

House Sparrow 45

This report was generated automatically by eBird v3 (


The Winter Finch forecast came out , put forth by Ontario or canadian ornithologist Ron Pittaway. With Red Breasted Nuthatches in many areas and Red Crossbills already seen in Central park, the prospects are good for an exciting winter. See the full report below :

From Ron Pittaway of Ontario Field Ornithologists : his annual winter finch forecast. Although it is intended for the Ontario region, it has always been relevant to the Northeast.The forecast can be read online at :



The theme this winter is that each finch species will use a different

strategy to deal with the widespread tree seed crop failure in the

Northeast. It will be a quiet winter in the eastern North Woods. See

individual species forecasts for details. Both coniferous and hardwood tree

seed crops are generally poor from northeastern Ontario extending eastward

across Quebec to Newfoundland south through the Maritime Provinces, New York

and New England States. Within the Northeast there are pockets of good

crops. Cone crops are much better in the Hudson Bay Lowlands and

northwestern Ontario west to Alberta, Northwest Territories and Yukon. Three

irruptive non‐finch passerines whose movements are linked to finches are

also discussed.


PINE GROSBEAK: A good flight is expected into southern Ontario because the

mountain‐ash berry crop is variable in the boreal forest. Many berries are

hard with low moisture content because of the drought. The European

mountain-ash and ornamental crabapple crops are poor to fair in southern

Ontario so these crops won’t last long. Grosbeaks will be attracted to the

usually abundant buckthorn berries and to bird feeders offering black oil

sunflower seeds. The Ontario breeding population of this grosbeak is stable.

PURPLE FINCH: Most Purple Finches will migrate south of Ontario this fall

because both coniferous and deciduous hardwood seed crops are very low this

year in the Northeast. Purple Finch numbers dropped significantly in recent

decades as spruce budworm outbreaks subsided and currently a moderate

population decline continues in the province.

RED CROSSBILL: Red Crossbills comprise at least 10 “types” in North

America. Each type probably represents a separate or newly evolving species.

Most types are normally impossible to identify in the field without

recordings of their flight calls. Matt Young of The Cornell Lab of

Ornithology reports that there is currently a large early irruption of Type

3 Red Crossbills (smallest billed type) from the west into eastern North

America. Recordings can be made with a cell phone and sent to Matt to be

identified (may6 AT Every recording adds an important piece to

the puzzle, especially when accompanied by notes on behaviour and ecology,

including tree species used for foraging and nesting. Matt emphasizes that

the conservation of call types depends on understanding their complex

distributions and ecological requirements.

WHITE-WINGED CROSSBILL: With very poor spruce cone crops in the Northeast,

most White-winged Crossbills will likely stay this winter in the Hudson Bay

Lowlands, northwestern Ontario and western Canada where spruce cone crops

are generally very good. They will be virtually absent from traditional

hotspots such as Algonquin Park where spruce crops are very low. Wandering

birds may show up throughout the Northeast.

COMMON REDPOLL: There should be a good southward flight because the white

birch seed crop is poor to fair across the north. Watch for redpolls on

birches and in weedy fields and at bird feeders offering nyger (preferred)

and black oil sunflower seeds. Check flocks for the rare “Greater” Common

Redpoll (subspecies rostrata) from the High Arctic. It is reliably

identified by its larger size, darker and browner colour, longer/thicker

bill and longer tail in direct comparison to “Southern” Common Redpolls

(nominate flammea subspecies). Note: The notion of a “biennial

periodicity” that redpolls irrupt south every second winter is not

supported by records in Atlantic Canada (Erskine and McManus 2003). The

authors concluded that "irregular abundance but near-annual occurrence" of

redpolls in the Atlantic Provinces is a better explanation than a two year

cycle. Similarly redpolls were recorded on 32 of 38 Christmas Bird Counts in

Algonquin Park (Lat. 45.5 N), Ontario.

HOARY REDPOLL: Check redpoll flocks for Hoary Redpolls. There are two

subspecies. Most Hoaries seen in southern Canada and northern United States

are “Southern” Hoary Redpolls (subspecies exilipes). “Hornemann’s”

Hoary Redpoll (nominate subspecies hornemanni) from the High Arctic was

previously regarded as a great rarity in southern Canada and the northern

United States. In recent decades a number have been confirmed by

photographs. Hornemann’s is most reliably identified by its larger size in

direct comparison to flammea Common Redpoll or exilipes Hoary Redpoll.

Caution: White birds loom larger than life among darker birds and size

illusions are frequent.

PINE SISKIN: Some siskins currently in the Northeast should move south this

fall and winter because cone crops are poor. However, siskins are an

opportunistic nomad wandering east and west continent-wide in search of cone

crops. Most siskins will probably winter in northwestern Ontario and western

Canada where cone crops are generally very good. Major southward irruptions

occur when cone crops fail across most of North America.

EVENING GROSBEAK: This spectacular grosbeak is ABA’s Bird of the Year in

2012. We can expect some at feeders in central Ontario and probably

elsewhere in the Northeast because coniferous and hardwood tree seed

supplies are low. Highest breeding densities are found in areas with spruce

budworm outbreaks. The larvae are eaten by adults and fed to young. Current

populations are much lower than several decades ago when budworm outbreaks

were much larger and more widespread.

THREE IRRUPTIVE PASSERINES: Movements of the following three species are

often linked to the boreal finches.

BLUE JAY: Expect a smaller flight than last year along the north shorelines

of Lakes Ontario and Erie because the red oak acorn crop is very good in

central Ontario. Beechnut and hazelnut crops were poor to none, but the

acorn crop may be large enough to keep many jays in the north this winter.

RED-BREASTED NUTHATCH: A widespread irruption of this nuthatch beginning in

mid-summer indicated a cone crop failure in the Northeast. Most will leave

the eastern half of the province for the winter, but some will probably

remain in northwestern Ontario where cone crops are much better.

BOHEMIAN WAXWING: Expect a flight this winter because the mountain‐ash

berry crop in the boreal forest was affected by drought. Even though some

areas have large crops, many berries are hard with low moisture content.

Farther south Bohemians will be attracted to the usually abundant buckthorn

berries because European mountain‐ash and ornamental crabapple crops are

generally low and of poor quality.

WHERE TO SEE FINCHES: Algonquin Park is a winter adventure about a three

hour drive north of Toronto, but this will be a very lean finch winter in

the park. Conifer crops are poor to none. Feeders at the Visitor Centre (km

43) should have Pine Grosbeaks, Evening Grosbeaks, and redpolls. The Visitor

Centre and restaurant are open weekends in winter. Arrangements can be made

to view feeders on weekdays by calling 613‐637‐2828. The nearby Spruce Bog

Trail at km 42.5 and Opeongo Road are good spots for Gray Jays, Boreal

Chickadees, Spruce Grouse and Black‐backed Woodpeckers. Be sure to get a

copy of the new “Birds of Algonquin Park” (2012) by Ron Tozer. It is one

of the best regional bird books ever published with lots of information

about winter finches and boreal specialties.

WINTER FINCH BASICS: A primer about finch facts, seed crops and irruptions.

Excellent paper on berry crops in Ontario.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: I thank staff of the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources

designated by an asterisk* and others whose reports allow me to make annual

forecasts: Dennis Barry (Durham Region), Eleanor Beagan (Prince Edward

Island), Pascal Cote (Tadoussac Bird Observatory, Quebec), Bruce Di Labio

(Eastern Ontario and Churchill, Manitoba), Carolle Eady (Dryden), Cameron

Eckert (Yukon), Marcel Gahbauer (Alberta & Northwest Territories), Michel

Gosselin (Canadian Museum of Nature), David Govatski (New Hampshire),

Charity Hendry* (Ontario Tree Seed Facility), Leo Heyens* (Kenora), Tyler

Hoar (Northern Ontario & Quebec Laurentians), Jean Iron (Hudson Bay, James

Bay & Northeastern Ontario), Bruce Mactavish (Newfoundland), Brian Naylor*

(Nipissing), Justin Peter* (Algonquin Park), Genevieve Perreault

(Regroupement QuebecOiseaux), Fred Pinto* (North Bay), Harvey & Brenda

Schmidt (Creighton, Saskatchewan), Ron Tozer (Algonquin Park), Declan Troy

(Alaska), Mike Turner (Haliburton Highlands), John Woodcock (Thunder Cape

Bird Observatory) and Kirk Zufelt (Sault Ste Marie, Ontario). I especially

thank Matt Young of The Cornell Lab of Ornithology for advice and detailed

information about seed crops in New York and adjacent states and for

information about Red Crossbills. Jean Iron proofed the forecast and made

helpful comments.

LITERATURE CITED: Erskine, A.J. and R. McManus, Jr. 2003. Supposed

periodicity of redpoll, Carduelis sp., winter visitations in Atlantic

Canada. Canadian Field-Naturalist 117(4):611-620.

Ron Pittaway

Ontario Field Ornithologists

Minden, Ontario

19 September 2012