Mike Yuan, center, peers through the rain and mist to find sightings of songbirds in the distance.

May 20


A Treat for the Eyes and Ears as Songbirds Migrate North Over Canarsie Park

May 20, 2022

Heavy fog and mist couldn’t stop a determined group of birders from joining together in front of the Park House at Seaview Avenue and East 88th Street for the World Migratory Bird Day Walk in Canarsie Park early Saturday morning.

The free walk hosted by the NYC Audubon Society and the Parks Department was led by Executive Vice President, NYC Audubon Board of Directors Mike Yuan and took place during the peak migration of songbirds and warblers.

“Today, obviously it’s a bit foggy out, but it might be a good thing for birds,” Yuan said as he explained that the fog would keep the birds lower to the ground and easier to see.

“As a rule on my walk, if you see anything, say it,” he said. “Don’t tell me five minutes later.” Everyone acted as spotters and as soon as he said it, someone pointed out a red-winged blackbird.

Chimney swifts, mockingbirds, robins, brant geese, yellow warblers, gray catbirds, cardinals, yellow birds, grosbeaks, black and white warblers, blue-gray gnatcatchers, waxwings, house wrens,  Baltimore orioles, fish crows, black-crowned night herons, a great egret, swallows, American redstarts and more were also spotted on the bird walk, by the freshwater ponds and near the small beach under the Belt Parkway.

Yuan, whose interest in birding began 13 years ago, would listen carefully for the different bird songs. Once a bird was identified, he would share his encyclopedic knowledge with the group.

For example, he said that chimney swifts look like cigars flying around with wings that have a really stiff wing beat. They’re called that because they nest in our chimneys. They can’t perch and have little feet that can only hold onto the sides of things. They can’t sit upright like other birds. They fly all day long and are here for the summer. Unlike the chimney swifts, brant geese winter here and are preparing to go up north.

The group was surrounded by a concert of bird sounds. Yuan zeroed in on a warbling vireo by the sound of its long, unbroken song, followed by a short one. He said that they breed in the park and will be here all summer.

Grosbeaks have a black back with a stunning red bib on the front of a white breast. “I’ve been coming here for a few years and this is the first year I’ve seen them, said one bird enthusiast who was specifically looking for this bird. “They have a call that sounds like sneakers on a basketball court,” Yuan said.

Yuan said to watch the habit of the black and white warbler who goes up and down the trees’ branches and trunk looking for insects in the bark. “Beautiful” could be heard shouted out as the group saw the  bird with very distinctive contrasting black and white markings over its body.

Yuan said that all the birds are in a rush to get to their breeding ground coming from as far as Central America and traveling up to Canada. In the spring they’re singing much more and are in breeding plumage.

“Birds are amazing,” Yuan said. “There’s a blackpoll warbler that flies from New York City to Venezuela in one flight — 80 hours in the air.”

“How does climate change affect bird migration?” group member Tequila Minsky asked. “It affects their range of where they will breed,” Yuan replied, citing the example of the red-bellied woodpecker and mockingbird, which used to be southern birds and are now found everywhere here.

World Migratory Bird Day is celebrated in the spring and fall. Yuan also guided the free migratory bird walk last fall in Canarsie Park as reported in the October 4, 2021 issue of the Canarsie Courier (canarsiecourier.com/nyc-audubon-hosts-free-bird-walks-at-canarsie-park-p7842-199.htm).

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