Red-tailed Hawk Central Park NYC


Big Apple, here we come! Mrs RH has business there next week. Sometimes, if I have behaved particularly well for an extended period – 2 years on average – I am invited to go along on her US trips. Providing I can grab a cheap fare as well. Well, sorted! NYC is my absolutely favourite capital city. Along with Marsh Harbour, obvs. And maybe Paris. Not London, we live there. Too close to home. 

Northern Mockingbird, High Line, NYCNorthern Mockingbird NYC High Line

I never go shopping, but I have specific must-dos. Route 66 on 9th for the best breakfast ever. Walking the wonderful new High Line park, extended since we were last there. The Staten Island Ferry out and straight back for the best free ‘Manhattan view plus water ride’ experience. The Tramway cable car to Roosevelt Island to visit the beautifully restored Blackwell Farmhouse which dates from 1796 and is arguably NYC’s oldest surviving residential building (not many people know this). Then a brisk walk to Lighthouse Point for a winter picnic. This is where, one day, I plan to catch a fish – any fish – on the fly in the East River. I’ve debated packing a small travel rod & reel this time but it is not an ideal time of year, frankly, and I don’t want to set myself up for failure in what will anyway be a hard task…

A Herring Gull provides irrefutable proof that there is piscine life in the East River even in winter
Life in the East River NY

Mallards in Central park: a male and a LEUCISTIC femaleMallard (m) NYC Central Park Mallard (f) - leucistic NYC Central Park

And to people’s complete bemusement (sample comment: “Are you quite mad?”) I go birding. NYC is a great place for it, being on a major migration flyway. Central Park is fantastic, especially the Ramble, the Reservoir, and the lesser known wild areas at the top end – the Loch, the Ravine, Harlem Meer. Prospect Park Brooklyn is another great place, with wild woodland and lakes for many water bird species. There’s a wildlife refuge at Jamaica Bay which looks worth exploring too, though it’s a bit of a trek. Anyway, here are a few Big Apple birds that are found on – or at least recorded for – Abaco (some very rarely, it has to be said).

Ring-billed and Herring Gulls on the Staten Island FerryRing-billed Gull NYC Staten Island Ferry Ring-billed Gull NYC 2 Staten Island FerryHerring Gull NYC 2 Staten Island FerryHerring Gull NYC Staten Island Ferry

Male & female Hooded Mergansers on the JKO Reservoir, Central ParkHooded Merganser (m) NYC JKO Reservoir Hooded Merganser (f) 2 NYC JKO Reservoir

Male House Sparrow (Central Park) & female (Prospect Park, Brooklyn)House Sparrow NYC Central Park House Sparrow (f) NYC Prospect Park

Rock Pigeon, Central ParkRock Pigeon NYC

Eurasian Starling (High Line Park)Starling NYC High Line Park

Canada Goose on ice (Prospect Park, Brooklyn)Canada Goose NYC Prospect Park

American Robin (Prospect Park, Brooklyn)American Robin NYC Prospect Park

Poor photo of a Coot (Harlem Meer, Central park)Coot NYC Central Park Harlem Meer

Ultra-shy Red-winged Blackbird (Prospect Park, Brooklyn)Red-winged Blackbird NYC Prospect ParkI can only get away with crap photos like this because it’s my blog & your decision to put up with it

Bufflehead, JKO Reservoir Central ParkBufflehead NYC JKO Reservoir Central ParkA bird recorded once or perhaps twice for Abaco in the last 60 years. I have better photos than this, but this one best illustrates your chance of seeing one on Abaco – vanishing…

Hairy** Red-bellied Woodpecker (The Ramble, Central Park)Hairy Woodpecker NYC The Ramble Central Park

Red-tailed Hawk NYC (Prospect Park Brooklyn)Red-tailed Hawk NYC Prospect Park BrooklynThe RTH header image was taken in the Ramble, Central Park

** As Woody Bracey has been quick to point out, this is in fact a Red-bellied Woodpecker, not a Hairy Woodpecker. Unlike the HWP, the RBW is not recorded for Abaco. HOWEVER I do have a HWP photo from Central Park somewhere, and if I can find it I’ll substitute it and make it right!

All photos, good, bad and indifferent: The Author


American Robin, Abaco - Bruce Hallett

In 2012 I wrote a post about the comparative rarity of the American Robin on Abaco, which had surprised me. They overwinter in Florida, and they might conceivably range further more often than they do. It turned out that one or two may be reported one year, none the next. I listed a number of sightings and some comments by Woody Bracey, but I lacked any photos of these birds taken on Abaco. I had to make do with wiki and bad ones taken in the US by me (including stuffed ones in the Natural History Museum, NYC – an act of desperation!). You can see the post HERE

Nina Henry, a photographic contributor to BIRDS OF ABACO, had some good fortune last March 2014 when she found these 3 birds during her trip to Abaco. Maybe March is a good time for them – perhaps a few call in as they start to make their way north for the summer. 

AMERICAN ROBIN, Abaco 1- Nina Henry AMERICAN ROBIN, Abaco 2- Nina Henry AMERICAN ROBIN, Abaco 3- Nina Henry

Many past sightings have been on the Cays rather than the main island.  Here’s a recent photograph taken by Charmaine Albury on Man-o-Way Cay

American Robin Man-o-War Cay Abaco (Charmaine Albury)

Meanwhile I have been able to improve slightly on the tiny distant AMRO I posted before, with one taken more recently – still not on Abaco but in NYC. Closer, but definitely no cigar yet…

American Robin, NYC (Rolling Harbour)

 Credits: Bruce Hallett (header), Nina Henry x 3, Charmaine Albury, RH


I am prompted to write this post after Brigitte Carey, commenting on a photograph of mine of a European robin, commented  “We actually have reports of one single robin on Elbow Cay. We think he was blown off course by the very strong winds we had a few weeks ago. He has been sighted in separate spots on Elbow Cay in the last couple of weeks. Poor guy…he’ll have a lonely life here!”

I wondered what other evidence exists of their presence on Abaco as occasional visitors – the northern Bahamas are not within their usual migratory range – so I did a bit of research


YELLOW – summer-only range

GREEN – all year-round

BLUE – winter-only migration range

I’ve checked various online databases – Avibase, e-bird for example –  for reported sightings. The evidence is that reports are very scarce indeed. Of course that does not necessarily reflect actual sightings, which are presumably more numerous. Overall however, American Robins certainly seem rare enough on Abaco, even though their full range includes nearby Florida. Which is why the recent reports Brigitte refers to are so significant.Fortunately the spotter Michele S put her brief Elbow Cay / Hope Town sighting report onto e-bird: “After a gale, saw two on the lawn in front of the Lighthouse” This was on Sunday 4 March 2012 at 9.30 a.m, and it would seem they were blown over to Abaco during the high winds. Brigitte will be pleased to hear that there were in fact two of them, so loneliness won’t be a problem… Apart from that very recent sighting, there is a recorded sighting on Man-o-War Cay in 1983; and one on Green Turtle Cay in 2008. Avibase suggests no sightings on South Abaco [except perhaps Marsh Harbour]. The species is however included in the checklist for Little Abaco. If any reader has seen an American robin on Abaco, it would be great to know when and where (using the COMMENT box below), and I will add the details to this post.

NEW – 2012 sightings at TC! Thanks to Elwood D. Bracey MD of Treasure Cay for his comments – and please contact him (or use the COMMENT box) if you can help with his valiant quest to reach the magic 200 species seen – he’s on 170 now:  

“As a birder living on Abaco for the past 20 years I’ve seen over 20 robins here, sometimes as many as 6 in North Abaco at once. This year I had 2 in Treasure Cay and 3 in Crown Haven. They appear on average once every other year. While notable I feel they are almost annual… why some years and not others I’m not sure.

Cedar Waxwings, Dickcissels, and Ruby-crowned kinglets are similar. This year we had our first Swainson’s Hawk for the Caribbean at the organic vegetable farm in North Abaco. It’s still here as is the Canada Goose on the #11 hole at TC Golf Course. It’s nice we have these vagrants and makes for interesting birding. I’m trying for a big year in the Bahamas (no one has ever had over 200 species in 1 year and I’m at 170 so far so if anyone has any unusual sightiongs please call me at 365-8305) [RH note: with only 196 recorded Abaco species on Avibase, this may be difficult to achieve…]. There was a pair of Wood Ducks on the TC GC which I missed. I did find 3 Kirtland’s Warblers [RH note: red-listed as ‘near-threatened’, and only ‘rare / accidental’ on Abaco] near Hole-in-the- Wall in January. Clean lenses and fast focusing!”

Photo Credits for the above images to good old Wiki

Here’s my own photo of an American Robin in Central Park NYC – I didn’t get very close…

These ARs are exhibited in the Museum of Natural History, NYC

Finally, here are 2 European robins for comparison. They are far smaller than the American version, roughly the size of a vireo

This is the photograph that Brigitte commented on – a robin’s Spring song – that I took a few days ago