Phenology a bit closer to home

Tuesday, November 20th, 2018, 12-1 pm

Link to spot:,-73.9690711,165m/data=!3m1!1e3!4m5!3m4!1s0x89c2589232f63bb1:0x8f24b441c268a5f9!8m2!3d40.7768215!4d-73.968892

Weather: Cloudy

Birds seen at this spot: Tufted Titmouse, Black-Capped Chickadee, White-Breasted Nuthatch, Ruby-Crowned Kinglet, White-Throated Sparrow, House Sparrow, House Finch, American Goldfinch, Downy Woodpecker, Mourning Dove

Leopold’s Style:

Today, I went for a stroll in one of my favorite areas of New York City’s Central Park: the Evodia Field bird feeders. Under the canopy of Red Oaks lie the swarms of seed-eating birds surrounding an array of almost two dozen feeding stations. Of all its visitors, the Tufted Titmice are most charming, particularly because their antics always interest me. I watch one chow down on a suet cake, one of the most nutritious items in the forest.

Tufted Titmouse on its suet cake

Just as he was settling into his feast, something catches his eye. A rival! The two blue-and-white warriors squabble through the air, squeaking and pecking at each other. Finally, they separate, with the rival depleted of stamina. Our titmouse has won the battle, and so returns to his feast.

The Gill

Not far from the feeders lies a small stream colloquially known as the Gill. It starts out with a small waterfall, that widens up into Azalea Pond, then twists and turns farther down, eventually flowing into the Lake. At the mouth, I stood, waiting for some natural event to happen. Suddenly, a flock of yellow jewels flutter down into the stream. These American Goldfinches clearly must’ve gotten a bit dirty with their heads inside the seed feeders. One by one, they dip their bodies into the water, ridding themselves of all the grime that has accumulated throughout the day. They then fly into the bare branches above, spend a few minutes drying off, and then go back to the sources of nourishment they subsist on.

American Goldfinches bathing in the Gill

Holland’s Style:

Evodia Field is radically different from the Centennial Thicket. To start, there is no snow on the ground, and it is much warmer. Most of the tree species present in the area are also completely different, and many of them still retain most of their leaves. One species present in both spots is the Northern Red Oak, with several 80-foot giants towering over the relatively low bird feeders.

The canopy of oaks

Speaking of birds, there are a lot more of them than at the Centennial Thicket, with hundreds of individuals of around a dozen species present, compared to the paltry dozen or so birds of four or five species being seen right now. I also saw a migrant species that has long disappeared from the Champlain Valley, two Ruby-Crowned Kinglets. Hardy as they are, these tiny olive birds still migrate, but are more likely to stick around for longer where it is warmer. Every year, a few may even overwinter in the area!

A native White-Throated Sparrow (front) with a non-native House Sparrow, the latter of which isn’t found in Centennial Woods.

Most notably, Evodia Field is much more altered by humans than the Centennial Thicket. While the thicket only contains one dirt path, Evodia Field contains several fenced-in paved paths. Furthermore, the bird feeders are a major human intervention of the natural cycles. They bring hundreds of birds into a very small area, particularly titmice, sparrows, and finches. It is like an artificial oasis for avian life, and one that I will surely miss once I head back to Vermont.

A bit of a side note is that many finches are coming down from up north! This is known as an irruption, when you get a lot of a species that you typically see very few of during a typical fall/winter. On 19th, I saw several Purple Finches in Central Park, and even a rare Evening Grosbeak!


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