Norfolk Birders

Norfolk Birdwatching and beyond!

USA 2009


Trip Report to New York USA 

1st- 3rd January 2009

Sue Bryan and Paul Jeffery



This short family holiday was organized by ourselves as a visit to Paul’s brother who lives in New York. It was not intended as a birding holiday but we had a few strolls around the city parks and nature reserves as a way of spending time together over the festive season whilst enjoying some of the wintering birds present. We booked our flights rather late at a cost of £417 each from  We stayed with Paul’s brother and wife who live in Brooklyn and either travelled by underground (to Central Park) or in Mark’s pickup truck.


Dec 29th –Dec 31st Heathrow to New York no birding done.

Jan 1st Central Park New York

Jan 2nd Prospect Park Brooklyn New York

Jan 3rd Jamaica Bay New York

Jan 4th Empire State Building no birding done

Jan 5th New York to Heathrow


Bitterly cold with temperatures hovering around freezing with occasional snow showers. Some sun.


Central Park in New York is surprisingly good for birding with plenty of mature trees and a huge lake. It is however very busy with people who sometimes stop to ask what you are looking at. If you are lucky you may find someone with a plentiful supply of bird food who is keen to feed all the wildlife giving good photographic opportunities. 


                                                                                                          Central Park      


Daily Log

29th December

Paul and I flew from Heathrow to Newark Airport, New York. Whilst walking along corridors to collect our luggage in Newark we spotted a Red-tailed Hawk over one of the runways. House Sparrows and European Starlings were around the terminal buildings. It was an eventful start as I was detained and taken away at passport control for apparently having my thumbs the wrong way around!!! It only took two hours to convince them that I had had no surgery since my last visit to the U.S. I was not allowed any communication with Paul who had no idea what was happening. After re-classifying my thumbs I was allowed to proceed and we were picked up by Mark. We spotted a Northern Mockingbird and a Laughing Gull en route to Mark’s apartment.

 30th December

 Unfortunately I suffer badly with migraines and I spent the day in bed feeling very sorry for myself!

 31st December

Mark was busy building four apartments in Brooklyn and Paul and I were taken to see the progress being made. Looking out from the back of them onto yet more apartments with fire-escapes I was pleased to see a Blue Jay and Tufted Titmouse in a small bush that had survived the builders. A Mourning Dove squat huddled on a fire-escape trying to shield itself from the intermittent snow squalls.

 Blue Jay      

Later in the day a trip to Queens saw us walking around the river in the falling snow that was being whipped across us in a horizontal fashion. It was bitterly cold as we watched a Bufflehead land on the water. American Herring Gulls and Mallards were standing forlornly around as Gadwall and Mallards were sheltering under some loading bays.



1st January

I was up early for an early start to the day but everyone else had other ideas so our arrival into Central Park was about mid-day. A huge shame as it was a cold but beautiful sunny day. Common Grackles welcomed us into the park as Blue Jays and Black-capped Chickadees called from the trees above us. A Tufted Titmouse joined me as I tried to grapple with my camera bag with frozen hands.

 Common Grackle
















                                White-throated Sparrow                                                               Tufted Titmouse                                                              

Walking into the park it was very busy with lots of New Year’s Days revelers all taking advantage of the sun. This is a wonderful park that New Yorkers are lucky to have right in the middle of their city. It is surrounded with grand and huge Skyscrapers but with so many mature trees and a lake it provides good habitat for wildlife. A Downy Woodpecker flitted from tree to tree as I attempted to photograph it. It was joined by a Red-bellied Woodpecker and a White-breasted Nuthatch.


White-breasted Nuthatch


















                Downy Woodpecker                                                                 Red-bellied Woodpecker












                             Hooded Merganzer                                                            Pied-billed Grebe

We walked around the edge of the lake where Mallards mixed in with Black Ducks. Hooded Mergansers were spectacular in their breeding plumage. They swam with Ruddy Ducks that have now become difficult to see in Britain now that a cull has taken place. American Coots and Ring-billed Gulls kept the bird list growing. Shovelers and Pied-billed Grebes provided more photographs.









                               Ruddy Duck                                                           American Coot

Further on into the park we came across a lady who was surrounded by squirrels and birds. She had a plentiful supply of bird seed and nuts and was providing enjoyment for many people who stopped to watch the spectacle of dozens of birds and squirrels that were glad of the food. American Robins were also tipping over leaves in the undergrowth looking for food. After taking a food break in the park’s café we came across a Cooper’s Hawk and a Red-tailed Hawk roosting in trees that the park is now famed for.

















                 Cooper’s Hawk                                                    Red-tailed Hawk


2nd January

The day dawned cold and grey as we decided where to go. It was already quite late and we needed a walk to burn off a few calories consumed the night before. I suggested Prospect Park might be a good place as a kindly American birder had suggested it before we left Britain as a good local place to visit. Once again it had good mature trees and a lake. However the weather was unkind and once again it was bitterly cold with intermittent snow showers. This made photography a challenge as there was not enough light for our bigger lenses.










                                                Hermit Thrush                            Fox Sparrow with White-throated Sparrow

Once we arrived in the park a Hermit Thrush flew to a park bench and posed for the camera. A fox sparrow rummaged for food under a feeder as we stood to watch the birds fly to and from the feeder.                         

We wandered on where we watched a variety of birds feeding and flitting amongst the trees. American Robins were everywhere but did not allow close approach for photography purposes. A few Northern Cardinals joined them in the feeding process.













                 Northern Cardinal                               American Robin

We wandered on in the snow flurries and joined New Yorkers feeding all the gulls and ducks by the frozen lake edge. We stopped to admire ‘real’ Canada Geese as well as Black Ducks/Mallards.











               Mallard/Black Duck                                                    Canada Goose

Ring-billed Gull








After a bite to eat and a warm-up in a local café we retraced our steps. We were hoping that the sun would emerge, but it was not to be. The cold certainly bore into us aided by the wind.










                              Prospect Park                                                    Dear-eyed Junco

The snow flurries certainly gave us interesting views of a Northern Mockingbird.

Northern Mockingbird in the snow










3rd January

Mark kindly drove us to Jamaica Bay where last time we had visited New York we had stumbled upon a Nature Reserve. However in mid-winter it was certainly a different place as it was certainly not bustling with birds as it had been last time. By the water’s edge it was bitterly cold and much of the lake had frozen with a few Geese and ducks standing on the ice. Mark and Paul soon disappeared on me so I was left to my own devices. Luckily it is more or less a circular walk. A Snow Goose walked slowly across my path as I watched a Great Blue Heron standing waiting for his lunch.











                                Jamaica Bay                                                                        Snow Goose

I finally caught up with Mark and Paul and told them about a Northern Harrier that I had just seen. Paul teased me about a fabricated Hawk Owl that he had enticed out of an owl box (dream on Paul!) Nearing the end of the track I admired another Northern Cardinal. I would love to have them visit my garden feeders on a cold winter’s day! Another Northern Mockingbird added to the delight as we watched a Yellow-rumped Warbler at a feeding station
















Northern Cardinal                                          Great Blue Heron                                                                    


After some lunch Mark drove us to the beach where we were blown along in the wind. Hundreds of American Herring Gulls were running along the tide-line opening up shellfish along with Sanderlings. Further along the beach Purple Sandpipers were standing on the rocks as Double-crested Cormorants and Common Loons (Great Northern Divers) were fishing further out in the sea. Our day finished as we headed back to the pick-up flushing out a Pheasant as an American Kestrel sat on the wires above us.

Northern Mockingbird






4th January

No birding done at all today as we went up to the top of the Empire State Building in Manhattan. We timed this so that we could watch the sun set and all the lights of New York come on. The view was spectacular! Future visitors need to be aware that queues can be several hours long. We managed to wait only about 20 minutes, but it was mid-winter!

5th January

We had an early morning flight back to the UK, where it was just as cold as we arrived late at night back at Heathrow.

Systematic List

  1. Great Northern Diver Gavia immer 03/01/2009 Jamaica Bay New York
  2. Pied-billed Grebe Podilymbus podiceps 01/01/2009 Central Park New York
  3. Northern Gannet Morus bassanus 03/01/2009 Jamaica Bay New York
  4. Double-crested Cormorant Phalacrocorax auritus 03/01/2009 Jamaica Bay New York
  5. Great Blue Heron Ardea herodias herodias [cinerea] 03/01/2009 Jamaica Bay New York
  6. Ruddy Duck Oxyura jamaicensis 01/01/2009 Central Park New York
  7. Mute Swan Cygnus olor 02/01/2009 Prospect Park New York
  8. Snow Goose Anser caerulescens 03/01/2009 Jamaica Bay New York
  9. Canada Goose Branta canadensis 01/01/2009 Central Park Prospect Park New York
  10. Black Brant Branta bernicla nigricans 03/01/2009 Jamaica Bay New York
  11. Gadwall Anas strepera 31/12/2008 New York
  12. Mallard Anas platyrhynchos platyrhynchos 31/12/2008 New York
  13. American Black Duck Anas rubripes 01/01/2009 Central Park New York
  14. Northern Shoveler Anas clypeata 01/01/2009 Central Park New York
  15. Long-tailed Duck Clangula hyemalis 03/01/2009 Jamaica Bay New York
  16. Bufflehead Bucephala albeola 31/12/2008 New York
  17. Hooded Merganser Lophodytes cucullatus 01/01/2009 Central Park New York
  18. Northern Harrier Circus cyaneus hudsonius 03/01/2009 Jamaica Bay New York
  19. Cooper's Hawk Accipiter cooperii 01/01/2009 Central Park New York
  20. Red-tailed Hawk Buteo jamaicensis 29/12/2008 Newark New York
  21. American Kestrel Falco sparverius 03/01/2009 Jamaica Bay New York
  22. Common Pheasant Phasianus colchicus 03/01/2009 Jamaica Bay New York
  23. American Coot Fulica americana 01/01/2009 Central Park, Prospect Park New York
  24. Sanderling Calidris alba 03/01/2009 Jamaica Bay New York
  25. Purple Sandpiper Calidris maritima 03/01/2009 Jamaica Bay New York
  26. Ring-billed Gull Larus delawarensis 31/12/2008 Prospect Park New York
  27. Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 31/12/2008 New York
  28. American Herring Gull Larus argentatus smithsonianus 31/12/2008 Jamaica Bay New York
  29. Laughing Gull Larus atricilla 29/12/2008 Newark New York
  30. Mourning Dove Zenaida macroura 31/12/2008 Newark Brooklyn New York
  31. Short-eared Owl Asio flammeus 02/01/2009 Prospect Park New York
  32. Red-bellied Woodpecker Melanerpes carolinus 01/01/2009 Central Park Prospect Park New York
  33. Downy Woodpecker Picoides pubescens 01/01/2009 Central Park New York
  34. Northern Mockingbird Mimus polyglottos 29/12/2008 Prospect Park, Brooklyn, New York
  35. Hermit Thrush Catharus guttatus 02/01/2009 Prospect Park New York
  36. American Robin Turdus migratorius 01/01/2009 Central Park Prospect Park New York
  37. Ruby-crowned Kinglet Regulus calendula 02/01/2009 Prospect Park New York
  38. Black-capped Chickadee Parus atricapillus 01/01/2009 Central Park New York
  39. Tufted Titmouse Parus bicolor 31/12/2008 Prospect Park New York
  40. White-breasted Nuthatch Sitta carolinensis 01/01/2009 Central Park New York
  41. Brown Creeper Certhia americana 02/01/2009 Prospect Park New York
  42. Blue Jay Cyanocitta cristata 31/12/2008 Brooklyn Central Park Prospect Park New York
  43. Common Starling Sturnus vulgaris 29/12/2008 Newark New York
  44. House Sparrow Passer domesticus 29/12/2008 Newark New York
  45. Pine Siskin Carduelis pinus 02/01/2009 Prospect Park New York
  46. American Goldfinch Carduelis tristis 02/01/2009 Prospect Park New York
  47. House Finch Carpodacus mexicanus 02/01/2009 Prospect Park New York
  48. Yellow-rumped Warbler Dendroica coronata 03/01/2009 Jamaica Bay New York
  49. Fox Sparrow Passerella iliaca 02/01/2009 Prospect Park New York
  50. Song Sparrow Melospiza melodia 31/12/2008 New York
  51. White-throated Sparrow Zonotrichia albicollis 01/01/2009 Central Park Prospect Park Jamaica Bay New York
  52. Dark-eyed Junco Junco hyemalis 31/12/2008 Brooklyn New York
  53. Northern Cardinal Cardinalis cardinalis 01/01/2009 Central Park Jamaica Bay New York
  54. Red-winged Blackbird Agelaius phoeniceus 02/01/2009 Prospect Park New York
  55. Common Grackle Quiscalus quiscula 01/01/2009 Central Park New York





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