Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Inwood Hill Park, winter ducks, Jan - early Mar 2014

This has been an unusually good winter for a good variety of waterfowl at Inwood Hill Park. Most winters the duck assemblage here at the northern tip of Manhattan consists of Canada Geese, Mallards, and a handful of Black Ducks. Canvasbacks used to be regular, but have not been in recent years. In fact it was five years since I last saw them here. This Feb - early Mar they have been back, along with a scattering of other interesting, and in some cases rare for this location, other species. I first saw a male Canvasback in the ship canal this year on Feb 2; so far the maximum was 13 (10 males, 3 females) on Mar 8, including the leucistic male first seen on Mar 6 [see entries for Mar 6 and 8]. The Canvasbacks and the other ducks seen this winter have presumably been a result of the very hard winter we have had with many inland waters frozen. According to news reports over 90% of the Great Lakes are frozen over.

There has been a scattering of scaup around since early Jan (mostly females, but some males). Almost all have been Greaters, but I have seen at least one Lesser. Small numbers of Red-breasted Mergansers, of both sexes, have been round since mid Feb; also the occasional Bufflehead (both sexes). My first big surprise was a male Redhead seen from my apartment window on Feb 23. On Mar 6 while watching the leucistic Canvasback from my apartment, I was stunned to see a male White-winged Scoter fly-by. I later found it swimming and diving in the area east of the Henry Hudson Bridge. That bird has been fairly cooperative and many city birders have come up to the park to add it to their life lists and NY county lists. On Mar 11, I heard from Barbara Saunders that on the previous day she had found five White-winged Scoters on the Hudson south of the railroad bridge that crosses Spuyten Duyvil.

White-winged Scoters, Hudson R., 03/10/14       © Barbara Saunders
This morning, I watched a male White-wing fly in from the Hudson and land in the area east of the bridge. When I went out to the river's edge west of the bridge I spotted four more White-wings on the river north of the railroad bridge, in Bronx County waters.

On Mar 10, I found three American Wigeon in the shallows north of the soccer fields [see that day's entry].

Other birder's have also been turning up interesting ducks here. On Mar 11, while checking the area for ducks, local birder Nadir Souirgi saw a male Ring-necked Duck land in the water north of the soccer field. 

Ring-necked Duck, Inwood Hill Park, 03/11/14     © Nadir Souirgi
This afternoon, I heard from Ken Chaya that before noon he saw both the White-winged Scoter and the Ring-necked Duck in the ship canal east of the Henry Hudson Bridge. I have also heard from other birders of a male Wood Duck seen in the waters north of the soccer fields sporadically in the last week or so. That brings the total to 13 species of waterfowl seen in this normally quiet area in the last six weeks or so. I hope the number continues to grow!

I want to thank Barbara Saunders and Nadir Souirgi for allowing me to post their photographs.

[UPDATE - Mar 16, 2014: I have heard from James Knox and Nadir Souirgi that they have each recently had a female Common Goldeneye inside the railroad bridge and on the Hudson, respectively, in recent weeks. This brings the total waterfowl in the park this winter to 14 species.]

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