Every December Adele Gotlib organizes the northern Manhattan portion of the Lower Hudson Christmas Bird Count. On Sunday, December 14 the group met at Dyckman Street and the Hudson River at 7:30 - 7:45 am. From the end of the pier there James Knox spotted, and I managed to miss (!), what was easily the best bird of the day - a Purple Sandpiper on the rocks below the La Marina restaurant just south of the pier. This is possibly a first record for the species here in northern Manhattan. To be fair to myself, nearly everyone in the group missed the bird. James spotted it and only a couple of others saw it before it disappeared around the south side of the rocks. Everyone headed down the new bike trail to try for the bird, but it was not found again.
After the frustrating miss at the pier we broke into groups to cover different areas. Seven birders and I headed up into the woods in Inwood Hill Park, while Adele led a group along the Hudson north through the ball fields. James took others to Swindler's Cove and Highbridge Park and others headed down to Fort Tryon Park. The eight of us in the woods further divided into two groups of four to scour the woods along the ridge in Inwood. And it did need to be a scour. I have been doing the bird count in Inwood for about twenty years now and this was probably about the quietest I have ever found the woods. A few titmice, even fewer chickadees, White-throated Sparrows, White-breasted Nuthatch, Downy, Hairy, and Red-bellied woodpeckers, a couple of Red-tailed Hawks were about all we found. The best species I saw from the ridge was two Red-breasted Mergansers flying over and out to the river. The most activity was in the Clove where people put out bird seed. Late-morning most of the Inwood counters rendezvoused at Muscota Marsh at the 218th Street entrance to the park, where a number of us warmed ourselves with takeout hot chocolates from the Indian Road Cafe. We did pick up a few more birds here with a Cooper's Hawk sitting in a tree across the small bay and an immature Black-crowned Night-Heron flying in to join a second immature roosting in the trees on the edge of the point. James called me on my cell at that point to ask how things were going and when people would be meeting again down on Dyckman where Adele had arranged for the NYC Parks Department building by the playground to be open for the group. James had done better than the rest of us with a Baltimore Oriole and a Black-throated Blue Warbler down by Swindler's Cove.
The group broke up at Muscota Marsh with some heading home and Adele and some heading back to Dyckman. Ann (who had joined us at Muscota) and I in to our apartment for lunch with a guest we had staying with us. After lunch I went back down to the pier at Dyckman to try another search for the Purple Sandpiper. I was unsuccessful, but did run intro Adele and some of the others again. A few of us decided to walk down the bike path along the river to its end in case the sandpiper was along the rocks somewhere. I spotted a raven flying over the Palisades across the Hudson, which I first thought wouldn't count for the day since it was in New Jersey, but then remembered, of course it did since this was the Lower Hudson Count and was not restricted to New York. On t5he way down the bike path we ran into James coming back. He had seen a Bald Eagle soaring over - another nice addition to the day's list. We continued to the turnaround at the end of the bike path and as we headed back north Adele spotted a Bald Eagle overhead. It was a subadult in an interesting plumage. It had a full white head and tail, but still had considerable white underneath the wings and on the underside of the body. I called James to ask him what plumage his eagle had been in. He told me his had been a young, all dark bird, so this was a second Bald Eagle for the day. Further up the bike path Adele spotted a western race Palm Warbler ahead of us for another nice addition to the day's list. The afternoon's birding proved to be more interesting than the morning's mostly empty walk through the woods!