Hudson-Delaware: Winter 2017–2018

Winter 2017–2018, Dec. 1–Feb. 28

Frank Rohrbacher

Robert O. Paxton

Shaibal Mitra

Tom Reed

Recommended citation:  Rohrbacher, F., et al. Winter 2017–2018: Hudson-Delaware. <> North American Birds.

At the end of Nov. 2017 in the Hudson-Delaware region, the weather was seasonal.  Then, a large drop in temperature starting in n. and w. NY slowly moved south until it reached DE around Christmas. For the next three to four weeks, it was bitterly cold, with NY below zero by double digits, and DE in the single digits. Almost all the region had high snow totals, with lake-effect snow causing Buffalo, NY to record 112 inches for the year. Red-necked Grebes, Roughed-legged Hawks, and Snowy Owl made it all the way down to DE in February. There were far fewer half-hardy species and warblers recorded on the CBCs, and it’s likely that most of those didn’t make it through Jan. All the winter finches were rare even in NY, very rare in NJ, and absent from DE.

Unusual species in this period included Pink-footed Goose, Barnacle Goose, Tufted Duck, Eared Grebe, Mew Gull, Slaty-backed Gull, Gyrfalcon, Hammond’s Flycatcher, Townsend’s Solitaire, Harris’s Sparrow, Green-tailed Towhee, MacGillivray’s Warbler, and Western Tanager.

Observers (subregional compilers in boldface)

Deborah Allen (Central Park, New York City), Seth Ausubel (Long Island,; Scott Barnes (Voice of New Jersey Audubon), Hope Batcheller (Finger Lakes Region, NY:, Debbie Beer, Gail Benson (NY Area RBA), Michael Bochnik (Lower Hudson Valley,, Jeffrey S. Bolsinger (J. Bo.) (St. Lawrence, NY:, David Brown (D. Br.), Joseph Brin (Syracuse, NY Rare Bird Alert), Thomas W. Burke (New York Rare Bird Alert), Barbara Butler (Dutchess County, NY), Rick Cech, Marc Chelemer (M. C.), Eric Damour, Andy P. Ednie, (Voice of Birdline Delaware), Susan Elbin, Corey Finger, Paul A. Guris, Tom Johnson, Alessa Kegelman, Christopher Lajewski, Laurie Larson (New Jersey Birds listserve), Pat J. Lindsay (Long I. and New York City:, Tony Lauro, (New York Rare Bird Alert), Larry Master, Melanda McCormack (Adirodack-Champlain Region New York:, Shaibal S. Mitra (Long I. Region, NY:, Mike Morgante (Niagara Frontier Region, NY:, Brian Moscatello, Vince Nichnadowicz, David J. Nicosia  (Susquehanna, NY:, Sally O’Byrne, Matt Perry (Oneida Lake Basin Region, NY): Frank Rohrbacher (Delaware:, Joe Swertinski, Robert G Spahn (Genesee, NY:, David Wheeler (Oneida Lake Basin Region,, Lance Verderame (Sullivan County Bird Notes), Will Yandik (Hudson–Mohawk Region, NY:, Angus Wilson.


Alley Pond (Alley Pond Environmental Center, Queens, NY); Cape Henlopen (Cape Henlopen S. P., Sussex, DE); Cape May Point (Cape May Point S. P., Cape May, NJ); Montauk (Montauk Pt., Long I., Suffolk, NY).

Ducks, Geese, and Swans through Typical Owls

Snow Geese, Ross’s Geese, and Cackling Geese were reported in below-average numbers this year in DE and NJ, after arriving three weeks late this winter. The CBCs suggest that DE hosted only about 200,000 and NJ less than 100,000. Only four Pink-footed Geese were reported in our region: one in Coxsackie, Greene, NY 6 Dec. (Richard Guthrie); one at the Montauk Downs Golf Course & Deep Hollow Ranch, Suffolk, NY 28 Nov.4 –Mar. (Bruce Horwith); one on the Somerset County CBC, NJ 17 Dec. 9 (fide John Kee); and one at Warinanco Park, Roselle, Union, NJ 2–20 Feb. (David Bernstein). A ‘Black’ Brant was seen on the L. I. Brooklyn CBC, Kings, NY 16 Dec. (fide RC). Barnacle Geese reports also were well below the levels that we have become used to in the Hudson-Delaware region: one at Playland Lake, Rye, Westchester, NY 29 Jan.–9 Feb. (fide T. B.); two at Gerry Park, Roslyn, Nassau, NY 21 Feb. (Liz DiNapoli); and one at L. Takanasee, Monmouth, NJ (Brett Klaproth).

A few Trumpeter Swans always remain in n. NY even during a cold winter; this year was no exception, with 40 seen on the Montezuma CBC, Cayuga, NY 18 Dec. (fide C. L.). In addition, nine were reported at L. Assunpink, Monmouth, NJ 24 Jan.–1 Feb. (Bob Dodelson), and six were reported on Hardscrabble Road near Jones Crossing Landfill, Sussex, DE 13 Jan. (B. G. P.).

No Tufted Ducks were reported in n. or w. NY, but one was at Santapogue Creek, Lindenhurst, Suffolk, NY 24–27 Dec. (Peter Morris); and one fem. was at Shark R. inlet, Monmouth, NJ 7–22 Jan. (Keith Leonard). The latter was likely the same bird found a few miles away at Lake of the Lillies, Ocean, 18–19 Feb (Alex Tongas). The number of King Eiders and Barrow’s Goldeneyes reported were normal, but were found mostly in NY, including Long Island.

Though widespread in n. NY, Ruffed Grouse numbers were low, and the high count was seven on the Saranac Lake CBC, Clinton, NY 30 Dec. (fide L. M.). Four Eared Grebes were reported in NY, surprisingly all on Long Island: one at Oak Beach, Suffolk, 2 Dec.–16 Feb. (Peter Morris); one at Shinnecock Inlet, Suffolk (Mike McBrien); one in Pelham Bay, Bronx, 12 Jan.–1 Feb. (Matthieu Benoit); and one on the Southern Nassau County CBC 30 Dec. (fide P. L.). The only other report of the species was of one at Round Valley Reservoir, Hunterdon, NJ 10 Jan. (Milton Collins). There were no Western Grebes reported this winter.

The region’s oldest colony of Eurasian Collared-Doves, in Selbyville, Sussex, DE, that started in 1997 and reached a total of 19 birds in 2004, is now down to three birds (fide F. R.). A great selection of hummingbirds was a nice surprise. Even though Ruby-throated Hummingbird breeds here, it is rarer in the winter than some Selasophorus hummingbirds, so it was amazing that two were present well into Dec.: one seen on the Cape May CBC, NJ 17 Dec. (fide T. J.), and one at a feeder during the Rehoboth CBC, Sussex, DE 30–31 Dec. (fide S. O.), although it is possible these sightings were of the same bird. Both sightings were extremely late for this species. The Rehoboth bird and a Selasphorus hummingbird at a feeder in nearby Lewes, Sussex, DE 15 Nov.–31 Dec. (Sally & Bill Fintel) survived the extremely cold week to be counted on CBCs, but did not survive to New Year’s Day. An ad. fem. banded Black-chinned Hummingbird was reported at a feeder in Cape May, NJ 24 Nov.–3 Dec. (Kathy & Roger Horn). A continuing Allen’s Hummingbird in Tuckerton, Ocean, NJ was counted for the Tuckerton CBC 16 Dec, and was present through 1 Jan (David Roth, fide Linda Gangi).

Single Soras were found in NJ on the Sussex County CBC 17 Dec. (fide Marianne Ofenloch), and the Cape May CBC 17 Dec. (fide T. J.). Truly unexpected were two Purple Gallinules that tried to winter on Long Island, but did not make it, and succumbed. The first was a specimen found in Sussex, 17 Jan., according to Paul Sweet, the collection manager at the American Museum of the Natural History, and the second was cared for by a rehabber in Rockville Center, Nassau, who received the bird 14 Jan. before it died two days later. One Common Gallinule was found on the L. L. Brooklyn CBC, Kings, NY 16 Dec. (fide R. C.).

A good-sized flock of Sandhill Cranes was reported roaming in Salem and Cumberland, NJ from 17 Dec. through at least 31 Jan., and another smaller flock was wintering in Somerset, NJ from 30 Dec.–20 Jan. In DE, two Sandhill Cranes seemed to have wandered the state, making appearances at Bombay Hook N. W. R., Kent, 15 Jan. (Kelly Siderio), then at Broadkill Beach Rd., Sussex, 11 Feb. (Sue Gruver), and finally at the Thousand Acre Pond, New Castle, where they staged 14–20 Feb. (J. S.).

An amazing 420 American Oystercatchers were counted during the Oceanville CBC, Atlantic, NJ 16 Dec. (fide B. M.), and 78 more were counted on the Cape May CBC, NJ 17 Dec. (fide T. J.). The Oceanville CBC also reported 115 Willets and 10 Marbled Godwits. There were only two Red Knots which seemed to be wintering in the Hudson-Delaware region this year, both found on South Nassau CBC, Nassau, NY 30 Dec. (fide P. L.). A single Spotted Sandpiper was found on the Smithtown CBC, Suffolk, NY 27 Dec. (fide Richard Gostic).

Dovekies were found on three offshore trips: four on a fishing trip from Brielle, Monmouth, NJ 27 Dec. (M. C., D. B.); one on a ‘See Life Paulagic’ birding trip out of Cape May, NJ 27 Jan. (P. A. G., et al.); and four on the ‘See Life Paulagic’ trip out of Lewes, Sussex, DE 10 Feb. (P. A. G., et al). One Common Murre was reported at Alley Pond 22 Jan. (fide Eve Levine), and another was reported on a ‘See Life Paulagic’ birding trip out of Cape May NJ 27 Jan. (P. A. G., et al). Razorbills were easier to find from onshore this year than offshore, with two on a ‘See Life Paulagic’ birding trip out of Cape May NJ 27 Jan. (P. A. G., et al), and five on the ‘See Life Paulagic’ trip out of Lewes, Sussex, DE 10 Feb. (P. A. G., et al). The only report of Atlantic Puffins was of six on the ‘See Life Paulagic’ trip out of Lewes, Sussex, DE 10 Feb. (P. A. G., et al).

Black-legged Kittiwakes were reported on two offshore trips, with 24 on a fishing trip from Brielle, Monmouth, NJ 27 Dec. (M. C., D. B.) and one on a ‘See Life Paulagic’ birding trip out of Cape May, NJ 27 Dec. (P. A. G., et al). Of course, they are routinely found from shore along the NJ and Long Island coasts, particularly at Montauk. Bonaparte’s Gull, Black-headed Gull and Little Gull numbers were normal. The Laughing Gull count on the CBCs was extremely low, with only a total of seven reported on four CBCs in the entire Region: two on the Brooklyn CBC, Kings, NY 16 Dec. (fide R. C.); three in Central Suffolk County CBC, 27 Dec. (fide Eileen Schwinn); one on the Bronx-Westchester Regional CBC, NY 23 Dec.; and one at the Cherry Island Landfill on the Wilmington CBC, New Castle, DE 16 Dec. (F. R., J. S., Colin Campbell). Mew Gulls were reported from Suffolk to Oswego, but a birder had to be at the right place at the right time. The first sighting was a L. brachyrhynchus in winter plumage at the Veterans Memorial Pier, Brooklyn, Kings, NY 16 Jan. (Shane Blodgett). This was possibly the same bird seen occasionally there for the past two winters. The other three birds appeared singly at Minetto, Oswego, NY 18–19 Jan. (Jay McGowan); Prospect Park, Kings, 20 Jan. (Sean Sime); and Orient, Suffolk, NY 10 Feb. (Alie Ratay). The other great gull of the season was the ad. Slaty-backed Gull that was first found at the lock in Oswego, Oswego, NY 16 Jan.–6 Feb. (D. W.), relocated in Baldwinsville, Onondaga, NY 6–7 Feb. (Gregg Dashnau), and finally relocated on Nan Cleef L., Seneca, NY 16–18 Feb. (Arie Gilbert).

One Northern Fulmar was seen on a fishing trip from Brielle, Monmouth, NJ 27 Dec. (M. C., D. B.), and four were counted on the ‘See Life Paulagic’ trip out of Lewes, Sussex DE, 10 Feb. (P. A. G., et al).

Three reports of American White Pelicans came from NY: one on the Bronx-Westchester CBC, 23 Dec. (M. B.); two on the Quogue-Water CBC, Suffolk, NY (Aaron Virgin, et al.); and one at Playland L., Westchester, (Burt & Carena Booth). In addition, two were seen on the Lakehurst CBC, Ocean, NJ, and one dropped onto the Delaware Bay at Fowlers Beach, Sussex, for a few minutes, long enough to be photographed by dozens assembled to see a Snowy Owl.

Kingfishers through Wagtails and Pipits

Great Blue Heron and Great Egrets are well established from DE through Long Island, NY, but the heron and egret numbers were very low. Snowy Egrets were found on two counts, 3 on the Oceanville CBC, Atlantic, NJ 16 Dec. (fide Brian Moscatello). One Little Blue Heron was found on the Middletown CBC, New Castle, DE 21 Dec. (fide Anthony Gonzon). No Tricolored Herons, Cattle Egrets or Green Heron were found. Plenty of Black-crowned Night-Herons were seen, with a total of 77 in NY, with the South Nassau County CBC, 30 Dec. accounting for 60 of NY’s allotment (fide P. L.), then 15 in NJ and 9 in DE. A total of three Yellow-crowned Night-Herons, on the other hand, was a good number for the region: one was reported on the Brooklyn CBC, Queens, NY 16 Dec. (fide R. C.), and two were on the Southern Nassau County CBC, NY 30 Dec. (fide P. L.).

A few years ago, Black Vultures were dying in the colder parts of NY, but now they are making a comeback that is reflected in the CBCs. Everywhere from Sullivan to Washington in the south east to New York City is now good wintering habitat for this species. Reports of one in Niagara and three in Tomkins suggest that this bird is not done yet.

Only three Osprey were reported this year on the CBCs: one each on the Northwestern Gloucester CBC, Gloucester, NJ 16 Dec. (fide Alan Mart), Cape May CBC NJ 17 Dec. (fide T. J.), and Rochester CBC, Monroe, NY 17 Dec. (fide Norma Platt). Seven Golden Eagles were reported n. and w. of NY, and one was reported in DE. One Broad-winged Hawk was reported on the Princeton CBC, Mercer, NJ 17 Dec. (fide Brad Merritt). Snowy Owls were very common throughout the region this winter. The only reported Black-backed Woodpeckers were three on the Saranac Lake CBC, Clinton, NY 30 Dec. (fide L. M.).

In NY, it appears that two Gyrfalcons were hunting: one in Clinton and the other in the Seneca and Cayuga; reports of these birds are suppressed to protect them from falconers. A dark gray Gyrfalcon was reportedly at Merrill Creek Reservoir, Warren, NJ 25 Jan.–13 Feb. (Alan Mart); based on photographs, this is the same bird photographed near Stewartsville 18 Dec. (fide Matt Domanski).

Monk Parakeets made it onto five CBCs, two in NJ and three in NY, with a high count of 290 on the South Nassau County, NY 16 Dec. (P. L.) count. One Ash-throated Flycatcher was at Jones Beach, Suffolk, NY 13 Dec. (Bob Anderson). Two Least Flycatchers were reported: one at the New York Botanical Garden, Bronx, NY 25 Nov.–8 Dec. (D. A.), and one on the Cape May CBC, NJ 17 Dec. (fide T. J.). A Hammond’s Flycatcher was in Central Park, New York, NY 26 Nov.–12 Dec. (fide Menachem Goldstein).

Vireos wisely fled the cold northern parts of the region, but the cold may have caught up with them on New Year’s Eve when the temperature dropped. Four White-eyed Vireos were reported: one at Fowler Beach, Kent, DE 11 Dec. (Anthony VanSchoor); one on the Bombay Hook CBC, Kent, DE 17 Dec. (D. Br.); and two on the Cape May CBC, NJ 17 Dec. (fide T. J.). Three Blue-headed Vireos were found in DE: one at the C&D Canal W. A., one on the Middletown CBC, New Castle, 21 Dec. (D. Br.), and one on the Cape Henlopen CBC, Sussex, 31 Dec. (Jerald Jeb).

The only Gray Jays were the ten reported on the Saranac Lake CBC, Clinton, NY 30 Dec. (fide L. M.). No Black-capped Chickadees were reported in DE this winter. Boreal Chickadees were seen on two CBCs: three each on the Elizabethtown CBC, Essex, NY 17 Dec. (fide E. D.), and the Saranac Lake CBC, Clinton, NY 30 Dec. (fide L. M.). One Cave Swallow was on the Cape May CBC, NJ 17 Dec. (fide T. J.).

The Winter Finch Forecast 2017-2018 by Ron Pittaway was very clear in its assessment that winter finches and irruptive species like Red-breasted Nuthatches are not coming south this year. Only DE and NJ are outside of the Red-breasted Nuthatches’ breeding area, but both are only a few miles from away from the NY and PA target areas. In prior years, the nuthatches normally arrive early, but this year they did not. Only a total of 18 were found on nine counts in NJ and in DE, with only one reported on the Rehoboth Beach CBC, Sussex, DE 30 Dec. (fide Sally O’Byrne). Fortunately, one set up at the feeder in Cape Henlopen S. P. early in Jan., and remained into spring, making itself a big help to the Big Year crowd that couldn’t take a chance and wait until next fall.

One Blue-gray Gnatcatcher was seen on the Moorestown CBC, Burlington, NJ 26 Dec. (Sandra Keller), and one was at Kitts Hummock, Kent, DE (Lynn M. Smith). One Mountain Bluebird was at the Robert Moses S. P., Suffolk, NY 17–26 Dec. (P. L.). One Townsend’s Solitaire was at Tiffany Creek Preserve, Nassau, NY 20 Dec.–20 Jan. (Brent Bomkamp). A Swainson’s Thrush was on the Orient CBC, Suffolk, NY 30 Dec. (Patrick Hanly).

Waxwings through Cardinals, Piranga Tanagers, and Allies

Four Bohemian Waxwings were found on the Oswego CBC, Oswego, NY 17 Dec. (fide Bill Purcell). Only a single Evening Grosbeak was reported, on the Elizabethtown CBC, Essex, NY 17 Dec. (fide E. D.).

Purple Finches did not migrate very much this year. They were in NY, but even there, the numbers were down, with the expected exception of the Saranac Lake CBC, Clinton, NY 30 Dec. (fide L. M.), where 175 were recorded. In NJ, only five counts recorded this species, and in DE, none were on the counts. The big news this winter was that one fem. was seen at the Coverdale Preserve, New Castle, 3 Jan. (Ian Stewart). Very few Common Redpolls even bothered to migrate as far south as NY, and they were only found in three counties in the state, Cortland, Madison and Oneida, with a high count of 12 on the New Woodstock CBC, Madison, 29 Dec. (fide Matthew Young). Red Crossbills and White-winged Crossbills also refused to migrate, so the only birds reported were probably nesting birds. Red Crossbills were reported on two NY CBCs: one on the Elizabethtown CBC, Essex 17 Dec. (fide E. D.), and 16 on the Saranac Lake CBC, Clinton 30 Dec. (fide L. M.). White-winged Crossbills were seen only on the Saranac Lake CBC, Clinton, NY 30 Dec. (fide L. M.). Pine Siskins did not migrate south this year. They stayed where they nested, for the most part, with only ten NY CBCs reporting any; and, as usual, the Saranac Lake CBC, Clinton 30 Dec. (fide L. M.) reported twice as many individuals (467) as the other nine counts. NJ, surprisingly, had four counts that recorded Pine Siskins, with a high of 29 on the Cape May CBC 17 Dec. (fide T. J.), and at least four flew across the Delaware Bay to the Rehoboth CBC Sussex, DE 30 Dec. (fide S. O.).

Rare sparrows were not common, but they were of good quality. One Clay-colored Sparrow was seen on the NJ side of the Lower Hudson CBC, Hudson, NJ 18 Dec. (fide S. E.). One Vesper Sparrow was reported on the Cumberland County CBC, NJ 31 Dec. (fide Michael Fritz), and one was on the Queens CBC, NY 17 Dec. (fide C. F.). One Le Conte’s Sparrow at Thompson Park was on the Long Branch CBC, Monmouth, 30 Dec. (Patrick Becker, et al). Even Lincoln’s Sparrows were tough this winter, with only one in NY, six in NJ on four counts, and one in DE. One ad. male Harris’s Sparrow was found in Altamont, Albany, NY 16–28 Feb. (Larry Alden). A Green-tailed Towhee was at a feeder east of the Montezuma Wildlife Complex, Seneca, NY 11–14 Feb. (fide J. B.).

Five Yellow-breasted Chat were reported: one on the Montauk CBC, Suffolk, NY (fide A. W.), one on the Brooklyn CBC, Queens, NY 16 Dec. (fide R. C.), and three on the Cape May CBC, NJ 17 Dec. (fide T. J.). Three Yellow-headed Blackbirds were reported: one on the Montezuma CBC, Cayuga, NY 18 Dec. (C. L.), one fem. at a feeder in Pike Creek Valley, New Castle, DE 6 Jan. (Sally Price), and one at Staves Landing Road, New Castle, DE 2 Feb.–4 Mar. (A. K.). The only Brewer’s Blackbirds reported in our area were the six seen on Thirteen Curves Rd., Sussex, DE, found during the Cape Henlopen CBC 31 Dec. and continuing through 20 Jan. (F. R.).

There were only 12 warbler species reported this winter, which is well below our average of 18–20, but, as usual, some that were reported were spectacular. Orange-crowned Warblers were very common along the coast from DE through Long Island, with 17 on the Cape May CBC, NJ 17 Dec. (fide (T. J.) alone. This count also had a high count of Yellow-rumped Warblers (11,800, fide T. J.). Pine Warblers, Common Yellowthroats, and Palm Warblers were widespread, but the numbers were down from past winters. One Ovenbird was on the Lower Hudson CBC. Hudson, NJ 17 Dec. (fide S. E.), and one Northern Waterthrush was on the Montauk CBC, Suffolk, NJ 16 Dec. (fide A. W.). There were two Black-and-White Warblers reported: one on the Lower Hudson CBC, Hudson, NJ 17 Dec. (fide S. E.) and one at a Dunkin’ Donuts parking lot in Sussex, DE 28 Dec. (Stacia Novy, et al.). There were two Nashville Warblers on the Cape May CBC, NJ 17 Dec. (fide T. J.). All these species were good to find this winter, though expected. The best warbler, and always a great find any time during the year, was the MacGillivray’s Warbler at the Atlantic Highlands during the Sandy Hook CBC, Monmouth, NJ 17–21 Dec. (Rob Fanning). One ad. male Hooded Warbler in Atlantic Beach was on the Queens CBC, NY 17 Dec. (fide C. F.), and a count-week Cape May Warbler was on the Cape May CBC, NJ (fide T. J.). An ‘Audubon’s’ Yellow-rumped Warbler was discovered in the Napeaque S. P., Suffolk, NY 2–16 Dec. and was recorded on the L. I. Montauk CBC 16 Dec. (Derek Rogers). One Yellow-throated Warbler was seen on the Staten Island CBC, Richmond, NY 16 Dec. (fide Clifford Hagen).

The Cape May CBC, NJ reported a Summer Tanager and a Western Tanager as count-week birds (fide T. J.). In addition, a Western Tanager was seen at the Alley Pond 18 Nov.–24 Dec. (Eric Miller), and one was found dead at the Indian R. Life-Saving Station in the Delaware Seashore S. P., Sussex, DE 12 Dec. (James Hall, Laura Scharle). This bird became the first accepted record of this species in DE. A Rose-breasted Grosbeak was a nice find on the Jamestown CBC, Chautauqua, NY 17 Dec. (fide William Seleen). An Indigo Bunting was found on the on the Queens CBC, NY 17 Dec. (fide C. F.). Five Painted Buntings were documented this winter: one on the Raritan Estuary CBC, Hunterdon, NJ 23 Dec. (fide Tom Ostrand); one in Dover, Kent, DE 29 Dec.–9 Jan. (Gregory Madden); one at Bay Pt., New Castle, DE 18 Jan. (Michael M. Moore); one in Lincoln, Sussex, DE 26 Jan.–10 Feb. (Fran & Ken Bass); and one at Dixie Line Rd., New Castle, DE (A. K.).

Report processed by Amy Davis, 1 Oct. 2020.

An Allen’s Hummingbird, first discovered in October and banded 11/21, continued in Tuckerton, Ocean Co, through 1/1, where it represented NJ’s 5th record of the species. Photo © Chris Thomas.