Hudson-Delaware: Winter 2019–2020

1 Dec–29 Feb

Frank Rohrbacher

Robert O. Paxton

Shaibal Mitra

Tom Reed

Recommended citation:

Rohrbacher, F., et al. 2020. Winter 2019–2020: Hudson-Delaware. <> North American Birds.

The temperatures in our region from early December until late February were 6 or more degrees above normal, and snow was rare. Waterfowl were slow to move south, and it was even rarer for geese make it south to our region, with most of the Barnacle and Pink-footed Geese remaining in New England. Winter finches and Red-breasted Nuthatches remained in their breeding areas because of the extremely large cone crops this year. Half-hardy birds obviously had no problem surviving a winter so warm, but few were around to enjoy it, with warblers scarce but sparrows and flycatchers present in good numbers. Surprisingly, half-hardy species were in short supply.

Observers (sub-regional 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:, Patrick Belardo, Chris Bennett, Gail Benson (NY Area RBA), Michael Bochnik (Lower Hudson Valley,, Jeffrey S. Bolsinger (JBo) (St. Lawrence, NY:, Tom Boyle, Joseph Brin (Syracuse, NY Rare Bird Alert), Thomas W. Burke (New York Rare Bird Alert), Barbara Butler (Dutchess County, NY), Gary Chapin, Marc Chelemer (MC), Milton Collins (MCo), Ryan Crane, Christopher Daly, Andy P. Ednie, (Voice of Birdline Delaware), Jeff Ellerbusch), Ron&Lisa Fanning (R&LF), Tim Freiday, Christopher Gangemi, Steve Glynn, Anthony Gonzon, Paul A. Guris, Chris Haddon, Tom Johnson, Mary Alice Koeneke, Steve Langdon, Laurie Larson (New Jersey Birds listserve), Pat J. Lindsay (Long I. and New York City:, Tony Lauro, (New York Rare Bird Alert), Larry Masters, Michael O’Brien, Melanie McCormack (Adirondack-Champlain Region NY:, Shaibal S. Mitra (Long I. Region, NY:, Michael C. Moore, Mike Morgante (Niagara Frontier Region, NY:, Pete Morris, David J. Nicosia (Susquehanna, NY:, Aidan Perkins, Matt Perry (Oneida Lake Basin Region, NY): Michael Pasquarello (MPa), James Pawlicki, Bruce G. Peterjohn, Tom Reed, Stacey Robinson, Frank Rohrbacher (Delaware:, Chris Sayers, Evan Schumann, Steve Sobocinski, Robert G Spahn (Genesee, NY:, Joe Swertinski, Harvey Tomlingson, David Wheeler (Oneida Lake Basin Region,, Jim White, Lance Verderame (Sullivan County Bird Notes), Will Yandik (Hudson–Mohawk Region, NY:


Ashton Tract (Ashton Tract of the Augustine WA, New Castle, DE), Barnegat (Barnegat Light, Ocean, NJ); Bombay Hook (Bombay Hook NWR, Kent, DE); Cape Henlopen (Cape Henlopen SP, Sussex, DE); Cape May Point (Cape May Point SP, Cape May, NJ); Indian River Inlet (Indian River Inlet, Sussex, DE); Montauk (Montauk Point, Long Island, Suffolk, NY); Prime Hook (Prime Hook NWR, Sussex, DE), Sandy Hook (Sandy Hook Gateway National Recreation Area, Monmouth, NJ). Thousand Acre Marsh (Thousand Acre Marsh, New Castle, New Castle, DE)

Ducks, Geese, and Swans through Sandpipers, Phalaropes, and Allies

The extremely warm winter resulted in virtually no ice in ponds and rivers, so many of the waterfowl remained up north most of the season. In Delaware, Snow Geese numbers were down by half, with only about 80,000 in Sussex County, 50,000 in Kent County, and 10,000 in New Castle County. Greater White-fronted Geese seem to be annual in New York and New Jersey, but one was reported and photographed in Delaware at Slaughter Beach, Kent, 10 Feb (Clive Harris). A Pink-footed Goose was reported among the 60,000 Snow Geese roosting on the Delaware River at Shorts Beach, Sussex, DE 28 Dec–4 Mar (Jacob Saucier). Two winters ago, Delaware hosted its second-ever Pink-footed Goose, and based on this individual’s feeding range, which was essentially a square mile of farm field between Draper Road, Fowlers Beach Road, Thirteen Curves Road and Cods Road, it was the likely same bird.

Each year, a few ‘Black’ Brants show up in the region; this year 1 was seen at Phillip B. Healy Beach, Nassau, NY 30 Dec (Ken Gale); 1 was at Floyd Field, Kings, NY 30 Jan (Doug Gochfeld); and 1 at Pirates Cove, Monmouth, NJ 8 Feb (Tom Boyle). A total of 5 Barnacle Geese is about normal for the area: 4 in New Jersey and 1 in New York, including 1 at Lake Takananassee, Monmouth, NJ 1–30 Dec (Jean Viallet); 1 returning bird at Belmont Lake SP, Suffolk, NY 3 Dec–23 Feb (SSM); 1 at the Millstone River Impoundment, Mercer, NJ 9 Jan (James Parris); 1 at Thompson Park, Monroe, NJ 12 Jan (Ray Duffy); and 1 plus 3 hybrids at Duke Island Park, Somerset, NJ 20–29 Feb (Jeff Ellerbush).

It was so warm that Trumpeter Swans decided to remain in Canada for most of the winter, except for the three that traditionally winter at the Assunpink WMA, Monmouth, NJ 19 Nov into March (Robert Dodelson). The only other Trumpeters recorded in our area in December were the four seen on the Geneva CBC, Ontario, NY 28 Dec (fide Lisa Rouse), but the species began to stray into northern New York in late January in groups of 1 to 4, particularly around Monroe, NY, where they started nesting season 22 Jan.

Blue-winged Teal and Eurasian Wigeon seemed to stay much further north than in past years. A few Eurasian Green-winged Teals were reported this winter, with 1 at Glades Wildlife Refuge, Cumberland, NJ 29 Dec (TF); 1 at Tuckahoe WMA, Cape May, NJ, 22 Feb (TR, Christina Marks); and 1 at Bombay Hook 29 Feb–5 Mar (Michael C. Moore). Tufted Ducks were hard to find, with all five of the winter’s sightings in western or northern New York, including 1 male at Port Kent, Essex, 2 Jan–29 Feb (GC, SR); 1 on the Chenango River, Greene, Chenango; 1 at Cayuga Lake, Ithaca, Tompkins, 11–29 Jan (Jay McGowan); 1 male at in Little Soda Bay, Wayne, 13–25 Jan (DW); and 1 in Port Kent, Essex, 25–29 Feb (Zac Cota).

King Eider were quite widespread in New York, with over 11 reports overall, the majority in Suffolk. New Jersey only hosted three, with 1 female at Sandy Hook, 30 Nov–14 Jan (SB); 1 female at Barnegat 21 Dec–28 Feb (Joshua Gant); and 1 on the Ramsey CBC, Bergen, 14 Dec (fide R&L F). Delaware had 1 female from the Cape May-Lewes Ferry at the ice breakers in Lewes Harbor, 21–28 Dec (Ed Sigda). Spirits were high when a group of birders boarded the boat for the two-hour trip to the jetties and icebreakers during the Cape Henlopen CBC 29 Dec (FR), but alas they did not find any eider. Two days later it was revealed that a hunter had shot it the day before the trip and brought it in to the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, DE, to have it identified (fide CB. AG).

This was a great year for Barrow’s Goldeneye in the region, with several reports on Lake Ontario, NY, and many in the Lake Champlain watershed and Sussex, NY, as well as 1 in New Jersey. The five at Lake Champlain, Essex, NY 1 Jan–12 Feb (GC, SR) were the best spectacle.

It was an off year for Red-necked Grebe. Normal numbers were reported in New York, less than normal in New Jersey, and essentially none were in Delaware this winter. Eared Grebes were rarer than in past years, with 1 at Sodus Bay, Wayne, NY 13 Dec (Joe Wing); 1 at Fredonia, Chautauqua, NY 27–28 Dec (Gail VerHague); 1 at Willard Town Park, Seneca, NY 13 Jan–6 Feb (David Kennedy); and 1 at Lakes Bay, Atlantic, NJ 22–29 Feb (MC). On the other hand, Western Grebe are not annual here, and the one in Ontario Beach and Charlotte Pier, Monroe, NY 28 Dec–14 Jan (Karl Schmidt) was a great find.

Only one Eurasian Collared-Dove was reported at Selbyville, Sussex, DE, which suggests that the colony, which has been present since 1997, probably has collapsed (FR). Two White-winged Dove sightings were reported in New Jersey: 1 at Point Pleasant Beach, Ocean 30 Nov–3 Dec (Peggy Cadigan), and 1 at Cape May Point, 9 Jan (TR). A Yellow-billed Cuckoo was reported at Cape May Point 1 Jan (Brett Ewald, m. obs.). Three hummingbirds lingered or overwintered in New Jersey this winter: a female Ruby-throated Hummingbird at Lighthouse Ave., Cape May, 18 Nov–4 Mar (MPa); a Black-chinned Hummingbird in a yard, Cape May, 9 Nov–11 Dec (Bob Fogg); and a Rufous Hummingbird at the Celery Farm, Bergen, 14 Dec–29 Feb (R&LF).

The number of Common Gallinules wintering in our region consisted of only 3 birds, one in each state: 1 in Mill Pond Park, Bellmore, Nassau, NY 29 Nov–25 Feb (MO); 1 at Sandy Hook 2–19 Feb (CD); and 1 at Ashton Tract, 6 Dec–24 Jan (JS).

Sandhill Cranes were reported very late, in some cases appearing to winter here, but the six reported on the Conesus-Hemlock-Honeoye Lakes CBC, Livingston, NY 28 Dec are probably are not in that category, since the weather was so warm and the species nests there. In New Jersey, a flock of at least 13 was at Randolph Road, Somerset, 2 Dec–20 Feb (JE); 2 were at Cape May 15–19 Dec (David La Puma); and 3 were at Pemberton Lake WMA, Burlington, 15 Dec–15 Feb (Tom Bailey). In Delaware in the fall, large numbers of Sandhill Cranes move around the freshwater marshes of Dragon Run, Thousand Acre Marsh, and the Port Penn Impoundments and the associated agricultural fields, but in the past few years they have remained through the winter. This winter, singles or pairs were frequently reported, but 12 were noteworthy on the Middletown CBC, 5 Jan (CB, AG), and 4-7 were at Thousand Acre Marsh, 25 Jan–19 Feb (John Skibicki).

An American Avocet was a nice find at Jamaica Bay NWR, Queens 8 Dec (Peter & Daisy Paul); but in Delaware, where hundreds stage in the spring and fall for migration, and small groups tend to winter, it was not surprising to find 14 at Prime Hook 18 Jan (BGP) or two at Indian River Inlet 17 Feb (CH). Finding a Piping Plover anywhere in our area in winter is very rare, but 1 was at Cedar Point County Park, Suffolk, NY (Bruce Hoewith, CG). A wintering Whimbrel was recorded several times this winter at Brigantine Island, Atlantic 27 Dec–29 Feb (B Maguire). Red Phalarope were only reported on two boat trips offshore: 254 on a fishing boat out of Cape May, NJ 27 Dec (PAG et al), and 2 on the Waterfowl Bird Trip out of Lewes, Sussex, DE 1 Feb (CB, AG et al).

Jaegers through New World Vultures

The only jaeger reported this winter was a Pomarine seen from the 8th Street Jetty, Avalon, Cape May, NJ 1 Dec (TR). This was a fantastic year for alcids, as they were seen at sea and from land in enormous numbers from New York to Delaware. Dovekie were reported from shore early at Montauk in late November, and then there was 1 seen from the 8th Street Jetty, Avalon, Cape May, NJ 8 Dec (TR, CD). On fishing and pelagic trips, there were some great numbers, including 400 seen from a fishing boat out of Cape May, NJ 27 Dec (PAG et al), 980 seen during a 17-hour fishing trip in Suffolk waters, NY 11 Jan (CS), and 3 on the Waterfowl Bird Trip, Lewes, Sussex, DE 1 Feb (CB, AG et al).

Common Murre were also reported from shore, with 1 at the Robert Moses SP, Suffolk, NY 15 Dec (PJL, PM, SSM); 1 at the 8th Street Jetty, Avalon, Cape May, NJ 8 Dec (CD); 1 at Cape Henlopen SP 12 Dec (BGP); and 1 at Indian River Inlet 18 Feb (BGP). Offshore, they were consistently found in small numbers, with 3 seen during a 17-hour fishing trip off Smith Point, Suffolk, NY 24 Dec (Adrian Digby), 4 seen from a fishing boat out of Cape May, NJ 27 Dec (PAG et al), and 11 seen on a See Life Paulagic trip out of Point Pleasant, NJ 9 Feb (PAG et al). Thick-billed Murres were all over Long Island, NY, with a much-higher-than-usual 8 sightings from the Bronx to Montauk. In addition, 3 were reported on a fishing boat out of Cape May, NJ 27 Dec (PAG et al), and 1 was photographed on Bennetts Pier Road. Kent, DE 31 Jan (Kitt Heckscher).

Razorbill were everywhere from mid-December into March. From shore, they were seen consistently from Montauk to Indian River Inlet. Black Guillemot is the jewel of the alcids, and though we only had one reported, it was on the Barnegat Inlet and very cooperative, observed by dozens of birders from throughout the region 6–15 Jan (Mike Heine). Atlantic Puffin were mainly seen from fishing boats and pelagic trips, but 2 were seen at Montauk, 20 Dec (Brian Kane et al). Two were reported in Sussex, NY waters from a cod fishing boat, 1 on 11 Jan (CS) and one on 9 Feb (Jeremy Collison); also, there were 145 seen from a fishing boat out of Cape May, NJ 27 Dec (PAG et al); eight on a ‘See Life Paulagic pelagic trip out of Point Pleasant, NJ 9 Feb (PAG et al), and one on Waterfowl Bird Trip, Lewes, Sussex, DE 1 Feb (CB, AG et al).

Black-legged Kittiwakes were common offshore, with 500 tallied during a 17-hour fishing trip off Suffolk, NY 11 Jan (Chris Sayers), and 500 on a fishing trip out of Cape May, 27 Dec (PAG et al) being the most productive of several trips. Montauk, as usual, was a hotspot for this species all winter, with a high total of 16 reported from shore 9 Feb (SA, Mary Normandia). Other sightings included 1 at the Derby Hill Hawk Watch, Oswego, NY 15 Dec (Debora Dohne, DW), and one or two immatures on the Niagara River, Niagara, 22 Dec–20 Jan (Willie D’Anna et al). Black-headed Gulls were plentiful, with a total of 9 in Long Island and New York City, 3 in western New York, 2 in New Jersey, and 6 in Sussex, Delaware. The only Little Gull reported was a 1st winter individual at the Wolfe Neck WTP, Sussex, DE 2 Feb (CH). The most impressive gull-find this year was a California Gull that was at Sayreville Marsh, Middlesex, NJ 23 Dec–4 Jan (Jason Denesevich). One Slaty-backed Gull was at Niagara Falls SP, Niagara, NY 18 Dec–1 Jan (Josh Ketry).

There was a Pacific Loon at the 8th Street Jetty, Cape May, NJ 2 Dec (TR), 1 at Barnegat, 3 Jan (John Daniel) and 1 at Sands Point Preserve, Nassau, NY 23 Feb (Glenn Quinn). Three Northern Fulmars were reported in Suffolk, NY waters from a cod fishing boat 11 Jan (CS). Birding anglers on a boat out of Cape May, NJ 27 Dec (PAG et al) recorded 43 Northern Fulmars, 4 Great Shearwaters and 7 Manx Shearwaters. A single Manx Shearwater was seen from Fenwick Island, Sussex, DE 19 Jan (Chris Runk). A Brown Booby was seen at Villas, Cape May, during the Cape May CBC 15 Dec (Janet Crawford, HT). American White Pelicans wandered throughout our region this winter, starting with 1 at Fowlers Beach Road, Sussex, DE 25 Dec (Anthony VanSchoor); 1 at Edwin B. Forsythe NWR’s Bridge to Nowhere, Ocean, NJ 27–31 Dec (Donald Crawford, Amy Davis); 1 at the Mill Pond, Suffolk, NY 23–26 Jan (Roger Kaufman); and 1 at Reed’s Beach, Cape May, 16 Feb (TR). Two appeared at Barnegat 3–5 Jan (Josh Lefever, Mark Mizak) and were next seen briefly at Cape May, 5 Jan (Rennie Selkirk). Brown Pelicans were not common, but 2 were at Villas, Cape May, NJ, during the Cape May CBC 15 Dec and continuing through 26 Jan (James Peterson, Bill Boyle); likely the same pair was seen taking a small vacation at Indian River Inlet 11–12 Jan (Sean McCandless). The only others observed were 1 at Staten Island, Richmond, NY 14 Dec (Mike Shanley); 1 at Palmyra Cove Nature Park, Burlington, NJ 18 Dec (John Wallace); and 1 Sayreville Marsh, Middlesex. NJ 1–2 Jan (John Collins).

For the most part, bitterns and herons were absent, except for the very late Least Bittern at Edwin B. Forsythe Brigantine Unit, Atlantic, NJ 20 Dec (Melvin Roberts). The total of individual Great Egrets was way down across the region, and their distribution was very poor: New York had a total of 16 on 4 CBCs, New Jersey had a total of 59 on 5 counts—of which 37 were on the Cape May CBC, Cape May, 15 Dec (fide TJ)—and DE had a total of 3 on 2 CBCs. Only 2 Snowy Egret were reported: 1 was on Staten Island, Richmond, NY 14 Dec (Anthony Ciancimino) and 1 was at Absecon WMA, Atlantic, 14 Feb (Thomas Harding). Only two Tricolored Herons were reported:1 at Two Mile Landing, Cape May, NJ 2 Jan–14 Feb (Mark Mizak, Josh Lefever), and 1 at Barnegat 8 Feb–4 Mar (SB). Finally, there were 4 Yellow-crowned Night-Herons: 1 at the West Meadows Wetland Reserve, Suffolk, NY 12–16 Dec (Patrice Domeischel); 1 on the Lower Hudson CBC, Hudson, NJ 15 Dec (Susan Elbin, Kaitlyn Parkins); 1 at Randalls Island, New York, NY 4 Jan–16 Feb (David Barrett); and 1 at the Meadowlands IBA, Bergen, NJ (Drew McQuade).

Osprey through Cardinals, Piranga Tanagers, and Allies

Osprey were gone by late December and returned in late February. Northern Goshawks were much more common throughout the region than normal—odd during such a warm winter—with 12 sightings in New York, 4 in New Jersey and 4 in Delaware. The 4 in Delaware were especially unusual, because over the last 10 years the number of migrating birds counted at the Delaware hawk watches has fallen steadily from 6–8 at each to none this year.

The only report of Black-backed Woodpeckers was that of a total of 6 on the Saranac Lake CBC, Franklin, NY 4 Jan (AL, LM). This year, New York won the Monk Parakeet challenge, with 5 CBCs producing 294 birds; 2 New Jersey CBCs tallied a total of 28. The Southern Nassau County CBC, 28 Dec (PL, SM) reported 235 parakeets, which led New York’s win, also winning the trophy for this species in North America. It beat out Austin, TX (218) and West Palm Beach, FL (200).

Ash-throated Flycatchers were common, with 6 in New York, all gone by 12 Dec; there were also 7 in New Jersey, including singles overwintering at Sandy Hook 30 Nov–28 Feb (Alex Bernzweig) and Cape May Canal, Cape May, 30 Nov–27 Feb; and another was overwintering in Delaware at the Marian R. Okie Memorial Preserve, Sussex 16 Jan–23 Feb (Dick Plambeck). Two Western Kingbirds were reported; 1 at Cape Island, Cape May, NJ 5 Dec–17 Feb (MPa), and 1 at Scrap Tavern Lane, Felton, Kent, DE during the Milford CBC 4 Jan and continuing through 11 Jan (David Fees). The only Least Flycatcher to it make into December was at Budd’s Bogs, Burlington, NJ 1–7 Dec (Sam Peabody). Pacific-slope Flycatcher is a fantastic find on the East Coast, particularly when it sticks around, which the 1 found in Burlington, NJ at Palmyra Cove Nature Park did, 9 Nov–14 Dec (fide Dave Atkins).

A few White-eyed Vireos were reported: 1 at Cape May, 12 Dec–4 Jan (TJ); 1 at Evangola SP, Erie, NY 13 Dec (Sue Barth); and 1 at Cold Spring Village, Cape May, NJ 15–28 Dec (Adehl Schwaderer). Blue-headed Vireo were very plentiful this season if, and only if, you live in New Jersey: 1 at Cape May 12–15 Dec (TJ); 2 at the Cape May Sunset Blvd WTP, Cape May 13–15 Dec (TJ); 1 at Sandy Hook 15 Dec (JE); 1 in Matawan, Middlesex, 20 Jan (Ellen Hartley); and 1 at Island Beach SP, Ocean, 23 Jan (Steven Weiss). A total of 18 Canada Jays were reported on the Lake Saranac CBC, Franklin, NY 4 Jan (fide AL, LM). Tree Swallows were found on 9 CBCs in about normal numbers, but seemed to head south before January, and did not return until well into spring. A small flock of Northern Rough-winged Swallow wintered at the Trenton Sewage Ponds, Mercer, NJ 1 Dec–21 Feb (Chris Brown). A very late Barn Swallow was reported at Augustine Beach, New Castle, DE 14 Dec (Rodney Murray).

The only report of Boreal Chickadee was that of 3 in Essex, NY 14 Dec (Mar Bodine, Betsy Miner). Red-breasted Nuthatch stayed almost exclusively in their nesting areas, which include all of New York, except Long Island, and the northwestern edge of New Jersey. Therefore, it goes without saying that the highest total (104) was found on the Saranac Lake CBC, Franklin, NY, held this year on 4 Jan (fide SL, LM). In New Jersey, there were 13 recorded on 8 counts, which is extremely low, and in Delaware, the only report of this species was of 1 on Old Carriage Road, Sussex, 14 Feb (Ron Russell). This was the year of the Sedge Wren, as large numbers were found in multiple locations in Delaware and New Jersey, but the first one was found at the Arshamomaque Pond Preserve, Suffolk, NY 15 Dec–8 Feb (Joe Sepenoski). In Cumberland and Cape May, NJ, there were pockets of this species everywhere: 5 at Cook’s Beach, Cape May, 15 Dec–15 Jan (TR); 6 at Delmont, Cumberland, 22 Dec (Glen Davis); 10 at Reed’s Beach, Cape May, 22 Dec–20 Feb (TR); and 3 were at the Glades Wildlife Refuge, Cumberland, 29 Dec (TF et al). In Delaware, 11 were reported from Bombay Hook through Indian River Inlet.

As usual, a few Blue-gray Gnatcatchers made it into the CBC season, including 1 at Camp Hero SP, Suffolk, NY 14 Dec (CG); 1 at the Mount, Camden, NJ 25 Dec; and 1 at the C&D Canal WA, New Castle, DE 5–7 Jan (Joe Sebastiani, JS). Another wintering at Amico Island Park, Burlington, NJ 3 Jan–20 Feb (Claire Campbell) demonstrates just how unusual this season was. Thrushes were well represented this winter, with 1 Mountain Bluebird at Beach Plum Farm, Cape May, NJ 30 Nov–7 Dec (Charlie Roberto) and 1 Townson’s Solitaire at 3 Mile Harbor Drive, Suffolk, NY 9-27 Feb (Brice Horwith). A very, very rare visitor was a Veery reported at Bryant Park, New York, NY 7–18 Jan (Deborra Mullins). To highlight how odd this find is, in the past 10 years, only 4 Veeries were recorded on all CBCs in the entire United States, counting the 1 reported this year in Port Tobacco, MD. Two Varied Thrushes were seen in the region: 1 in Prospect Park, Kings, 29 Dec–29 Feb (Rob Jett) and 1 in Candor, Tioga, NY 1–7 Jan (Mark Hollenbeck).

The ‘Winter Finch Forecast 2019–2020’ by Ron Pittaway came out this fall and said ‘Forecast: This is not an irruption (flight) year for winter finches in the East,’ and they didn’t fly. The Red-breasted Nuthatches, above, showed that they would not leave their breeding grounds. The only report of Bohemian Waxwings was of the 25 on the Lake Saranac CBC, Franklin, NY 4 Jan (fide AL, LM). Even though Evening Grosbeaks theoretically nest in New York, none were reported on the CBCs, and only 3 sightings of the species were reported all winter: 4 at Ulster Park, Ulster, NY 23 Dec (Dennis Trapnell); 1 at Winona SF, Oswego, NY 28 Jan (MAK); and 1 at Heiberg Forest, Cortland, NY 7 Feb (Elizabeth Snyder). Pine Grosbeaks are always rare, so only 2 New York sightings are not unusual: 1 in Winona SF, Oswego, NY 28 Jan (MAK), and 3 on Dunning Street, Sarasota, NY 3 Feb (Thom McClenahan). The entire state of New York, except for Long Island, is in the nesting and wintering range for Purple Finches, but their numbers were way down this winter. The total reported on the state’s CBCs was 92 individuals on 23 counts, including a single bird on Long Island, and a total of 37 birds on just 2 two counts: 16 on the Oneonta CBC, Otsego, 14 Dec (Sandy Bright), and 21 on the Saranac CBC, Franklin, 4 Jan (fide SL, LM). Only 6 New Jersey CBCs reported them, all in the Northeast portion of the state where they breed. Delaware had only 3 sightings pertaining to 5 birds the entire winter. Common Redpolls stayed in Canada, with the exception of a total of 5 birds, all in New York: 1 count-week bird on the Clinton CBC, Clinton, 14 Dec (fide MP); 1 on the Upper Delaware River CBC, Delaware, 5 Jan (fide Parmela J. Peters); and 3 on County Road 52, Chateaugay, Franklin, 27 Jan (Madison Cleveland, Daniel Sinopoli). As Red Crossbills breed in New York, one would have expected more sightings of them there this winter, but only 2 New York CBCs reported any: 1 on the Beaver Meadow CBC, Erie, 21 Dec (fide Tom Terr), and 5 on the Saranac CBC, Franklin, 4 Jan (fide SL, LM). However, the species was reported regularly in elsewhere in NY in Essex and Hamilton in January and February. Surprisingly, a lone Red Crossbill was reported on the Mizpah CBC, Atlantic, NJ 5 Jan (fide TR). White-winged Crossbills also breed in New York, but only in the far north counties, and this year, they were only reported on one CBC, a total of 56 on the Saranac CBC, Franklin, 4 Jan (fide SL, LM). Other reports of the species, all in New York, included singles at Vanderbilt Mansion National Historic Site, Dutchess 10–11 Jan (Debbie van Zyl); on Figert Road, Herkimer, 25 Jan; and at Winona SP, Oswego, 28 Jan (Mary Alice Koeneke). Pine Siskins remained mostly in northeastern New York, with a high count of 39 on the Saranac CBC, Franklin, NY 4 Jan (fide SL, LM). A few were reported from Long Island, New Jersey, and Delaware through the winter.

Grasshopper Sparrows reported throughout the grasslands of New York and New Jersey this season did not have a problem surviving the mild winter. There were 2 Lark Sparrows reported from each state in the region: 1 at Bombay Hook 2 Dec (Jennifer Ottinger); 1 in Kinderhook, Columbia, NY 4 Dec (Steve Mesick); 1 at A&H Mining and Entrance Road, Cape May, NJ 14 Dec (Daniel Irons); 1 at Plainsboro, Middlesex, NJ 31 Dec–12 Feb (Tom Boyle); 1 in Milford, Kent, DE 4–7 Feb (Gina Sheridan); and 1 at a feeder in Oswego, Oswego, NY 7 Jan–28 Feb (Matthew Brown). Three Clay-colored Sparrows were seen this period, all in New York, with 1 at Great Kills Park, Richmond, 19 Jan (Mike Shanley); 1 at the Moravian Cemetery, Richmond, 2–15 Feb (Anthony Ciancimino); and 1 in Cortland, Tompkins, 14–19 Feb (Krista Sessions). It is always a treat to find western subspecies mixed in with our common feeder birds in winter, and happily, 2 ‘Oregon’ Dark -eyed Juncos were reported from New York: 1 at Sunset Drive, Westchester 16 Dec (Charlie Roberto), and 1 at Finger Lakes Court, Cayuga 18–30 Jan (Fritzie Blizzard). Also, a ‘Gambel’s’ White-crowned Sparrow was on Buck’s Road, Milford, Kent, DE 1–19 Jan (Nancy Cunningham). Another great find was a Golden-crowned Sparrow that made it into winter at West Cape May, Cape May, NJ 30 Nov–1 Dec (SG). Three Harris’s Sparrows were reported: 1 at in the same West Cape May fields that hosted the Golden-crowned Sparrow, Cape May, NJ 4 Dec (HT, SG); another or perhaps the same individual nearby in Cape May, NJ at Strawberry Lane 21 Jan–6 Mar; and 1 in Jamestown, Chautauqua, NY 22 Feb (Martin Dibble). Vesper Sparrows were common with at least 15 in NY, 7 in NJ and 1 in DE. Le Conte’s Sparrows have been rare for several years, but this year, 1 was at Croft Farm, Burlington, NJ 5–7 Dec (SS); 1 at Oberly Road, Warren, NJ (MC); and 1 was at Little Creek WA, Kent, DE 31 Jan (RC). It has been some years since the region hosted a Henslow’s Sparrow, but 1 was at the Monmouth County Landfill, Monmouth, NJ 28 Dec–1 Feb (TB).

Yellow-headed Blackbirds were more common than usual, with 1 at Lewin’s Farm, Suffolk, NY 8 Dec–11 Feb (AP); 1 on Staves Landing Road, New Castle, DE 3 Jan (Rod Murry); 1 at Riverhead, Suffolk, NY 15–16 Jan (AP); 1 at Fishing Creek Wildlife Preserve, Cape May, NJ 4 Feb (Donald Freiday); and 1 on Route 98, Seneca, NY 20–23 Feb (David Kennedy). Over the years, small numbers of Brewer’s Blackbird have wintered in the region, mostly at pig or cattle farms in New Jersey and Delaware, but in the last 5 years, most of these locales no longer host the species, with the exception of only one small cattle farm in Sussex, DE. Usually, this farm has fewer than a dozen birds, but this year only 3 were verified 29 Dec to mid-Feb. Elsewhere, for the 2nd year in a row, a Brewer’s Blackbird was found in a yard in New Jersey; this year it was in Mercer 14 Dec (Sarah Rackowski); possibly it was one of the birds later appearing in Delaware.

It was a good year for common wintering warblers, and with the warm weather, most must have survived, but the numbers of half-hardy species were very low. Ovenbird, for example, was only reported twice, with 1 in Bryant Park, Kings, NY 2 Dec (Tom Gray) and 1 at Spring Creek Park Preserve, Queens, NY (Michael Yuan). Black-and-White Warblers were very scarce, with 1 in Canarsie Beach Park, Kings, NY 14 Dec (Peter Paul, Daisy Paul); 1 at Cass Park, Tompkins, NY 15 Dec (Dave Nutter); 1 at Wagner College, Richmond, NY 16 Dec (Howie Fischer); and 1 at Manasquan Reservoir, Monmouth, NJ (Patrick OHoro). Nashville Warblers were present in higher-than-normal numbers, with 9 reports in New York, 7 in New Jersey and one in Delaware, and a surprising total of 5 on the Lower Hudson CBC in Hudson, NY. Four Black-throated Blue Warblers were reported: 1 in Central Park, New York, NY 2 Dec (Thomas Heinrich); 1 at a home in Monmouth, NJ 6 Jan–16 Feb (Joseph Ritacco); 1 in Berkeley Township, Ocean, NJ 18 Jan (Scott Fisher); and 1 in Cape May, Cape May, NJ 15 Feb (Michael Fritz). Three Prairie Warblers were present after mid-December, with 1 at Montauk, 21 Dec (MO); 1 at Cedar Point County Park, Suffolk, NY 28–29 Dec (CG, ES); and 1 at the James Farm Preserve Trail, Kent, DE 15–16 Jan (CH). Four Wilson’s Warblers were seen: 1 on Church High Bridge, Hunterdon, NJ 6–8 Dec (Daniel Irons); 1 at Prospect Park, Kings, NY 14 Dec–18 Jan (Linda LaBella); 1 at Lake Solitude, Burlington, NJ 15 Dec (Alan Mart); and 1 in Brooklyn, Kings, NY 25 Dec (Rafael Campos-Ramirez).

Three Summer Tanagers were reported: 1 at Higbee Beach, Cape May, NJ 7 Dec (MCo); 1 at Sag Harbor, Sussex, NY 28 Jan (CG, ES); and 1at Mayers Corners Road, 16 Jan–22 Feb (Debbie Van Zyl et al). Three different individual Western Tanagers were in the southern portion of the region, being seen many times on the same days; 1 was at Sandy Hook 6–30 Dec (MCo); 1 was at Cape May Point 23–30 Dec (Warren Cairo, Claudia Burns); and 1 female was at Bombay Hook 24 Dec–4 Jan (RC). A total of 4 Rose-breasted Grosbeaks were reported this winter, all in New York. Three of them were on CBCs: 1 on the Bronx-Westchester CBC 22 Dec (fide MB); 1 on the Duchess County CBC 14 Dec (fide Adrienne Popko); and 1 on the Saratoga Spa CBC, Saratoga, 19 Dec (fide Jean Holcomb). All of these were probably late migrants fooled by the warm fall weather, but the 1 at Great Bend, Jefferson, 18 Nov–16 Feb (Steven Mix) overwintered. Two Indigo Buntings were seen, 1 in Bainbridge, Chenango, NY 17 Dec (Rick Bunting) and 1 at Cape May, NJ 15 Dec (Glen Davis). The number of Painted Buntings in the region appears extremely high this year; there were 5 in New York, with the most reliable one at the Brooklyn Bridge Park, Kings 29 Dec–23 Feb (Heath Wolf); elsewhere, there were 2 in New Jersey and 2 in Delaware. One Dickcissel was in Marcellus, Onondaga, NY 22 Jan–2 Feb (Kevin McGann) and another at a feeder in Medford, Burlington, NJ 7–28 Dec (Sandra Keller).

Report processed by Amy Davis, 6 Jan 2021.

Photos–Hudson-Delaware: Winter 2019–2020
Hover or click on each image to read the caption.