Though spring migration brightens birders’ days with its colorful and singing birds after the long, cold winter I prefer the fullness of fall’s migration. Not only are there more birds because of the hordes of youngsters fresh from the nest but the plumages that birds display in autumn are far more variable and challenging. The crisp, cool air in the early morning signifies the end of another hot and humid New York City summer, the end of air conditioning, and the return of cool breezes through open windows. Yes, fall is my favorite time of year and I have been taking full advantage of days following nights of northwest winds which pile the migrants up in my area, days of which we have had no shortage thus far.

The biggest problem I have had is figuring out exactly what to do with the time I free up for birding. Should I head for the coast? If so, where? Should I stay at one of the bigger New York City parks that serve as migrant traps? Should I head out east onto Long Island for grasspipers? Should I chase reported birds or seek my own? The answer to all of these questions, as grammatically incorrect as it may be, is “Yes!”

Go birding I have and here are some of the results. What have you been seeing this fall?

Black-throated Green Warbler

Sure, they are called Black-throated Green Warblers but in the fall they often don’t have much of a black throat as this individual photographed at the Oradell Reservoir in Oradell, New Jersey, shows.

Pectoral Sandpiper and a Buff-breasted Sandpiper

This was a nice scope view! Two year birds – Pectoral Sandpiper and Buff-breasted Sandpiper – at once! The sod fields in Riverhead, way out in eastern Long Island, are great for sights like this. (And for shots like the flock of American Golden Plovers that led the post.)

Common Nighthawk

This is far from a great picture but I was pleased to get any shot of a Common Nighthawk from my own balcony!

Clapper Rail

Rails can show up in odd spots in migration but this one, a Clapper Rail, was right where it belonged, in salt marsh by the Bayonne Golf Club in Bayonne, New Jersey.

Yellow-throated Vireo

This is the time of year when you can try for the eastern vireo sweep (Philadelphia, Warbling, Red-eyed, Yellow-throated, White-eyed, and Blue-headed). The best I have done this fall was four, with this Yellow-throated Vireo at Oradell Reservoir being one-quarter of that total.


Another not-so-great picture but I have had Whimbrel fly over my head in both Nassau County and Suffolk County this fall and have still never seen one in Queens. That is absurd.

Rose-breasted Grosbeak

Rose-breasted Grosbeaks should play basketball. Also, they look cool. That’s all I got. This one was at Oradell Reservoir.

Prairie Warbler

Prairie Warbler is a stupid name for this species which has nothing to do with prairies. I prefer Rufous-backed Warbler, which is bad for other reasons. For some reason I have seen lots of these this fall to the point that I don’t remember where this one was.

Written by Corey
Corey is a New Yorker who lived most of his life in upstate New York but has lived in Queens since 2008. He's only been birding since 2005 but has garnered a respectable life list by birding whenever he wasn't working as a union representative or spending time with his family. He lives in Forest Hills with Daisy and Desmond Shearwater. His bird photographs have appeared on the Today Show, in Birding, Living Bird Magazine, Bird Watcher's Digest, and many other fine publications. He is also the author of the American Birding Association Field Guide to the Birds of New York.