Washington Grove Park is for the birds!
After Manhattan's Central Park, it would be hard to name a place in New York where the spectacle of songbird migration is more accessible than Washington Grove in mid-May. What makes this old-growth remnant so special for travelers on the Yucatan-to-Ontario flyway? How much of its attractiveness is owed to what birders call the "central park effect" (beckoning green island in an urban sea)? Much is owed to its hill top prominence. Studies also suggest some eastern migrants prefer mature forest over the miles of younger deciduous growth--mostly dating to the close of World War II--blanketing rural upstate New York. Why?
Spring warbler-watchers note a fondness of myrtles, black-throated greens, blackburnians, nashvilles and bay-breasted for the soft, unfolding flowers and leaves of oaks--the last of our high-canopy species to flush green. What prey are those insectivores targeting in the oak-tops that make Washington Grove a 5-star stopover?
In contrast, the Grove is a challenging place for songbirds who dare breed here. Raccoons, squirrels, cats, crows and jays are notorious nest-robbers; less well known is that the chipmunks and mice take an equal share of the smallest eggs and nestlings. Throw in parasitic cowbirds, and displacement by heavy traffic of humans and pets, and you have what ecologists call a "sink''--habitat where more eggs and fledglings are eaten than reared. But migrants, who neither breed nor winter here, are relatively free from these threats. As refueling habitat for a 10-gram warbler on a 3000-mile journey, Washington Grove is without peer.