Though I am in New York City with my husband to celebrate our anniversary I cannot help but take a bit of time to count birds in Central Park. I have never been here during spring migration and I am hoping to add at least a few warblers to my New York Life List. Gus and I arrived on a bus Wednesday evening. After unpacking and eating pizza at our newest favorite pizza place we walked down to Columbus Circle and then on to Times Square. I was so tired by then and did not take a camera. It was near midnight and I was shocked by all the bright lights and all the people! Sorry, no pics! We fell into bed after 1 AM but I read for awhile before drifting off to sleep. The next morning it soon becomes apparent that we have different agendas, so while Gus goes in search of tickets to a show, I head to Central Park.
My first instinct is to head for The Ramble but I soon find my way obstructed by construction at Cherry Hill. Opting to walk down the west side of the lake instead I soon find a little path down towards the water where there is a little shaded bench to sit on. As I start down the path a dull brown bird hops up on the branch in front of me. I know immediately that it is a thrush, but what species? It does not have the big dark spots of the Wood Thrush, nor the rusty warmth in its wing and tail feathers of a Hermit Thrush. However, it does have the buff spectacles of a Swainson’s Thrush, but it is gone before I can get a photo as a group of people comes down the path behind me headed for the little pavilion to look out over the lake.
I continue down the path and past the benches along the lake edge. I soon find myself alone watching bird. I spot a Canada warbler in the leafy undergrowth and then another small bird appears. Just as it hops up on the fence my cell phone rings. It is Gus and he is ready for me to join him, so I snap off a few shots of a Common Yellowthroat and leave, thus ending my birding expedition before it even gets started!
The next morning we take our coffee and pastries over to the park together and sit on a bench. It is Friday morning now and more people are starting to gather in the park. While Gus valiantly stays with me, I am wanting to be alone to find birds. I know he would rather be elsewhere but I have never been in Central Park alone and I think he is wanting to protect me. I tell him I will be fine, and so he finally leaves me at Bethesda Fountain. He is going shopping and to buy tickets to a play and I am going birding!
It is a gorgeous sunny day with perfect temperatures and a dry air mass. I quickly head past Loeb’s Boathouse where I turn the corner to head into The Ramble. I have only been this way one time before with my brother but I remember that we saw a lot of birds over here. It isn’t until later that I discover this part of the Ramble is known as The Point and it is a favorite place to bird.
I have not gone very far down the path before a Magnolia Warbler makes an appearance! I am just thrilled as I have only seen this species of bird once before in Aroostook County, Maine!
Magnolia Warblers are identified by their yellow throats and bellies with black streaks, white wing patches, a white eyebrow and white tail spots which they kind of flash like a redstart. I snap several pictures of this little beauty with my heart racing with joy!
Right past the Magnolia Warbler I hear the “zee, zee, zee” of waxwings. I soon find them eating fruit from the branches of a tree along the lake edge.
As I follow the path down to The Point I not only get a great view of The lake, I also find a Yellow-rumped Warbler, a Canada Warbler, some house finches and some grackles.
Around another bend a little black and white bird comes creeping along the bark of a tree. Always on the move, it is difficult to get a shot of this Black and White Warbler for it never stays still! This is the first time I have found this species all by myself and I am glowing with pride and excitement! I am wishing that my brother was here though so I could show him the birds of the park and the city that he loves so much! But, he will not be joining us until tonight. So, I take more pictures hoping that he will get to see the birds of Central Park this way.
For the most part I keep to the water’s edge at first as that is where I am seeing all the warblers. A female Redstart puts in an appearance, as well as a Wilson's Warbler. Then I spot a Green Heron as it moves through the undergrowth down the bank near the lake. It is so lovely, cool and green in here. I pass other birders with bins and cameras and while we have a brief chat, we each move on to our own birding adventure. I must say that I am enjoying this chance to go at my own pace and find the birds on my own.
Of course, there are always the “normal” birds to be found!
But I am surprised to find this pair of mallards taking a stroll down the path!
The male finally got tired and laid down for a snooze in the sun!
I continue on to find a Baltimore Oriole high in the tree canopy!
But then I hear the song of a Wood Thrush and go in search of this sweet bird. I come around another bend and find a larger wooden pavilion on the crest of a hill. The Wood Thrush is moving in the leaf litter around it. I watch as it comes boldly towards me. I sneak up behind the trunk of a tree and, using the tree as a blind, brace myself and snap away. The Wood Thrush pictures are my favorites of the whole trip and the best I have ever gotten of this species.
If the water looks green in the photos, it really is. I assume it is some kind of algae.
As I walk up a steep and shaded path I look out over the tree canopy toward the lake and the oak bridge. I let my Nikon D80 drop to my side and pull out my smaller Coolpix to take a landscape shot. Suddenly I notice a male Blackpoll Warbler sitting on a snag right in front of me! However, before I can get it put away and get my Nikon up for a shot the bird flies off! Sometimes one can have too much gear! I like to use the Coolpix for landscape shots and keep my D80 with the 70-300mm zoom for bird shots. So, I turn back to taking more landscape photos when Gus calls again. Time to head back to civilization. Besides, I am starting to get hungry! Coffee and a pastry just isn’t enough to last all day!
So, down to the bridle path I go…
…and under the arch where I meet my husband and we spend the rest of the day shopping and napping, because I know that when my brother arrives tonight we will hit the ground running and who knows when we will go to bed!
Birds seen in Central Park on May 17 and 18, 2012:
- Rock Pigeon 5-17-12
- Blue Jay
- American Robin
- European Starling
- Common Grackle
- House Sparrow
- Canada Goose
- Swainson’s Thrush*
- Common Yellowthroat*
- Canada Warbler*
- Red-tailed Hawk 5-18-12
- Gray Catbird
- Green Heron
- Mourning Dove
- Red-bellied Woodpecker
- Downy woodpecker
- Eastern Wood Pewee*
- Wood Thrush
- Cedar Waxwing
- Black and White Warbler*
- American Redstart*
- Magnolia Warbler*
- Blackpoll warbler*
- Yellow-rumped Warbler*
- Wilson’s Warbler*
- Northern Cardinal
- Red-winged Blackbird
- Brown-headed Cowbird
- Baltimore Oriole
- House Finch
*New York Life Birds! (First time seen in New York for my personal list.)