Saturday, March 19, 2011

New York City Birding


Bethesda Fountain 3-12-11 Central Park

A week ago I received an phone call from my brother, C—to go with him to New York city. Did I want to go? You BET! There was a time when I despised New York City. To me it was the epitome of everything against nature. I hated all the tall buildings, the crowds of people and the lack of trees, grass and wildlife. My brother has changed my mind. He loves New York City and always has. He studies the city like I study birds.  If I can tell you what bird species you are seeing, he can tell you what building you are looking at, when it was built and the history behind it. He is New York City’s Biggest Fan.

Years ago my brother, C—, took me and my two youngest children to New York City. This was before 9-11 when the World Trade Center was still there. My youngest son, Alex, so wanted to see those towers. We have pictures of him and C—standing between the ribs. It was at this time that C—first introduced us to Central Park. I have been in love ever since. So, this is where all the nature happens!

It has been a long, cold and snowy winter in New England. I have been yearning for spring for over a month now. We moved back east after spending 3 1/2 years in Arizona. It felt like Winter decided to get his revenge on us for it feels like we have shoveled six years worth of snow this season. Now warmer temperatures and steady rain have all but erased the mountains of snow that have blanketed the yard for over two months!

It is Friday, March 11th, and a gentle rain is falling. I hurry to dress and drive to the store for a few groceries and gas before I leave.  It has already been decided that I will spend the weekend in NYC with C—and then spend the rest of the week in Connecticut with my Mom. Once back form the store I hurry to pack my bags and load my car. I hurry across the muddy back lawn to where my car is parked beneath the pines. I currently park here for safety reasons but with the ground thawing and softening now I am beginning to wonder how long I can keep this up. The last bag is packed and I get in the car, turn it on, and put it in gear. Then, to my utter horror, the tires spin and mud flies but the car goes nowhere!

My heart starts to race now. I need to get to Connecticut in time. If we don’t leave soon enough we will get stuck in rush hour traffic! My heart is racing as I jump out of the car to examine the situation. Deep ruts have already formed and my tires cannot get up over the lip of the road to firmer ground. I glance around me and grab some sheets of pine bark and some sticks and stuff them under the tires. I jump back in and rock the car back and forth from drive to reverse. I do this several times and find I can go backward but not forwards. Finally, I back up far enough to get out of the ruts and turn my wheels to firmer ground along the tree line where I am driving on roots! Finally I am free! My heart is racing and my car is mud spattered as I drive down the road towards Connecticut and my brother.

It is dark when we arrive in NYC but we are not deterred. C—always tells me this city never sleeps. We unload out bags, and head out the door in search of supper. Not hard to find since there are several restaurants on every block. All we have to decide is what type of food we want. After tossing around several ideas we decide to do Thai. Now, I know most of my readers have had Thai food before, but I have not. This is a new experience for me. We each order a different kind of curry, then I order some kind of coconut lime soup and spring rolls. I don’t like the soup so much but the spring rolls and curry are good. I decide that I like Thai food. But the real fun begins in the morning.

DSC_0049 The Falconer Statue in Central Park 3-12-11

Upon my arrival in New York this year my current New York City Life List is 31 species of birds. I have only counted birds here one other time, and that was in 2009 when I came to visit C—. I saw my first Pileated Woodpecker in upstate New York back in 1989, but I never really counted birds here until I became an eBirder. I am anxious to add to my NY Life List. I am eager to see what we will see.

DSC_13 Spring k

As we head out the door for Central Park, I see my first sign of spring in the street plantings. Some new green shoots are poking up with pleasure, reaching for the sky.








As we near Central Park I see the typical street pigeons and other birds feasting on seed that someone has tossed on the sidewalk on Central Park West. We enter the park near Falconer’s Hill and I start counting birds. 

DSC_0014 A blue jay sits in a tree above silhouetted against the early gray sky.

DSC_0022 I see a crocus bud tightly wrapped waiting to unfold in the warmth of the sun.

DSC_0025 C—points out the San Remo through the trees towering over the Park.

DSC_0027 Song Sparrow on the fence.

DSC_0029 A robin on the lawn.

DSC_0031A White-throated Sparrow in a bush.

DSC_0045 Northern Cardinal eating.

DSC_0053 The Lake 3-12-11

DSC_0065 A Common Grackle silhouetted against the sky.

DSC_0067 Snow Drops? More signs of spring.


DSC_0081 A female house sparrow building her nest in a pipe under the covered terrace.

DSC_0092 The Ramble

The Ramble is a well known birding spot within Central Park. Trails wind in and out among the trees and bushes. Rocks jut out of the earth forming ledges and hills. It is a wonderfully birdie place and I am told that once migration starts it is full of warblers. But, we did not see any today. However, we did see something wonderful.

DSC_0093 Within the beauty of these tree trunks there are two birds. Do you see them? A tufted titmouse investigates the hollow trunk while a white-breasted nuthatch examine the other segment for insects.

DSC_0105 Do you see what I see here?

DSC_0110 Brown Creeper!

New species (Number 36) for my NY Life List! See how this tiny bird creeps up the trunk of the tree looking for all the world like part of the bark! This little bird is one of my favorites and I was thrilled to see it in The Ramble.

DSC_0113 White-breasted Nuthatch in The Ramble 3-12-11

DSC_0114 Song Sparrow on the Fence

I feel as if I am walking in a birders dream. All around me there is bird song and bird activity. Much of the park is currently fenced off to protect the fragile environment from so many tromping feet. So, we keep to the pathways and watch and listen.

DSC_0119 Female Downy Woodpecker in The Ramble 3-12-11

In The Ramble I also spot a Downy Woodpecker. It is New York Lifer #37! Every bird is new and wonderful when you are first birding a new place.

DSC_0125 American Goldfinches

I was surprised to see bird feeders set up in one location of The Ramble but it sure made it easy for me to spot NY Lifer #35, American Goldfinch.

DSC_0126 A pair of Downy Woodpeckers in The Ramble 3-12-11


DSC_0133 C—is  always looking at the details. He has taught me this. He see pattern and beauty everywhere.

DSC_0144 Witch Hazel in bloom.

The backlit Witch Hazel blossoms look like little saffron tutus to me. I wonder which little woodland fairies will come to claim their skirts! Perhaps even in New York City the Little People thrive! Here in Central Park I can almost believe that! It seems that Frederick Law Olmstead knew what he was doing. If he wanted to create a place of magic and wonder, he has done that for me.

DSC_0145 We follow yet another winding path…

DSC_0146 …where I try to “Be the Rock”… but this bright blue vest defeats that idea. Yes, this is me all decked out for a day of birding. C—has the camera though.

DSC_0175 Who is this hiding in the leaf litter?

DSC_0176 Another White-throated Sparrow!

DSC_0191 The crocus have opened now with the warmth of the day.

DSC_0203 Hellebore nods its head in humble glory.

DSC_0211 Hellebore Blossom

DSC_0215 These Witch Hazel buds have yet to blossom.

DSC_0217 But these sassy blooms are sparkling in the sunshine!

All of this Beauty, all of this Nature, is happening right in the heart of the city in a place called Central Park. You can escape here. You can have it all: the hustle and bustle of city life with restaurants, theaters, art museums and more, or…the quiet and beauty of nature, the soft songs of the birds and the wonder of a ramble through wooded paths. I think I love New York!

DSC_0221 The Dakota (This is the building where John Lennon was shot)

We leave Central park and walk back to the apartment to have a late breakfast. On the way we pass several buildings with ornate designs and beautiful architecture. There is a feast for eyes and soul here in this city.


I am glad I came!

I added 6 species to my New York Life List on this little jaunt in the park, but there is more to come and more to see and more birds to add to the list!

New York Life List: (bold lettering denotes new location or date)

  1. Pileated Woodpecker: Whitehall NY 11-14-1989
  2. Red-tailed hawk-New York Hutchinson River Parkway  6-16-2009
  3. Northern Flicker-The Ramble 6-19-2009
  4. Common Grackle
  5. Mourning Dove
  6. Mallard
  7. House Sparrow
  8. Gray Catbird
  9. European Starling
  10. Red-bellied woodpecker
  11. Northern Cardinal
  12. Red-winged Blackbird
  13. Rock Pigeon
  14. Blue Jay
  15. American robin
  16. Barn Swallow-High Line Trail 6-20-2009
  17. Double-crested Cormorant
  18. American Crow-Inwood 6-21-2009
  19. Chimney Swift
  20. Northern Mockingbird-Isham Park 6-21-2009
  21. Canada Goose-Inwood Hill Park 6-21-2009
  22. Red-eyed Vireo
  23. Great Egret
  24. Baltimore oriole
  25. House Finch
  26. Eastern Towhee
  27. Tufted titmouse
  28. White-breasted Nuthatch
  29. Wood Thrush
  30. Song Sparrow-Dyckman Street Pier 6-21-2009
  31. Turkey Vulture-NY Rt 84 Orange County 9-1-2010
  32. Dark-eyed Junco-Falconer’s Hill 3-12-11*
  33. White-throated Sparrow
  34. Black-capped Chickadee-The Ramble 3-12-11
  35. American Goldfinch
  36. Brown Creeper
  37. Downy woodpecker

*New York Life Birds!

To read about my former birding adventures in New York just click on the links below:


  1. I really liked Manhatten and loved Central Park. But I did not have enough time in the week I was there to make it to The Ramble. What a wonderful peek at early spring!

  2. Gorgeous photos and what a cool experience in the Big Apple.

  3. Wow, I really felt out of the city with you in The Ramble. And although I love the architecture of the old buildings I don't think I could live in NYC. But maybe if I ever visit you and C-- will show me around in real time.

    You have such a Great eye for spotting the birds. How do you keep track when you're out in the field?

  4. Hi Kathie

    I am glad you enjoyed your trip to New York. We went this year for the first time and it did not disappoint. It seems it can be many cities to many people. I loved the picture of the titmouse and nuthatch. The beautiful flower shots were a nice antidote to a grey day here.


  5. Lovely post Kathie.
    White-troated sparrow is one of my all time favourite "yanks" and you cought him beautifully!!

  6. Ruth, I hope you can get back one day.

    Birding is fun, if you ever get a chance to be here I KNOW you will make the most of it!

    Gaelyn, I would be pleased to show you around and so would C--I think! As for keeping track of the birds, I always carry a small pad and pen with me and write down the species and the number of individuals seen. Then when I am home I reorganize it all into a proper list which I then enter into eBird. I can consult the eBird lists anytime I want to and see where and when I saw the species! It's great!

  7. Central park... I am so close but yet so far away. i live on long island and commute to the city but never really take the time to enjoy NYC! Thank you for posting such beautiful shots and I did happen to see that orb in the picture you posted here with the little bird on the tree :) ~ I'm an orb catcher myself you see! Glad I found you. Your blog is interesting and fun.. hope ya don't mind if I follow ya!

  8. Jeni, I am more than happy to have you follow me but I don't quite see the orb...what? Thank you for your visit however, and I hope you make it to Central Park to see the birds and everything else!


Welcome to my nest! I hope you will enjoy spending time here with me and the birds. Thank you for your comments. I will try to get back to you as soon as I get back from counting more birds.