I decided to take part in the Christmas Bird Count this year, my first time. So I got up early and walked to the 86th Street bus in the dawn light. Overhead, a flight of Crows headed for the East River.
Entering Central Park, I heard a strange stuttering birdsong: di-di-di-di-di-di-di-di (pause) DI-DI (long pause and repeat). I have no idea what that was; my best guess is a Mockingbird imitating a car failing to start.
I reached the meeting place at the Reservoir's south pumphouse. Someone explained to me that we would divide up into groups that would go to various parts of the Park under the guidance of a park ranger and an experienced birder; choice of which group was ours.
It snowed yesterday and then rained all night, and the footing was treacherous, so I picked the Great Lawn group; that area is mostly flat.
We set off around 8:20 for what proved to be about three hours of quite uneventful birding. Probably the bad weather was keeping the birds quiet.
I don't like birding in large groups ("large", to me, is anything more than about four), but the company was pleasant. A fellow named Dave struck up a conversation with me, asked me about my binoculars and how I got into birding and so on.
When the count ended and the group headed for the Central Park Armory to collate results and have lunch, the conversation turned to photography. Dave had been a photojournalist and we talked about street photography and Diane Arbus. Very enjoyable conversation. When we got to the Armory, Dave introduced himself to the table as Dave Yarnold, President of the National Audubon Society. I had no idea.
When the count was compiled, I learned that a group of Lesser Scaup was on the Reservoir, so I ran off to see them; my 173rd species in New York County this year.