So Thursday evening, I saw reports of a Virginia Rail in the Loch and Ravine area (part of northern Central Park). That's a very good bird for Manhattan. There were two last year--one at the Loch and one downtown near the Federal reserve (!). Before that, eBird has a report of one on the east side in 2008, and two in the Ramble--one in 2007 and one in 1991. And that's all.
So off I went this morning, under a gloomy sky; and up and down the Loch I walked for the next three and a half hours (with a short excursion around the rest of the north end). No Rail. There were other rewards--a Louisiana Waterthrush sashayed into (and back out of) sight a couple of times, and a Merlin soared over the Great Hill when I took a little walkabout there--those were both first of the year for me. A Golden-Crowned Kinglet popped up in front of my--a male, close enough to see the red streak in the middle of the gold crown stripe. I'd never really seen that before.
Still, no Rail. Nobody else had seen it, either. A post on the NYSBirds mailing list suggested that the Rail, if still present, would likely be more active near dusk. So I went home intending to try again later.
It was starting to sprinkle rain when I got back to the park. A few Buffleheads and a single Great Egret were at the Pool. In the Loch, still no Rail.
In the gathering gloom, birds began to sing: Cardinals, Robins, White-Throated Sparrows. Flickers called. Suddenly, from across the stream, a long, high song above the rest.
a cascade of trills
cuts through the rainy gloaming
--a Winter Wren sings
The wren (also a first of year bird for me) never appeared. Neither did the Virginia Rail. The rain got harder as darkness fell. I went home. There were still Buffleheads diving in the Pool as I passed on my way out.