Friday, April 11, 2014

Snipe hunt

When you set someone an impossible or fictional task as a prank, that's called a Snipe hunt. There's a reason for that.

At breakfast, I check several web pages--eBird rare birds and "year needs" lists, the NYSBirds-L mailing list, the NYNYBirds text alert page--to see if anything interesting has been seen. Thursday morning, there was a report of a Wilson's Snipe seen about 7am on the Point, a little peninsula in Central Park Lake that gets interesting shorebirds and warblers. Wilson's Snipe is a good bird for New York, and would be a life bird for me, so you can probably guess where I went.

I got into the park a little after 9am, and found other Snipe-obsessed birders. The story was, the bird had been seen and photographed on the east side of the Point, along with a Louisiana Waterthrush, and then both were accidentally flushed by park workers doing maintenance and trash removal. The Snipe flew around the Point and was lost to sight.

The obvious place for such a bird to hide is the Oven, a marshy area at the base of the western side of the Point. You can't (or at least shouldn't) climb down into the Oven, but a number of sharp-eyed people scanned the area from the land above it, and saw nothing. Where had the Snipe gone?

I walked all around the Lake shore. There's some decent places for a shorebird--not as good as the Point or the Oven, but possible--but neither I nor anyone else who explored the area over the course of the day saw anything Snipe-like.

I did see a nice first-of-year bird, a Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher feasting in the Cornelian Dogwoods on the western shore. They were just now bursting with little yellow flowers that attracted a lot of insects. The Gnatcatcher is a tiny, fast moving bird, very hard to photograph.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher, Central Park
My consolation prize for the Snipe hunt

Eventually I returned to the Oven and the Point. I watched a park worker go down into the oven. He seemed to doing something with a shrub. After a while, a Louisiana Waterthrush flushed--flew out of the Oven a bit down the Lake shore. I watched another twenty minutes as the man completed his work, but no Snipe followed the Waterthrush out.

I went and had a late lunch, and then did another circuit of the Lake. The Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher was still hard at work on in the dogwoods. I finally quit the Snipe hunt just after 5pm.

When I got home, I saw reports that the Snipe had been seen under a willow on the Point, and then in the Oven. Yeah, sure. I wasn't falling for that again.

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