Monday, September 29, 2014

Just waiting on a wren

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Marsh Wren, Central Park
at long last / suddenly / a wren appears

Some birds appear rarer than they really are, because they are simply difficult to spot even when they're around. The Marsh Wren, for example, is mildly rare and only comes through New York in migration, but the real problem is that it is tiny and brown and well-camouflaged as it skulks in the reeds at the water's edge.

In the last week, there have been two sets of reports of Marsh Wrens in Manhattan. One is at Muscota Marsh up in Inwood Hill Park. It was probably there when I went to see the the Pectoral Sandpiper last week. Oh well. Then, a series of reports from a very careful birder named Adrian Burke of a wren, and then two, in Central Park at The Pond at 59th Street. That I could try for after work, and I did, twice, without success.

But hope springs eternal, and since the bird was apparently still there on Friday--and the Global Citizen concert was going to make things difficult in the Ramble-- Elena and I went downtown on Saturday. A quick trip around the Pond--there's clearly activity in the Hallett Sanctuary, and we saw a Hermit Thrush through the fence there--ended at the northmost end of it, where there's a little mud flat near the fence around the skating rink grounds. The bit of pond that extends into the fence area is good place for a Marsh Wren. Nobody's going to bother it in there, except maybe the rats, of which there are a really startling number.

We had a little excitement shortly after arriving, when a wren popped out of the fence. But it was a grayish plain-backed bird, a House wren. Marsh Wrens are browner and have prominent streaks on the back.

A pair of Northern Waterthrushes who didn't care for each other's company enlivened the waiting, as did a Northern Parula warbler who came down to bathe.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Northern Parula bathing, The Pond, Central Park
Northern Parula with a powerful urge to get clean

The parula splashed around and was joined by some House Sparrows, huge in comparison.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Bathing Northern Parula warbler and House Sparrow
bathing with a friend

More waiting followed. Swamp Sparrows. Song Sparrows. A sparrow with a plain breast and a very streaky head, maybe a juvenile White-Crowned. A Pewee, being chased by a House Sparrow. A charming family of catbirds. It was a fun wait, but a long one. Other birders came...and went. a mile away from the Great Lawn, we could hear the bass thumping from the concert. After two and a half hours, we were thinking of giving up. I went over to the fence one last time and--something was down in the reeds.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Marsh Wren, Central Park
got to be good-looking 'cause you're so hard to see

It was the Marsh Wren. I got a good enough look to confirm the ID, and called Elena over. The bird foraged near the fence for a couple of minutes, then melted back into the foliage.

We went home happy. A happy robin bade us goodbye as we crossed Barstow Bridge.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Robin among fruit, The Pond, Central Park
thanks for coming to Central Park, we hope you enjoyed your visit!

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