Saturday, December 27, 2014

Couch's Kingbird, Abingdon Square

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Couch's Kingbird, Abingdon Square
the hero of the hour

Well, the first thing Christmas weekend brought me was a head cold. After spending Christmas Day in bed, I struggled in to work on Friday morning--and then struggled right back out on Friday afternoon to chase the reported Couch's Kingbird in Greenwich Village. Luckily I have an understanding boss.

Couch's Kingbird is a Central and South American bird, with a range extending into southern Texas and no reported sightings in New York before now. But apparently one has been hanging around a vest-pocket park at Jane and Washington Streets for six weeks or so--and nobody reported it until Christmas Day, when Zack Winestine, who found the bird, told Gabriel Willow, who posted it that night on the NYSBIRDS-L mailing list, and the next morning it was off to the races.

I got down to Jane Street about 2 PM. A knot of birders was on the corner opposite the little park. Ken Gayle had just seen the bird, but it had flown. I walked around the block and then into the park, thinking about where I would be if I were a flycatcher.

The answer came when I rejoined the other birders, who had just gotten a call that the bird had been sighted at Bleeker and Hudson, and off we went.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Couch's Kingbird, Abingdon Square
that first glimpse!

There we found sixty-plus birders, and one bird.

Ed Gaillard: street scenes &emdash; Bird paparazzi, Abingdon Square
the bird paparazzi

A lot of passers-by were curious about what was going on. Everyone was happy to explain about the bird, the first state record, and all that. "And this is what always happens when there's a first sighting of a bird in the state," I told them, "the bird paparazzi all come out."

Ed Gaillard: street scenes &emdash; Bird paparazzi, Abingdon Square
or maybe "birderazzi?"

So, Couch's can only be distinguished from a Tropical Kingbird -- a more numerous species with more vagrant records -- by voice, and this one wasn't calling. It's possible I heard it call once--when a kestrel flew overhead calling, and wouldn't that have been a bad scene--a sharp kip! Maybe.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Couch's Kingbird, Abingdon Square
ready for action

Luckily it had been calling that morning and was heard and recorded by people who could positively ID it.

Eventually I headed back to work, checking on the Ovenbird still present in Bryant Park and making it back to the office inside the two hours I had told the boss I'd need. Urban birding, there's nothing like it.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Couch's Kingbird, Abingdon Square
you made it to the end, so you get one more pic of the pretty bird

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