Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Luck and local rarities

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Savannah Sparrow, Central Park
the Savannah Sparrow who inadvertently led me to the meadowlark

I decided to swing by the Great lawn this morning, because birders who uses th3 Twitter handle @Dendroicist was in the park at 6:30am and had a Savannah Sparrow in the NW corner. A bit later he reported a Louisiana Waterthrush at Azalea Pond, but I decided to chase the Savannah--they're slightly harder to find and I hoped to get to work quicker if I didn't ramble the Ramble.

I walked past the east and north sides of Turtle Pond. The crowd of Palm and Pine Warblers that was there a few days ago had tinned out, but there were a bunch of Ruby-Crowned Kinglets. Oddly, I still didn't see any Swallows on the pond.

Walking up the west side of the Great Lawn, I scanned the grass. Amidst the Robins was a pale bird, holding itself parallel to the grass. I could see it had a chevron on its chest, and thought at first it was a Flicker. But it was small, and the back pattern was not right, and it was not really acting like a foraging Flicker. In the binoculars it had a dark eyestripe and when it raised its head I saw a straight bill and yellow on the breast and belly. Meadowlark! A life bird for me, and rather rare in the City.

Pure luck. If it hadn't been for the Savannah report, I'd never have been looking at the Great Lawn. The bird was distant but I took a bunch of photos.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Eastern MEadowlark and Robins, Great Lawn, Central Park
Meadowlark and colleagues

Park workers were cleaning up the ballfields. They were nowhere near the bird, but when a motor started, it flew a bit south. I circled back to follow it, hoping for a closer look, but the second time a motor turned over it flew up high, in a big flat curve high into the trees across from the northeast part of the lawn.

I didn't find it on the fields north of the Lawn (next to the Pinetarium), and it didn't come back when the workers left. I did find the Savannah at the backstop of ballfield #5, just where Dendroicist's report said it was. I wasn't early for work.

Then, at my desk, I saw eBird reports of a nightjar in Bryant Park, just a few blocks away. At lunch, I had an appointment to pick up stuff from my tax accountant, and I was able to twitch the bird on my way to and from it.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Chuck-Will's-Widow, Bryant Park
Chuck-Will's-Widow, a rarity in New York

People were saying this is a Chuck-Will's-Widow--the largest and rarest of the northeastern nightjars. I ID'd it mostly on the size--a Downy Woodpecker and a White-Throated Sparrow passed through its tree, and I could see it was about twice their length, so it was maybe 12 inches long; Whippoorwills and Nighthawks are about 9 inches. Also, it was browner than those birds, and the big flat head is fairly distinctive.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Chuck-Will's-Widow, Bryant Park
another view of the Chuckie

Chuck-Will's-Widow (named for the sound of it's call) is quite rare in the area, although this is the third year in a row there's been a sighting in Manhattan. A lot of people (fifty-six reports on eBird!) were able to take advantage of the convenient midtown location and very good views of this one (including Elena, who came by after work).

I was happy to learn later, that at least a couple of people had managed to refind the Meadowlark. The only think better than finding a rarity is finding one that other people get to enjoy too.

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