Friday, April 29, 2016
Thursday morning, I checked Twitter while finishing breakfast. What? Don't look at me like that. It's Spring Migration, and some people are out birding at six in the morning. And some of them will let the world know what they're seeing.
This morning, Alice Deutsch was one of them: "#birdcp swainsons warbler imagine mosaic". It was 7:22 AM.
Well, that was interesting. Swainson's Warbler? Do they even come this far north?
Another birder quickly replied, "Swainson's WHAT? Confirm, please."
"confirming and it's singing"
I tossed the cereal bowl in the sink, grabbed my bag, and headed for the door. Outside, I did something I've never done before: hailed a taxi to take me to a bird sighting. God, I love New York. "72nd and Central Park West", I told the driver. The Imagine mosaic is there, at Strawberry Fields. I resisted the urge to add, "and step on it!"
Traffic was maddening, but I was on the scene by ten to eight. There were twenty or so birders on the park drive, staring into the low bushes separating the road from the pedestrian path. Some were lying on the ground for a better view. (The New York Post story about the bird has a nice photo of the scene.) I got down with them. The bird was singing in the bush--a ringing, jazzy little phrase of six or seven notes, reminiscent of a Fox Sparrow's song. After a few minutes, I saw something walking around down there (Swainson's are walkers), and that got me on the bird.
Over the next forty minuets or so, the bird moved around quite a bit, all under the bushes, all in an area of perhaps 15 feet long by 5 feet wide. The growing crowd followed him around. Every few minutes he sang. He came out into a relatively clear area once or twice, and then there was a flurry of clicking from the bird paparazzi. Eventually, I headed off to work--I wasn't even late. Much.
I kept seeing online report about the bird all day. he just stayed in the same little area. It is estimated that over two hundred people saw him, all in all.
Why all the fuss? Well, it's like this: Swainson's Warbler doesn't really belong this far north,and isn't very common even in its normal range. They breed in the southeast, mostly no further north than South Carolina, except for a population that breeds in the Appalachians as far north as West Virginia. We get one in this part of the country only when it overshoots by a considerable distance during its northern migration, which happens...rarely. Deb Allen did some research and apparently this is the first sighting in Central Park since May of 2000, and the fifth since 1973.
I saw some posts that implied that people were getting into fights while jockeying for position. I am sorry to have to remind you all, there are rules. You are required to maintain an icy civility until your seconds make the arrangements. Brawling in the street is simply infra dig. Tsk.
Anyway, if you're in New York and didn't see the bird, it might still be there Friday. It was still around in the late afternoon, and the weather overnight might not be conducive to it flying...wherever it's going next. What do migratory overshoots do, anyway? Do they figure out they're too far north and go back? Do they wander around until it's time to migrate south again? Anyone know?