Tuesday, November 29, 2016

The WETA Clan

The morning of the day before Thanksgiving, someone walking through City Hall Park heard an odd birdcall, and looked around to find a Western Tanager up in the trees. The Western Tanager (referred to in a lot of tweets and other online reports by its bird banding code, WETA) is not normally found east of Colorado; the last time one was seen in Manhattan was in the spring of 2008.

Ed Gaillard: recent &emdash; Western Tanager, City Hall Park
Western Tanager (WETA), looking down...

Word got out by early Wednesday afternoon, and, well, you know what happened next.

Ed Gaillard: recent &emdash; Birderazzi, City Hall Park
...at the WETA Clan birders looking up

OK, so, the crowd was smaller when I was looking for it after work on Wednesday. I failed, as did everyone else that afternoon as far as I know. On Thanksgiving Day itself, however, a steady stream of birders succeeded. I don't know how their families felt about it, but after all, the day is all about the bird.

Friday morning, I emerged from the subway at 8:10 in the morning and immediately spotted a fellow with binoculars outside the park. He put me on the bird and...well, about the easiest twitch I ever had.

Ed Gaillard: recent &emdash; Western Tanager, City Hall Park
too busy to pose!

More birders showed up shortly after. The Tanager was quite active and occasionally calling, but the light was horrid and the bird very hard to photograph.

Saturday, Elena came downtown with me, and we had views in somewhat better light. Still hard to get a good photo, though. The crowd was even larger than before.

Ed Gaillard: recent &emdash; Western Tanager, City Hall Park
what are they doing down there?

The Tanager is apparently still there today (Tuesday 11/29), so if you're among the dwindling number of New York City birders who hasn't seen it yet, there's still hope. It likes the tall trees in the northeast part of the park, along the path between the back of City Hall and the Tweed Courthouse.

Ed Gaillard: recent &emdash; Yellow-Breasted Chat, Millennium Park
Chat in a roundabout...

The WETA isn't the only good bird in the park. A second Yellow-Breasted Chat has been in the for several weeks, mostly in the traffic circle just to the south (which has a sign that says "Millennium Park", which is a good joke). Sometimes it ventures closer to City Hall.

Ed Gaillard: recent &emdash; Yellow-Breasted Chat, City Hall Park
I get around

Also a few other warblers are lingering: an Ovenbird is on that northern path just a bit west of the WETA area, and quite confiding.

Ed Gaillard: recent &emdash; Ovenbird,  City Hall Park
Steppin' out

At least two Black-Throated Blue Warblers are also present. Mostly they stay way up in the same trees as the Western Tanager, but the male came down for a drink at a little birdbath nearby.

Ed Gaillard: recent &emdash; Black-Throated Blue Warbler, City Hall Park
Black-Throated Blue at the birdbath

Usually, smaller birds are very wary of larger ones at a birdbath, even if they aren't actively chased away but this little guy wasn't taking any crap from the sparrows.

Ed Gaillard: recent &emdash; Black-Throated Blue Warbler, City Hall Park
you are not the boss of me

There's also a couple of Common Yellowthroats around, one of which likes to assert it's presence.

Ed Gaillard: recent &emdash; Common Yellowthroat, City Hall Park
Look at me! I'm also a pretty pretty bird!

The trees also hold more common birds including several Yellow-Bellied Sapsuckers (the WETA and the Black-Throated Blues are taking advantage of the wells the Sapsuckers drill in the trees, which attract insects), Hermit Thrushes, and American Kestrels, all of which are nice to see. The lawns host the normal wintering sparrows--the suddenly-ubiquitous White-Throated Sparrows, Juncos, Song Sparrows, and Fox Sparrows.

Ed Gaillard: recent &emdash; Fox Sparrow,  City Hall Park
winter Fox

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