There was a Corn Crake on Long Island. I missed that--no transport--and the poor bird got hit by a car a couple of days after its discovery. That's a ridiculously rare vagrant from Europe, only a few North American records in the last century. Excellent young birder Ryan Zucker wrote a very nice blog post about the Crake twitch.
Closer to home, we had a different skulky bird of the reeds up in the Loch section of Central Park, a Virginia Rail . This wasn't off-course so much, but unusually easy to see, foraging in the leaves just off a popular path.
I got to see an interesting bit of behavior--a Blue Jay who had been hanging around suddenly flew up to the top of a small tree and started alarming, and the rail ran for cover, closing the 15 feet or so to a large log in about a second and crouching underneath until the danger had passed, or at least until the Jay quieted down.
in this and the next picture, look at the feet.
seriously, aren't they amazing?
The Rail might have been released in the park by the Wild Bird Find after a rehab stint.
This is just a ridiculously close look at a Rail. That never happens.
Down in the Ramble, an apparent Hammond's Flycatcher has been around for almost two weeks now. Hammond's is a western Empidonax flycatcher, and empids are notoriously hard to identify, but this bird's small bill, teardrop eyering, long tail, and long "primary projection" (which makes the wings look sword-shaped) are pretty strong evidence, and people have heard it call (which is usually the best way to identify Empidonaxes), so everyone seems happy with the ID.
I had an unsatisfactory look at it when it first showed up, and then for some days the bird was seen before and after I left the park, but then first I had a decent look late one afternoon, and then a couple of days later I came upon a couple of people looking at it at perched over a small stream the Gill)...
..and then it flew right in and showed off on a fence six feet from me. I've never had such a good look at any empid before.
As of today (Friday 12/8), the bird is apparently still present. It goes all over the Ramble, so it might take some searching unless you see a crowd of people staring into the trees.
That same day I saw two other nice birds. While entering the park I stopped to watch a biggish flock of Common Grackles on Cedar Hill, maybe 150 or 200 birds. They weren't two nervous and I was able to walk pretty close as the foraged and fussed, and then I spotted a slightly larger and browner bird in with them.
A Boat-Tailed Grackle! Very unusual for Manhattan, though there's a breeding colony at Jamaica Bay in the summer. I think this is the same bird that was spotted by Anders Peltomaa a week or so before. It's been seen almost daily since; opinions are divided as to whether it's a female or a hatch-year male.
hey there, long legs
It was interesting to watch this bird interact with the Common Grackles. Aside from being a bit bigger, it had much longer legs, and when it felt crowded, it would rise up on them and kind of lean on the neighbors a little until they backed off.
After seeing the Grackle and then the nice view of the Hammond's, I wandered around the Ramble for a while, and came upon a Pine Siskin in a holly tree.
Pine Siskin (OK, next to the Holly)
Pine Siskins are a decently unusual bird here, although some winters we see a number of them as they wander the region looking for good crops of pine cones to eat. This was the first I'd seen this year.