Monday, September 26, 2016

Lunchtime twitching in Central Park

One of the nice things about living and working in New York City is that when the rare birds show up, they're usually not far away. This month, I had a couple of opportunities to see excellent birds on my lunch hour.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Connecticut Warbler, Central Park
cooperative Connecticut

September 6, there was a report in the morning of a Connecticut Warbler in Central Park, near the Pilgrim statue on 72nd Street. So I decided that it was a good opportunity for a quick "twitch" (originally British slang; a trip made specifically to follow a report of a rare bird). I took the Madison Avenue bus up and walked along the 72nd Street Transverse until I spotted people peering into low shrubs on a the little hill below the statue.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Connecticut Warbler, Central Park
not actually going to perch in the tree, mind you

Here is a thing I've learned: if you're looking for a skulky ground-hugging bird on a hill, try to get below it. It will be easier to spot looking uphill than down (where all the vegetation will screen the bird from you).

It worked this time. It wasn't long before I spotted the Connecticut walking around in the shrubbery. This was a very cooperative bird (for a Connecticut), and he spent some time in the open. All in all, twenty minutes on the bus, a half-hour looking at the bird, twenty back downtown--I was back at my desk practically before anyone noticed I was missing.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Virginia Rail, Central Park
spot the birdie

A few days later, a report of a Virginal Rail drew me out again. Usually, when that species is spotted in Central park, it's because one ran into trouble and was treated by the Wild Bird Fund, and after rehab,released in the park. Under The Official Rules, you're not supposed to count such a released bird. So there were apparently frantic calls to the rehabbers--who reported that they had not released a Virginia Rail, and there was much rejoicing.

Even better, this normally reclusive bird was right out in the open in a spot (the bridge where the Gill empties into the Lake, which will only mean anything to Central Park regulars) offering great close views.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Virginia Rail, Central Park
oh, there you are!

Anyway, I had some adventures getting to the spot this time--wound up walking from 68th and Park to about 77th in the middle of the park--and the bird was gone by the time I got there. Woe and despair! I searched for a half-hour, and decided I needed ti get back to work. As I was deciding what the best way of getting back might be, I looked at Twitter and found that the excellent birder Steve Chang had re-found the rail nearby, at a little pond (more of a big puddle) in the area called called the Swampy Pin Oak.

I hustled over there, and in the shadows of the sheltered pond, was able to spot the rail. I got a life bird on my lunch hour, a very successful twitch. I wasn't even that late getting back to work.

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