Monday, January 23, 2006

A Birdwatching tale for a rainy Monday

I don't often include reports unconnected to Central Park. But another Central Park birder sent me the following account,, so there's a bit of a remote connection. I feel I must post it:

In the New Jersey Meadowlands, while carefully scanning the edge of a distant stretch of phragmites, I glimpsed some familiar white plumage and a large, gracefully curved profile. The back of a lone swan, feeding and bobbing about in the windblown backwater.

It was the time of year when an optimistic birder might expect a possible Tundra Swan. Or who knows? Maybe something really rare. So I began to work hard to get a better view. This involved some fancy, skillfull, and delicate footwork; an embarrassing half-fall (producing a muddy half-backside); and dropping my notebook in an unsavory little patch of rainbow-colored, oily water.

Another look. Also obscured, but the bird was definitely looking less and less like a Mute, AND somehow less like a Tundra. A very good sign! As I moved forward, I began to silently compose my post for JerseyBirds ("Only a quarter mile from the NJ Turnpike, a Trumpeter Swan is �.").

Finally, about fifty yards further into some weedy toxic muck, I found a place dry enough to support a middle-aged guy, and which also promised the long-awaited look at the bird's head.

At one time or another, almost every birder has identified an errant plastic bag, flapping in a roadside tree, as a raptor. Or has glimpsed a fast-food wrapper on the beach and thought it was a shorebird. Or thought a distant, half-submerged plastic milk container on a local reservoir was a duck. These mistakes are usually corrected within seconds. But I am the only person I know who stalked, for over a half hour, a toilet seat.

John Workman
Ridgewood, NJ

PS Quick Raptor Report:

GHO still in North Woods as of yesterday"s fly-out.
Pale Male and Lola spending lots of time near nest.
Charlotte seen on nest at 6 a.m two or three days ago.