Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Little bird causes big stir in park

Prothonotary Warbler at the Point - May 9, 2006
Photo by Lloyd Spitalnik
This morning at about 8 a.m. I was at the Point with a group from the Natural History museum when I ran into Ken Gale. He's a birder I've known for many years who shows up at about this time every year -- a migratory birdwatcher. This time he looked a little distressed. He was thinking about a bird he had seen a few minutes earlier. Could it have been...? No, not possible.. But what else could it have been...? Back and forth. He wrote a letter about his morning's experience on e-birds a few hours later. This is what he wrote:

Hi, folks,
The short and the long of it:

The short:
A first year male or particularly bright female PROTHONOTARY
WARBLER was being active for quite a while mid-morning between Bow Bridge, The Point and Willow Rock, both sides of the lake, usually over the water, frequently more visible from the opposite shore than the near shore.

The long:
Attitude is a big part of birding. It had been a slow day for
birding when I first saw it. I was alone 1/3 the way on The Point, checking the activity in the willow near Willow Rock. I got a clear look at it, noted it had the "angular" head shape of a Prothonotary then shrugged it off as a female Yellowthroat, my first of the year. It wasn't until I was nearly at the end of The Point that I realized "Female Yellowthroats don't have yellow on the TOPS of their heads." I checked a field guide and realized my first thought was correct: I had a female Prothonotary Warbler, but I was so cynical I decided it couldn't be, like I couldn't be the first person to see a bird like that. My negative attitude kept me from following the bird when it left the willow or telling anyone about it right away. Luckily, some of the people I told about later saw it and eventually dozens of birders saw it. People were going up to me saying, "You're vindicated, Ken."

But of course I'm cynical, I do a show on WBAI ;-) (if you're up early tomorrow morning (Wednesday), I'll be on the air interviewing the writer Arnold Drake).

Happy bird-day,

Ken Gale, NYC
http://www.comicbookradioshow.com/ecoglold.html (my April 4 radio show was
on birds and birding and is archived on line)