Sunday, May 02, 2010


Hooded Warbler

Scarlet Tanager

Black-throated Blue Warbler

Blue-headed Vireo [formerly Solitary Vireo

4 photos taken in Central Park on May 1, 2010

Yesterday the park was overflowing with birds --- and with birdwatchers. Those who checked the weather reports knew that the winds were from the southwest the night before-- just what spring migrants need to help them on their difficult journeys. In addition, birders who keep records know that May 1 is a regular day for termite hatches -- just what the hungry migrants need to restore energy after their long night flight. But they also need water.

That's why at a little after 3 pm yesterday I headed for Tanner Springs. This little stream culminating in a tiny pond, almost a puddle, is hidden in a thicket not far from the W. 81st St. park entrance. It is always a great place to look for birds. But even from a distance I could see I was not the only one to choose that destination on a good birding day. The place was jam-packed with birders and photographers. At least three tripod-mounted cameras were aimed at the little waterbody. I wasn't sure another person would fit in. Besides, I wasn't in a particularly sociable mood.

I quickly walked in another direction and eventually found myself going up the path that leads from the West Drive to Summit Rock. There wasn't a soul there. Great. A haven of peace. About half-way up the hill on the north side of the path I saw one of those dark-grey, square electric boxes you see in various places throughout the park -- I think they hide the mechanism that turns the streetlights on at dusk. I happily plunked myself down and waited, facing the trees and bushes on the south side of the path. I love birdwatching from a seated position.

What an unbelievable half hour I proceeded to enjoy. Almost as soon as I sat down I saw a red bird land in a low tree right in front of me. Goodness, what a bright Cardinal, I thought until I realized that this bird was not a Cardinal: it was a Scarlet Tanager. It sat there for quite a while and I kept my binoculars right on him until I thought my wrists would give out.

Less than five minutes after the Tanager flew off I saw a movement in a low bush next to the Tanager tree, and as I focused my binoculars on the bush the bird popped out into the open: a Hooded Warbler, one of the park's most coveted sightings. OMG, as a younger generation says. It darted in and out of that bush, and for the next ten minutes I enjoyed the best, longest, clearest views of a Hooded Warbler I've ever had. Did I mention that all this was happening not more than ten feet from my vantage spot.

A Black-throated Blue Warbler was my next visitor, followed almost immediately by a Blue-headed Vireo singing above my head,. But before I could get to my feet the bird obligingly flew across the path into the Tanager tree, so I wouldn't have to crane my neck.

Well, there were a few other birds that showed up as I sat there on the electric box in perfect peace and quiet . Not a soul passed by. I could have been in the real country and not Central Park. But I'm noting those first four birds for a reason.

Today I received an e-mail from birdwatcher and photographer David Speiser with four attached photographs. As always I opened them with anticipation--his photos are invariably stunning. And there they were, my four birds-- the Hooded, Scarlet Tanager, Black-throated Blue and Blue-headed Vireo. What an amazing coincidence.

Then I realized that it wasn't at all a coincidence. The path to Summit Rock is actually just on the other side of the thicket containing Tanner Spring. It turns out that David had been one of the photographers I'd glimpsed from a distance. . So those were almost certainly photos of the very birds I'd seen yesterday, thirsty birds on their way to Tanner Spring. A perfect example of birdsharing, don't you think?