Saturday, April 17, 2010

Yesterday's report and the 7 Pleasures of Birdwatching

Chris Cooper, one of Central Park's great birdwatchers, sent a report of yesterday's birds to eBirds:

Friday, 16 April 2010
Central Park--Falconer's Hill, Strawberry Fields, the Ramble

7 - 9 AM EDT

An INDIGO BUNTING briefly appeared near the Tupelo Meadow's mud patch, then dove into Mugger's Woods. The Azalea Pond/Gill area and adjacent section of Mugger's Woods remain the hotspot, but poor lighting prevailed. No sign of the L Waterthrush in the Gill (it was there yesterday)...


Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Pine Warbler
Palm Warbler (many)
Blue-headed Vireo
White-throated Sparrow
Swamp Sparrow
Song Sparrow (heard only)
Eastern Towhee
Dark-eyed Junco (feeding high in tree in violation of union rules)
American Goldfinch
Hermit Thrush
Cedar Waxwing
Northern Flicker
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
Brown-headed Cowbird (heard only)
Red-winged Blackbird

--Chris Cooper

PS A few years ago Chris sent me a list he had composed to sum up why he is a birdwatcher. For new readers, here it is again:

The Seven Pleasures of Birding
1. The beauty of the birds
2. The beauty of being in a natural setting
3. The joys of hunting, without the bloodshed
4. The joy of collecting (in that the practice of keeping lists -- life lists, day lists, etc.-- appeals to the same impulse as, say, stamp collecting)
5. The joy of puzzle-solving (in making those tough identifications)
6. The pleasure of scientific discovery (new observations about behavior, etc.)

and saving the best for last,

7. The Unicorn Effect--After you've been birding for even a little while, there are birds you've heard of or seen in books that capture your imagination, but you've never seen for yourself...and then one day, there it is in front of you, as if some mythical creature has stepped out of a storybook and come to life. There's no thrill quite like it.

If you get tired of people asking you, "Why do you go birdwatching?" as I eventually did, these are handy to whip out.

Friday, April 16, 2010

The case for bird-listening

Worm-eating Warbler - Central Park
Photo by David Speiser

Two days ago I spent an inspiring morning wandering through the Ramble with Gabriela Klassen's 5th grade class from P.S. 145. They had been studying birds and already knew quite a bit about birdwatching. Best of all, they were wildly enthusiastic about every bird that appeared in our field of vision, be it a house sparrow, a blue jay, a cardinal, a red-bellied woodpecker a white-throated sparrow or a yellow-rumped warbler. [Actually, those were our important sightings of the day.] The focus of the morning was on bird song, and before the morning was over they had added at least four new songs to their repertory.

I left the group as they settled down for their picnic lunch in a little meadow a bit east of the Evodia Field feeding station. They had each brought a bag lunch from home and just before I left I sampled something Joanna Kuang's mother had cooked up that morning: the best chinese dumpling I've ever tasted -- still warm!.

As I was leaving the park I heard a bird singing an unusual song in a tree just north of the 79th St. Maintenance building. It was a short, buzzy, raspy trill repeated again and again. and though I was almost late for an appointment, I stayed there for a few minutes, scanning the trees and bushes with my binoculars as the bird continued to sing.

I never found the bird-- it was somewhere deep in the green. But something clicked into place as I listened, and I left with a feeling that I knew exactly what bird had been singing.

The next day I sent a note to Tom Fiore:

Hi Tom,

around 1pm, as I was leaving the park via the W. 81st st. entrance, in the greenery near the parking lot of the Maintenance shed I was pretty sure I heard the insect-like trill of a worm-eating warbler. It was singing persistently. Alas, I didn't find the bird -- the sun was not helping, and I was a bit late for an appointment.But I was wondering: is this about the time you'd expect to see one?


That evening I received Tom's reply:

Hi Marie,

In the north woods today (Thursday) I found a singing Worm-eating Warbler; good views, so no doubts. I also see that one was reported to ebirdsnyc list for Forest Park in Queens. On the early side, yes - unprecedented, no. . .

I'd not "expect" Worm-eating for about 10+ days more, but there will be the odd early arrivals. From records in Central & Prospect Parks in the past decade, around April 25 is a bit more typical of a FIRST arrival for Worm-eating, with most later. We're in or near the period when just about any migrant could turn up, though some species are extremely rare before May.


Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Photo courtesy of -- April 12, 2010

According to Jim Lewis. creator of the widely distributed "History of the Fifth Avenue Hawks" chart, the eggs should hatch between April 15 and April 20th this year. Based on mail I've been receiving from Pale Male & Lola fans all over the country, [and based on Emily Dickinson too], hope is the thing with feathers...