Sunday, May 4, 2014

Central Park .... Real Spring At Last.

A great weekend of birding in Central Park, including 20 species of Warbler.

So I changed my plans this weekend.  The original plan was to drive North to Vermont for the Garganey (an ABA bird) on Saturday but a change of weather on Friday allowed the duck to move on and also produced a real influx of migrants locally.  So instead of driving hundred of miles I decided to stay close to home an just bird in Central Park.

The Park in May is, truth be told, a bit of a circus.  Birders can sometimes outnumber birds and the already large cadre of New York City birders are supplemented by visitors, bird walks, and a huge number of birders who really only come out to look for warblers in the Spring.  There's a lot of bad ID's, a lot of chatting and socializing, and huge crowds form when a good bird is seen.  It's not for the faint of heart - Isaac Grant says it's like birding at the zoo - but if you can deal with the birders, there are also lots of good birds.

Friday was promising, lots of new migrants arrived, and after last year's 'nonslaught' where weather stalled migration for weeks it was obvious that the weekend would be very birdy.  So I spent two long (7 hour) mornings in the Park and saw a total of 79 species in the small (less than a square mile) wooded area called The Ramble where most birders tend to congregate, and most birds tend to be seen.  Birded with various people including Christian Copper (famous for swearing at a Blackburnian Warbler in the the movie Birders, the Central Park Effect), Morgan Tingley and Ryan Walker.  A pretty good weekend.  Here are some of the highlights in photos:

Scarlet Tanger - lots of these around, plus a single Summer Tanager.
Northern Waterthush - maybe a dozen or more of these in damp spots around the Park.
Prairie Warbler
Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Indigo Bunting (above) and the crowd looking at the Indigo Bunting (below).
Yep, that whole crowd was just for an Indigo Bunting - pretty trumps rare in
Central Park in the Spring.

In all I think 25 species of warbler were seen in the Park this weekend (I only saw 20).  Spent most of Sunday looking for a Kentucky Warbler (other parks in NYC got them this weekend but we didn't) but in the end had to settle for Hooded and Worm-eating Warblers, although Black-billed Cuckoo, Lincoln's Sparrow, and Yellow-throated Vireo were also worth an honorable mention.

Hooded Warbler - male (above) and female (below)

Blue-winged Warbler
Worm-eating Warbler - one of three I saw this weekend (2 shots).

The birders were also entertaining.  I saw plenty of mis-IDs including Prothonatory Warbler (Yellow Warbler - although there was a real one I missed), Connecticut Warbler (Nashville Warbler), and Philadelphia Vireo (Warbling Vireo).  I also saw raised voices over the use of tape and flash photography.  As I said, the Park in Spring is quite a scene, but in the end the birds were good and (almost) everyone was happy to just soak them up for a few days.  Let's hope it stays this good for the next few weeks ....

Update:  of course, once I left the Park someone did in fact find a Kentucky Warbler, subsequently seen by many other birders.  Have to learn to be more patient I guess ....

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