Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Urban Birding: In the Rain in Central Park.

Today was not meant to be a good day, I'd put off a whole bunch of unpleasant things until I couldn't avoid them any longer, and then I ended up having to deal with them all at once.  My morning was filled with hassles with the DMV, tax issues, then a couple of hours at the dentist (the perfect morning!).  I was supposed to go to lunch afterwards but, when I left the dentist I decided I needed to be outside so I grabbed some bins, cancelled lunch, and headed to Central Park.  There were a few good birds reported recently and, even the forecast promised rain, I thought I might look for some of them.  Mostly though, I just needed to spend some time outdoors.

Heading to the Ramble I wandered over to the feeders and decided I was going to stake it out until I saw a redpoll.  Other birders had seen redpolls recently but my visits to the Ramble had produced neither redpolls nor siskins and I was feeling like I was missing out.  Almost as soon as I arrived it started to rain but I figured I'd jut ignore it and was soon joined by a birder (Allison Rea?) so at least had I had some company while I waited.  We chatted as we stood in the rain and I kept a basic scan pattern where once every minute I put bins to each of the feeders, left to right.  There was plenty of action at the feeders with lots of American Goldfinches, a Brown Creeper, and even a few Red-winged Blackbirds giving hope for an early Spring.  Then after about 20 minutes of the same routine, and "as if by magic", there was a female Common Redpoll on one of the sock feeders.  I hadn't seen the bird come in, it had simply appeared silently at a feeder while I was looking elsewhere.   Luckily I able to quickly get Allison on to it and it turned out that it was a life bird for her, seemingly making her day.  It always feels good to get a fledgeling birder a life bird, but I was also pretty happy to see a redpoll in New York City as I think it's been years since I last saw one here.  So mission accomplished I left the feeders with a smile on my face as I wandered off into the rain in search of the next thing.

Buoyed by the redpoll I walked the Gill hoping for a Rusty Blackbird (no luck) then headed over to the Shakespeare Garden to look for a Saw-whet Owl.

Northern Saw-whet Owl in the Shakespeare Garden in Central Park
Photo: Brian Padden (used with permission).
There had apparently been one, or perhaps two, Saw-whet Owls in this area for the past few days.  Many local birders had seen this (these) birds so I was hopeful of bumping into one, even despite my horrible owl karma.  Some people have good owl karma and seem to find them easily, and others (like me) just can't seem to find them for love nor money.  I'm not sure what it is that separates these two species of birders, it could be a pattern-recognition thing, patience, past sins, or just dumb luck but I am definitely in the subset of birders that simply can't find roosting owls.  I diligently searched all the yew and cedar trees, peered into the hollies, and scanned the pines in the area but today fit the usual pattern ... an hour of careful searching .... and no owl.

While I wasn't seeing an owl I got an email that Tom Fiore was seeing a Black-headed Gull up at the Reservoir so, after admitting defeat on the owl I headed up there to look for that bird.  I got there perhaps an hour or so after Tom had seen the bird and, although I scanned the gulls for thirty minutes in the pouring rain, I couldn't pick out a Black-headed Gull from the hundreds of Ring-billed and Herring Gulls on the causeway.  I did bump into Tom though who showed me some excellent photos of the bird that he'd taken that morning, a little disappointing but enough incentive to ensure I'll be back to look for it another day.

And so with time marching on I had to start heading back South.  Tom, who I'd hoped had good owl karma, went back to look for the owl, but even though we saw lots of whitewash, and met a nice French birder who showed us where it was a few days ago, we still couldn't come up with it.  Some things are just not meant to be I guess so I gave up and went to look for the Iceland Gull that had been reliable on the Lake for the past few days.

Iceland Gull, Central Park Lake.  Photo: Brian Padden (used with permission).
Needless to say there was no Iceland Gull either, sometimes luck is with you, and sometimes it isn't.  I summed up my visit as having got one of the five species I'd tried for  ... but at least it was raining (!).   But even though I'd missed most of what I was searching for I actually really enjoyed my visit to the park.  I didn't get my target birds, and the weather was awful, but I was happy I guess because I just needed to have some outdoors time, and I got it.  Central Park does wonderful things to bad days ....

1 comment:

  1. I have your same owl karma. Spent 30 minutes hooting in the woods this past weekend, to realize there was something sitting in the tree watching me the entire time. Not even one courtesy hoot to give me a chance of an ID. I just caught a glimpse of something getting bored and flying off. That was my fifth site and only place where I had any thing close to luck.