Before her official classes begin, Hawkmadinebwog editor Courtney Douds spends the morning with an informal assembly of birders in Central Park.
Every Tuesday morning in September and October this year Richard Lieberman will lead birders through the Ramble of Central Park for the Linnaean Society of New York in search of warblers, raptors, waders, thrushes, and the many other birds that can be found in Central Park during the fall migration. Putting in my newly acquired contacts was not quite the best part of waking up, and the extra time needed to put in my eyes made me late for the 7:30 meetup at 72nd Street and Central Park West. However, it was easy to find the group of mostly 60 and up folks bunched together, necks craned back, staring at the trees with binoculars. They had moved about 20 feet in the ten minutes I had missed, and had found the first bird of the day, a female ruby-throated hummingbird.
I caught a glimpse of a broad-winged bird flapping across the nearby water and in my wishful thinking announced that I had seen a raptor, probably a red-tail. Another member of the group thought it was a night heron, and as we rounded the corner to Willow Rock, my amateur status was confirmed as we saw a lovely immature black-crowned night heron perched in the eponymous willow.
More story and photos after the jump.
My honor was redeemed after I spied and identified, correctly this time, a black-and-white warbler. Warblers tend to be the most frustrating things to photograph, but I was able to get this near-clear shot of the bird.
Richard also took us to the only American chestnut in Central Park, which I misheard as being located near “Low Pot Bridge.” I assumed that we would next visit “High Pot Bridge,” but as we crossed the wooden planks to the chestnut, I saw the plaque that designated the area in memory of “Timothy Laupot.” Legend has it that if you touch the tree and make a wish, it will come true. So I reached out to the bark…
And minutes later I got my wish, as New York celebrity Pale Male was spotted just yards away from our group! The handsome red-tail was perched on a log above a small stream of water, in which he periodically bathed, fluffing his feathers and generally being a total whore for attention, which we duly gave him.
At 10:30 we decided to take a break and sat down on a bench near a large, buzzing, rectangular stone that birding regulars have named the Humming Tombstone. Marie Winn, in her true epic tale of Red-Tails in Love, reveals that the Humming Tombstone is what turns the lights in the park on and off. As we rested our feet, a film crew came by and interviewed some of the group. To celebrate the 400 year friendship of Amsterdam and New York, park rangers from each city were swapping jobs, and the process was being documented as they went through the parks in each country and saw the difference between flora, fauna, and people.
The woman on the right was the ranger from Holland, and the man behind her is the Central Park Ranger.
Though the film crew, Pale Male, and the night heron were the main highlights, other notable birds of the day included a veery, at least ten redstarts, a Canada warbler, a common yellowthroat, a hairy woodpecker (not a downy!), and a northern flicker.
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