Sunday, March 30, 2008

Wandering Tanager

When I left Jamaica Bay yesterday, I boarded the 'A' train for Manhattan. Instead of stopping at Penn Station and going home - as I would normally do, I transferred to the 'C' train to head uptown to Central Park. An unusual bird had been reported last week from the Winterdale Arch near West 81st Street.

As I approached the arch I saw it, a beautiful Western Tanager perched right at the top of a viburnum bush (where it was reported). It then flew across the roadway and foraged in a flowering tree (perhaps a magnolia?). A photo gallery of the Central Park tanager is available, as well as notes from Marie Winn, Greatest Auk, and Urban Hawks. The key identification points are the yellow and white wingbars and the pinkish decurved bill. These points distinguish it from an adult female Scarlet Tanager, which is superficially similar.

One of the remarkable things about rarities in New York is that they seem to have little trouble adjusting to the noise and bustle around them. As I observed when I saw the Scott's Oriole in Union Square Park, the oriole seemed to tolerate the fake peregrine antics across the street, streams of passersby, and a squadron of prowling birders armed with binoculars and high-end camera equipment. This Western Tanager in Central Park faced a similar mass of birders as it foraged in a tree right next to a busy bicycle speedway. A hoard of screaming kids marched past. All the while, the tanager went about its business without flushing.

After seeing my second life bird for the day, I walked up to the reservoir. A small group of waterbirds near the southwest corner included Northern Shoveler, Bufflehead, Ruddy Duck, and American Coot. The Pinetum had a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, as well as flocks of Golden-crowned Kinglets and Yellow-rumped Warblers. I checked out the Turtle Pond and Shakespeare garden as well, but there were no unusual birds. With that, I ended my birding for the day and headed home.