Sunday, March 29, 2009

Central Park Birding

Yesterday morning I went into New York with my non-birding sister who had some research to do. While she was busy with that, I went birding in Central Park, and then rejoined her later for some time at the Met. I ended up walking through about two-thirds of the park in the morning and the rest of it in the late afternoon.

I started off by scanning the buildings along 5th Avenue for Red-tailed Hawks. None were apparent at that time, but I saw several during the course of the walk. There were a few lone red-tails, but also one group of three and another obvious pair. Moving on, I encountered a small Swamp Sparrow flock in the lower lobe of the lake. This is one of my favorite sparrow species, so I sat and watched them forage in the muck. In the same area I also saw a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker and heard a few snatches of a Winter Wren's song.

Song was very noticeable, not just from the wren, but also from White-throated Sparrows, Song Sparrows, Northern Cardinals, and Dark-eyed Juncos. A lot of the white-throats were rather mangy-looking, especially around their heads. It seems that these birds were probably molting from basic to alternate plumage, which the Birds of North America describes as a partial molt of head and breast feathers. At least one white-throat appeared to have a almost bare head.

As I made my way north through the park, I checked out the reservoir, which had collections of Northern Shovelers, Buffleheads, and other water birds, all of which were too far to appreciate fully. Moving on, I encountered a Merlin around 95th St; the falcon flew out of the park and onto the top of a building across Central Park West. At the far north end, I spotted a beautiful pair of Wood Ducks and a small group of Ruddy Ducks on the Harlem Meer, and a Cooper's Hawk circling the hill above it.

I was a pleasant way to spend a morning, especially once the clouds lifted and the sun came out.