Sunday, May 01, 2011

Birding Central Park

Yesterday I took the first train of the day into Manhattan so that I could watch spring migration in Central Park. While there had been some interesting sightings in the past week, I did not have any particular target birds on this trip. Instead, I just wanted to experience the sights and sounds of many Neotropical migrants packed into a small wooded area. The birding started off rather slowly when I first entered the park; for a while I only saw common resident species, and when I did see warblers they were almost all Yellow-rumped Warblers. However, things started getting better once I crossed the Bow Bridge into the Ramble. Amidst a big flock of Yellow-rumped Warblers, I started seeing others – a singing Black-throated Green Warbler, Black-and-White Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, and Yellow Warbler. A Black-crowned Night-Heron flew around the Upper Lobe of the Lake. A little up the hill, I spotted a Northern Waterthrush in the Gill and a singing Prairie Warbler nearby.

Shortly after, I saw my first Wood Thrush of the year. It crossed the path and then stopped and froze a few feet off the path. I had just long enough to take two photos. One is above; you can see the other by clicking through the photo. It was one of four (non-robin) thrushes that I saw in the Ramble. The others were Veery, Swainson's Thrush, and Hermit Thrush. All but the Hermit Thrush were firsts for 2011.

As I made my way around the Ramble I continued seeing lots of Yellow-rumped Warblers and various resident birds, such as the Downy Woodpecker pictured above. At the suggestion of another birder, I checked out Maintenance Field but did not find much new. As I walked west from there I saw a crowd of birders and decided to see what they were looking at. I soon heard the rising buzzy song of a Cerulean Warbler. I had to bend over backwards to see it since it was high up in a tree straight overhead. As I continued wandering around the Ramble, I would see it three more times. It moved around the woods in the company of other warblers, which included a Nashville Warblers and a gorgeous singing Blackburnian Warbler. Other warblers in the Ramble included Magnolia Warbler, American Redstart, Northern Parula, Blue-winged Warbler, Ovenbird, Palm Warbler, and Black-throated Blue Warbler.

Along with the warblers, I saw many other species. Orioles made a good showing, with both Orchard and Baltimore Orioles active and singing throughout the Ramble. At least one male Scarlet Tanager showed off its plumage. Vireos included Warbling, Red-eyed, and Blue-headed. I was surprised to see a Red-breasted Nuthatch foraging in the same oak tree where I was watching the Cerulean Warbler and a Nashville Warbler.

It was an excellent day to be out birding. The weather was neither too cold nor too hot, and it provided good lighting for most of the day. Birds were singing and in breeding plumage. Winds must have been favorable to deposit so many birds in such a small area. I ended up seeing 72 species, of which 17 were warblers. I think that is an excellent birding day in any location.