Friday, 1 February 2013

Central Park, New York, Jan 2013

“Money will be spent, or blood will be spilled”, warned Mrs Gannet as she packed me off for a trip to JFK. Thus it was that, after a morning’s birding in Central Park, I found myself at the door of Tiffany and Co. on 5th Ave. Unshaven, wearing my army surplus outfit and a panicky expression at the thought of how much  cash would need to be spent to avoid bloodshed, I entered through the revolving doors, monopod in hand. A security/risk profiling expert may have suggested that my appearance would fit nicely into the pigeonhole reserved for “desperate, wild-eyed, cosh-wielding  vagrant”. I have no issues with the security personnel at Tiffany’s who acted in accordance with their training and were very apologetic as they picked me up and dusted me down. If I have any criticism of 5th Avenue’s most prestigious jeweller, it is their lack of provision for parking a bicycle outside their store.


Up until then, the day had been going very well; that is, birds had been seen and very little money had been spent. Central Park’s Barred Owl was still in situ, though tricky to find in the arboretum. The Red-tailed Hawks were very visible and a Hairy Woodpecker showed very well in The Ramble. I had headed straight for The Ramble where two juvenile Red-tailed Hawks were following each other through the trees. One dropped to the ground in The Oven at the top end of the Boating Lake and was faced down by a very ballsy Gray Squirrel.

The young hawk had found a detached wing and picked at the feather bases before flying up onto a higher branch to scan the ground below. The willow was rooted beside the water’s edge and the high rocks that I was standing on put us at the same level.

The feeder area was very busy with White-throated Sparrows and Northern Cardinals taking loose feed that had been scattered on a rock. The black-seed socks were being dominated by American Goldfinches while Tufted Titmice and House Finches fed from the silo-sized feeders.

My first visit to the arboretum failed to find the Barred Owl. It had started to snow and the wind was picking up, so I didn’t work too hard but, on my way back, I bumped into a couple of birders who told me where to look and I managed to find it at the second pass. By the time I passed back through the Ramble, the paths were coated with a thin layer of snow and looked very picturesque.

A “Sweep” (to my ears, but Sibley prefers “Peek”) from a dead tree caught my attention and I turned to find a Hairy Woodpecker looking straight at me. It dropped to a damp stump close to the ground and gave me my best ever look at this species. The “inconspicuous tuft” (Sibley) at the base of the bill was very apparent at close quarters. Perhaps it was slightly stained by wood pulp?

Northern Cardinals had been showing quite well today and I have long held an ambition to catch a picture of one in the snow. I was hoping that today might be the day, but the snow didn’t stay for long. One did drop down for a drink while carrying a few snow-flakes and kept me happy until my next opportunity.

Birds seen;
Red-tailed Hawk 4, Mourning Dove 4, Barred Owl 1, Red-bellied Woodpecker 4, Downy Woodpecker 2, Hairy Woodpecker 1, Blue Jay 15, American Crow 15, Black-capped Chickadee 8, Tufted Titmouse 35, White-breasted Nuthatch 4, Brown Creeper 2, European Starling 60, White-throated Sparrow 30, Northern Cardinal 15, Common Grackle 30, House Finch 50, American Goldfinch 25, House Sparrow 200.

Visit the dedicated USA and Canada Page for more from New York, especially Jamaica Bay.