Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Four Out of Five Ain’t Bad

I want you, {I want you }
I need you, {I need you}
while there ain’t no way I'll ever find all of you
I don’t feel sad, {don’t feel sad,} cause two out of three ain’t bad *

So being skunked on 6 birds is new record for me. Embarrassing actually. Jean Loscalzo, Eric Miller, and I revisited Manhattan on Sunday to try to make up for our missing all 6 target birds the week prior.

We started by heading up to Inwood for the Dicksissel, this time we were prepared by bringing seed that we put down. There were no shortage of House Sparrows, and they were joined by a Cardinal, Mockingbird, two Song Sparrows, and a White-throated Sparrow.

What was curious was how flighty the hosps were. They would fly down, and fly back to the fence repeatedly. The other birds were not as jumpy, and would often stay through several back and forths by the hosps. They kinda looked like Sanderlings going towards then away from the water.

Eric theorized that hawks must be flying down the path and picking them off, and we took note of an Accipiter and three circling Red-tailed Hawks. We hoped to see a Bald Eagle like last week but did not.

Two of the numerous Rock Doves came down and partook of the seed we put down, and then without warning a Red-tailed Hawk took a swipe at the Doves but missed. So it would seem that Eric was spot on with his theory. 

We spent two hours but no Dicksissel. The sun was warming, but the wind was picking up too and blowing off the river it felt colder. Time to move on. We went to Union Square with requisite worrying by Jean that we would not find a parking spot. Sure there was no lot as in Inwood, but without an inordinate amount of searching we found a place to park the car, and it was only around the corner from the park.

We headed straight for the south-west corner where the Gandhi statue was located and began to look for a Yellow-breasted Chat that has been resident for some time. Within a few minutes of looking, Jean and Eric simultaneously called out There's the CHAT!

As we jockeyed for a good viewing position, I finally got a clear view as the bird came out from under the plants and was able to get a few photos. We also attracted the attention of a woman sitting on the bench quite next to us. She was a tourist from Edmonton Alberta Canada, and wanted to know what we were all excited about. Jean and I explained that we traveled into town to see this bird, pointed it out to her and showed her the image on my camera. We also explained its rarity for place and time of year. She was impressed by the unknown { to her } network of birders on the internet who shared information, and it seemed to make her day more interesting and enjoyable too. I enjoy sharing in this manner with non-birders.

Yellow-breasted Chat
Having gotten our main target, Eric mentioned that there was a White-crowned Sparrow in this park as well. We split up to look for it as we didn’t know where it was being seen reliably, and he ended up spotting it within moments nearby.

We then headed back uptown for the Museum of Natural History’s Rufous Hummingbird. Again, some of us pondered the paucity of parking potential, while I said we’ll drive around and eventually find something. It took maybe all of ten minutes, but a spot was located in front of the Historical Society by Jean no less, and we were able to continue our quest.

A short walk brought us to the west 81st street entrance of the museum and the feeders. We quickly surveyed the east then west plantings, and Jean found the hummer sitting on a plant. We watched it fly over and feed at the sugar-water feeders put out for it, and then it returned to perch and afforded photographic opportunity.

Rufous Hummingbird
We then ended up at the Boat House where we had hot beverages and I shared, quite possibly, the best mushroom soup I have ever had. Walking past the Delacort Theater, we saw a huge flock of Grackles, perhaps 100 or so. They flew gracefully in formation about the tree tops, and then all of a sudden they flew chaotically as they tried to avoid an attack by a Merlin.

Then we headed thru Central park towards Hallett Sanctuary in search of the Red-headed Woodpecker. On the way we meandered and got a view of Pale Male and his new babe as they sat on a building adjacent to where their nest is located. Two “enthusiasts” sat vigil by the pond, and let us view the hawks through their scopes.

Without the wind and because of the mild temperature it was quite a pleasure to walk through the park. We made our way further south and to the fence around Hallett Sanctuary. The lighting was bad as we looked in, so we tried walking around east. That side meant a long walk around “the pond” so we went back the other way, and along the sanctuary’s west side. Success! Eric spotted the immature Red-headed Woodpecker as it flew into a tree, and we got some nice looks. Just after we found it, a Manhattan birder came looking for the bird too, and we were able to get him on the bird as well.

Red-headed Woodpecker

At this point the decision was made to go back to Inwood and try again. We spent another hour, but the bird was a no show. It was reputed to be one of the last birds to come down for the seed, but come on, what a diva. Or maybe it was snatched by a hawk?

Admittedly a disappointing start and finish, but heck four out of five ain’t bad!

* apologies to Meatloaf

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