Little Park, Big Day

3 10 2010

Swainson’s Thrush – Luke Tiller

Saturday morning I found myself in the city. After a weeks worth of lousy migration weather it was almost tough to sleep such was the excitement of  getting up to see what the overnight winds might have delivered in the shape of birds to the Little Park on the Hudson.

I have to admit that having been here in the states a number of years now that I sometimes become a little blase about the common migrants (and the more you bird, the more ‘common’ birds get added to that list). What I love about having a patch is that it often makes finding of even the most prosaic of birds exciting, for example the thrill of adding Semipalmated Plover to the Allen’s Meadows list was no way undermined by having seen thousands of them in other parts of the state.

As I’ve said before, for me the thrill of birding is the thrill of the unknown. The great thing about the Little Park on the Hudson is that almost any find there is something of a thrill beyond the odd House Sparrow or Starling. Saturday morning though was something of a banner day at the park. I arrived just before sun up and realized that the park was alive with migrants. Not quite dripping with birds but nothing to be sneered at. Almost as soon as I got into the park I was on my first goody of the day, an immature White-crowned Sparrow and things just snowballed from there.

Although commonplace almost anywhere else, a latish Ovenbird was highly unexpected in a spot with barely a patch of trees, let alone an area with something of an understory. The bird’s somewhat startled impression, as it flitted out of a patch of bayberry, almost seemed to scream ‘what the heck am I doing here!’ It wasn’t alone in being the only woodland specialist skulking through the shrubbery, as almost immediately I had a Swainson’s Thrush scuttling along the edge of the hedge row, a genuinely good bird most places let alone a small patch of greenery smack bang in the middle of Chelsea.

Birds just kept coming and going through the morning, and before I knew it I had been circling the confines of that little park for about 4 hours. Having the camera with me is something of a blessing and a curse. It allows you to capture some of those birding moments for posterity but the time it takes to get shots eats into your birding time, so for me it’s a bit of a double edged sword.

Just to show how even the most common birds can cause of frisson of excitement when found out of context, three of my highlight species of the day wouldn’t cause most northeastern birders to bat an eyelid in almost any other circumstances. For me though a trio of birds that most birders probably hardly even consider migratory really made my day. Firstly the welcoming sound of a trio of Black-capped Chickadees caught my ear. These birds rarely nest in Central Park let alone nest in the tiny confines of the Little Park but here they were winging their way south through the trees (I also noted large numbers in Central Park on Sunday so it must be a fairly big movement year for them). The other two highlights a couple of wandering woodpeckers: first a Red-bellied and then even more unexpectedly, a little Downy. Usually these would have been glossed over on the way to finding better birds, but here in the context of the Little Park it gave them a new meaning and gave me a new appreciation of them (not that I don’t love Chickadees anyway – I mean who doesn’t!)

All in all a pretty exciting day in the park, with highlights being: 9 species of warbler (2 Nashvilles probably would have been the best species but for the conspicuously out of place Ovenbird), 3 White-crowned Sparrows, 1 Swainson’s Thrush and 1 Red-breasted Nuthatch.

Trip List (asterisk denotes new park species – notes on numbers where I can be bothered):

Canada Goose, Double-crested Cormorant, Osprey (2)*, Peregrine Falcon (1), 3 x Gull Species (Ring-billeds back in force), Rock Pigeon, Mourning Dove, Red-bellied Woodpecker (1)*, Northern Flicker (12), Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (1), Downy Woodpecker (1)*, Eastern Phoebe, Blue Jay, Black-capped Chickadee (3)*, Red-breasted Nuthatch (1)*, House Wren, Golden-crowned Kinglet (4)*, Ruby-crowned Kinglet (6), Swainson’s Thrush (1)*, American Robin, Gray Catbird (20+), Northern Mockingbird, Brown Thrasher (2)*, European Starling, Nashville Warbler (2)*, Northern Parula (4), Magnolia Warbler (3), Myrtle Warbler (3), Black-throated Green Warbler (1)*, Blackpoll Warbler (1), Palm Warbler (8), Ovenbird (1)*, Common Yellowthroat (15+), Scarlet tanager (3)*, Chipping Sparrow (2), Savannah Sparrow (2), Song Sparrow (10+), White-throated Sparrow (10+), White-crowned Sparrow (3)*, Dark-eyed Junco (4), House Sparrow.

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One response

4 10 2010
Chrissie T

sounds wonderful!

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