An April Weekend of New York City Birding
This spring has been rather lousy so far. Like, really lousy. Like, really cold, really wet, really windy, and almost completely lacking in days off work. Of course, that is just my perspective and I have been known to think that birds that don’t show up until May are late if they aren’t here by mid-April. Also, I somehow doubt that whether I am stuck at work or not really influences how everyone else experiences spring but this is my blog post so I can use whatever criteria I want to measure how well spring has gone. And the yardstick I am using is the ratio of the number of awesome looks I have had at rare wood-warblers compared to how many awesome looks at rare wood-warblers I would be having in an ideal world. That means that as of right now the yardstick I am holding does not exist because there are no yard sticks that are zero long. Stupid yardstick. Who the heck uses yardsticks anymore anyway? Shouldn’t we have meter sticks by now? Or would the conversion be too costly? What the heck am I even typing about, anyway?
At this point I am going to take a deep breath and step away from the keyboard for a minute and relax.
Ah, much better. I tend to get angry when I have not seen the number of birds I think I should have and when I am angry I type fast and crazily. Rather then continue to type crazy stuff I will simple share some quick birding vignettes from the past weekend when I spent each morning out birding. That will be much better, right?
This first birding vignette is actually from just before the weekend, when I was at Alley Pond Park on a day that I was miraculously released from work a tiny bit early and was hoping to find a Yellow-throated Warbler but settled for a Swamp Sparrow by Little Alley Pond. Not much of a vignette but I have a nice picture of the sparrow so I feel that I had to mention it. Also, seeing a sparrow instead of a wood-warbler is pretty indicative of my weekend.
On Saturday I met up with Seth and we headed out to Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge where we nearly froze to death and I refused to wear gloves because it is April and gloves aren’t necessary. Besides, suffering brings birds, right? Well, I did see a bunch of year birds but they were almost all shorebirds. Seriously. Both Greater Yellowlegs and Lesser Yellowlegs, a Willet, and two Pectoral Sandpipers. This would become another theme of my weekend – shorebird sightings. And nothing is as unexciting as shorebirds in April. Granted, we also saw a variety of herons and egrets, though Jochen will be pleased to hear that we missed Yellow-crowned Night-Heron, and, really, not getting frostbite was the highlight of the morning. Spotting 57 species of birds in the couple of hours we put in to seeking out birds was never so ho-hum in my life. Though I will grudgingly admit that a few of the birds we saw were alright, like the Northern Gannets in the bay and the Horned Grebes in breeding plumage.
Stopping to see Mitred Parakeets in Hillcrest and checking in on the Common Raven nest in Kew Gardens wasn’t as nice a mixed flock of wood-warblers.
On Sunday Seth and I joined forces again and headed east a bit, hoping that Jones Beach would provide some birds. Instead it provided strong winds, more chilly weather, and massive waves breaking upon the shore. There were also more shorebirds for us to spot. Yippee. How exciting. Piping Plovers became my best bird of the weekend, hordes of Dunlin, Sanderling, and Black-bellied Plovers gave us birds to sift through hoping to find a rarity, an exercise in futility, of course, so we settled for an American Oystercatcher.
Like heroin junkies constantly seeking the perfect high, Seth and I refused to stop birding, stopping at Hempstead Lake State Park where the birding was as bad as this year’s Boston Red Sox so by the time we gave up hope we were discussing the best ways to drown ourselves in one of the park’s ponds. At least a Northern Rough-winged Swallow was my second year bird of the day. Yay. So-so looks at a brown swallow. How exciting.
One final stop at a popular park in Queens netted us another nesting species that we only found because they can’t fly yet, Great Horned Owlets. At the same location a Chipping Sparrow also cooperated for pictures. Of course it did. It is, after all, a sparrow and therefore desperate for attention.
Seth dropped me off and my birding was done for the day. An entire weekend’s birding in April, the start of spring migration for the wood-warblers, with no new wood-warblers checked off my year list. What a horrific result! I moped all the way to Coney Island where I drove with my family on an outing to the New York Aquarium. Watching Desi experience the world is always a great way to cheer up, and seeing him go goggle-eyed over brightly colored fish, sea otter, and walrus was…wait, what’s that little yellow bird in the walrus enclosure? What the? It can’t be! PRAIRIE WARBLER!!!
What an amazingly awesome weekend I had! Here’s hoping that they are all this good!