Kentucky in Queens
When last we left our heroes, Corey, Carrie, and I had received notice of rare warbler activity at Forest Park in Queens. Since we were already relatively close, we raced over before those coveted migrants migrated right out of our airspace. Plus, I was curious about Corey’s new home away from home.
Let me tell you, Corey has got it good! Forest Park is a primeval paradise in the midst of, in my humble opinion, a hellish borough. Trees tall and thick present an apparently irresistible bivouac for birds making their annual passage to the great Boreal and points beyond. In short order, we added treats like Ovenbird, Blackpoll Warbler, Scarlet Tanager, Baltimore Oriole, Great Crested Flycatcher, and Rose-breasted Grosbeak to the day list, along with the requisite unidentified empid. However, not to sound dismissive of such unimpeachable stunners, we were hunting for bigger game, crackers like Cerulean, Bay-breasted, Prothonotary, and, best of all, Kentucky Warbler. The reason we craved Kentucky most was that none of the three of us had ever eyed Oporornis formosus before. Luckily (and I never thought I’d be saying this) Queens birders were on the scene!
Apparently, Corey is spoiled not just for prime habitat but for an exceptional network of local bird spotters who are quick to share serendipitous sightings. As we restlessly patrolled the Gully for our old Kentucky Warbler, we happened upon another searcher who in turn led us to a small patrol party that had the bird pinned down. Were it not for these diligent sentries, I wonder if we would ever have enjoyed the exceptional views of a preening male in full breeding plumage. Brilliant!
Although my window for bird chasing was rapidly closing, Corey lured me further into Forest Park with boasts of the Waterhole, widely accepted as the hottest migrant trap in the park. We finally added expected thrushes like Wood Thrush, Veery, and a buffy-faced Swainson’s to our burgeoning tally en route, but ignored as best we could the countless parulas, redstarts, and yellow-rumps overhead. I’m glad we did, just as I’m glad I could make time for the Waterhole, because we arrived just in time for another life bird. No, it wasn’t the dashing Common Yellowthroat that bopped about in the brush and muck. Nor was it the Nashville Warbler that managed to stay out of Carrie’s line of sight while still treating me with stellar views. Oh no, the sexy, sexy songbird that I had just about given up on seeing this spring was the beautiful, buff and black-headed Worm-eating Warbler digging for sustenance beneath the undergrowth. And with that memorable moment, I was off, leaving Corey and Carrie to build on the successes we’d already enjoyed. But I have a strong suspicion that I’ll be coming back to Forest Park…