Wednesday, December 30, 2015

2015, a Good Year for Life Birds

Well, I didn't have nearly the exciting birding year that some people did, but it was quite satisfying nonetheless. I didn't spend as much time twitching in Central Park in 2015 as in the past few years. Partly that was due to a torn hamstring/torn ligament combo that spanned Thanksgiving 2014/January 2015, and caused me to spend the first half of 2015 limping about with a cane and extreme caution. While walking was part of therapy -- along with many, many leg lifts and stretches -- the uneven ground in the park was uncomfortable at first. So it wasn't until late in spring migration that I really got out and about again.

Once the leg was mostly fully healed, hiking up and down the hills of the North Woods and the Ramble became positively therapeutic besides enjoyable. And handling the binoculars and camera was much easier without the cane needing attention. I didn't see a lot of spring migration but did have a few really good days, shared with Ed and with other friends. No life birds, though, at first. And there wasn't much to see in the summer except for the usual suspects, so I didn't make much effort to follow Ed on his weekend bird hikes again until the fall migration began.

There were opportunities away from the city. Our annual summer trip to the Catskills got Ed several life birds over the past few years, and this year I got one too: I finally saw a whole field full of Bobolinks! There were many pairs breeding in an uncut hayfield just one driveway past our friends' farmhouse -- twittering their odd song, flying up to the surrounding power lines perhaps to distract predators, perhaps just to keep an eye on the territory.

My photo, not Ed's
I was feeling kind of lazy to visit Central Park until migration began, when some really cool birds began moving through. In mid October, an injured Sora was spotted in the North Woods. Ed saw it several times, and I finally saw it too not long before it disappeared. This is one of Ed's photos of it, as I had stupidly forgotten to recharge my spare camera battery and therefore was unable to shoot the darn thing myself. Not that it was visible for very long when I was there.

Ed's photo, not mine
We also had a few really good October days seeing warblers, kinglets and woodpeckers -- there were a dozen Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers in the elm trees between the Pineatum and the Reservoir one afternoon -- but nothing else really new. Then in early November reports began of a Great Horned Owl in the Ramble, I'd missed the previous bird in 2012, I wasn't going to miss this one! So I was there the second weekend he/she was hanging out. I was well rewarded with a gorgeous autumn day, and the sight of a GHO's extremely fluffy butt, seen from below.

My photo, on a really windy day the owl did not enjoy
There was also an extremely lost and scruffy Western Flycatcher (which doesn't exist, as the taxonomy splitters claim that species is actually 2 different species THAT LOOK THE SAME) hanging around near the Boathouse, and we were happy to bring friends to see it same day as the Owl. Alas, the flycatcher soon disappeared from the park. We fear it met a sad end.

Then in December a Painted Bunting appeared in Prospect Park, and there's no good excuse for that bird to be in Brooklyn. It became quite the celebrity. We HAD to see it, despite my birder friend in Ft. Lauderdale noting he had a dozen of those a day at his backyard feeders. As I grew up living a block away from Prospect Park, I was especially pleased to return to the site of my earliest birding adventures. The Bunting was gorgeous. It glowed, as if it were painted with fluid from blue, red and neon green glowsticks. It also wasn't hard to find, as there were nearly 100 other birders tracking it.
I didn't get excellent photos of it, but Ed decided to return the next day and got lucky.

He's right there in the middle. 
As we walked from the skating rink to the Zoo, along the eastern shore of the Lake, we spotted a few ducks. One of them turned out to be a female American Widgeon -- and that was my sixth life bird for the year! If I'd only gone with Ed back to the park, I'd have gotten a seventh -- a Black-headed Gull has also been hanging out in the Lake, but I've been entirely too lazy to nab that sighting. Wouldn't be the first time. Or the last.

1 comment:

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