Today I only had to be at work for 3:00, and Chrissy had to go into the city for 10:00 anyway, so I got up early and we rode the train in together. The prospect of having time to find birds on a weekday excited me. I entered Central Park from 81st Street and poked around the Winterdale Arch for a few minutes. I started seeing the really good birds near the statues in front of the Delacorte Theater, including a yellow-bellied sapsucker, a downy woodpecker, and a red-bellied woodpecker. And all this within the span of ten minutes!
In the grass across from the statues, a robin worked hard at extracting an earthworm from the ground. I observed the robin as it seemed to prepare the worm for eating by picking it up several times with its beak, gripping the worm's body in different places - perhaps to immobilize its prey. The robin gulped down a big piece of worm, but not as big a piece as the length of the full worm I had seen struggling to stay underground. I wonder whether the robin left some behind, having had its fill or perhaps been scared off, or whether the worm appeared elongated to my eyes as the bird stretched it from its hole.
As I stood near the statues, I happened to witness some small sparrow land on a thin tree branch and alight again immediately into the sunlight. With it rose a nearly imperceptible cloud of pollen, released from its home by the weight and then the absence of the sparrow, and beginning a journey to complete its purpose. Watching birds allows me to immerse myself in the nature of little things, but lovingly suggests that the immensity of interconnectedness is secretly inherent in all things. I love feeling deeply the universe's secrets.
I made way for a large group of high school students on a field trip whose leader announced their plans to climb Belvedere Castle next. I dawdled at Turtle Pond, spotting a great blue heron sitting in much the same way a hen sits on her eggs. I'd never seen a great blue heron not standing up straight or at least resting upright on its feet. There didn't seem to be a nest on the ground where it sat. Also in this area I saw a great egret, several common grackles, mallards, Canada geese, and a double-crested cormorant whose double-crestedness was actually a little bit apparent.
The school group took their time on the castle, so I strolled into the Ramble for a good long time. I had intended to find the Evodia Field feeders to see what I could see, much like the bear who went over the mountain. After a while of walking, it occurred to me that birds don't need feeders when they're surrounded by flowering and fruit-bearing plants. Asking a fellow birder helped clear up the matter; the feeders were taken down two weeks ago. So I felt a little better about my navigational skills, at least; since the feeders had been a landmark for me and were no longer there, I was rightfully lost, not through ineptitude. While in the Ramble, I spotted a red-tailed hawk making a wide, upward spiral in the sky. It was very calming to watch this hawk swirl around, searching for thermals to ride, held aloft by nothing more than air. Somehow it affirmed my faith in the benevolent nature of the universe.
I spotted a lot of the common woodland inhabitants, including cardinals, tufted titmice, and black-capped chickadees. Again I saw an eastern towhee, and I watched that for a few moments as it chilled out in the low crotch of a young tree. A small personal triumph: I finally put together the O sweet Canada Canada Canada or Old Sam Peabody Peabody Peabody song with the bird that sings it! The white-throated sparrow is the culprit, heralding spring in its unique way and getting the first five notes of O Come, O Come, Emmannuel really stuck in my head.
I also saw one white-breasted nuthatch. I'm not sure I'll ever not be thrilled to see those little guys. I like their behavior, movements, and apparent curiosity. Now that I think of it, I believe that was the first species I ever attempted to identify as a birder with my own binoculars and field guide, after having spotted one near the Harlem Meer last fall. Since that day it's been a joyful and educational descent into bird madness, a madness from which I hope never to recover.