Saturday, April 19, 2008

Way up yonder

Today I knew I'd have plenty of time to myself, so I started at the northern end of Central Park and worked my way south. I haven't walked through the North Woods or around the Harlem Meer since I became a birdwatcher, so I was excited for a new experience. The Ravine is a peaceful walk with paths on both sides and a weak stream in the middle. I saw some really beautiful birds in this area, including a northern flicker, an eastern towhee, and the tiny, well-camouflaged brown creeper. I enjoy watching the brown creeper do his thing - namely, creep up tree trunks. The real highlight of my time in the North Woods, however, was my first owl. I had seen a pair of birders training their binoculars on something high up, but I was too far away at the time to ask them about it before they wandered away. When I got over to where they had been standing, I scanned the area and found their quarry - about the size and shape of a Furby, colored exactly like bark, and sleeping in the crook of two tree limbs was an eastern screech owl. I stuck around to watch this guy, even though it was asleep, and I caught a glimpse of its yellow eyes as it woke up a little to reposition itself in the tree's branches.

I walked around the Meer, trying in vain to get a good look at the swallows that darted and zoomed over the water. I also went into the Conservatory Garden(s) for the first time. They are lovely formal gardens, but I think I would enjoy them more with a friend along. A wedding reception was under way, with a string quartet playing softly.

I walked down to the Reservoir and spotted some northern shovelers, a few mallards, and several buffleheads. A double-crested cormorant stood on the corner of one of the buildings overlooking the reservoir at its northern end, and its eyebrow-plumes were visible against the late afternoon light.

Down through the Pinetum I wandered, spotting a few friends, including a palm warbler who obliged my desire to watch it for several minutes by not flying away. I also saw a dark-eyed junco and house sparrow in this area. Over at Turtle Pond, the red-winged blackbirds sang in the trees and reeds. This time, it was close to evening, and the black-crowned night heron was awake and active. I got a good look and will count it on my list now.

By the end of my adventure, I had walked seven miles within Central Park, and made my way from 110th street all the way down to 59th street. I wear a pedometer every day, and the days I come to Central Park with the express intent of watching birds, I take many more steps for a lot less ache afterward than if I just went for a walk of the same distance. Must be a case of "time flies when you're having fun".

No comments: