If you had asked me two days ago what I was going to do on Friday, I would have told you, "Why, I'll work for two hours and spend the rest of the daylight watching birds in Central Park!" And that would have been a lot of daylight too, considering I got out of work promptly at three today and I was already on the Upper West Side. Very sadly for me, today was a complete washout. I was alternately soaked and just damp for about three hours, and none of it came from being out in the field watching birds - just getting from one place to another! But it was the first hard rainstorm for my new umbrella, and it held up very well in the winds. I'm a little disappointed in its diameter, though, since its small size contributed greatly to the wetness of my entire lower half. The best thing I found out today was that my hiking boots, purchased recently for the purposes of letterboxing and birding in many terrains, are actually completely waterproof. My toasty feet were the only consolation for this washed out day.
But you came here to read about my birding exploits, so I'll give you some recent news.
Wednesday, May 7
I ran out of things to do at work before I had to pick up the kids from afterschool/playdate, so I left a little early and walked along Prospect Park West (toward Grand Army Plaza) to my destinations. The air was breezy but warm - about 73 degrees, I'd wager. I walked slowly along the sidewalk, trying to see where the sunlight illuminated the trees mostly brightly. On the lower half of a tree trunk, I spotted a black and white warbler doing its funny criss-cross hop. In one hop it will face left, then the next hop forward, it faces right, next hop left, etc. It's a very funny pattern of movement. I saw my four most common birds - pigeon, starling, robin, and house sparrow - in good numbers. A bit further down the park I saw a speck descending the bark of a trunk headfirst, and when I got a bit closer and it got a bit lower, I could see it was a red-breasted nuthatch. Female, I think, because the red wash was limited to the flanks from what I could see.
My new bird of the day was difficult to keep in my field of vision; the wind kicked up several times, causing the new leaves to obscure the bird's position or even whether the bird took off. But I was patient and the wind died down, and soon I found the bird again. It seemed largely black on wings and throat, with a white breast, belly, and vent, and what I could only describe as a symmetrical deep blue cloak over its back. Each wing had a small white patch. I'm glad I took my time to look for details, because it enabled me to make some good notes and later identify the bird as a black-throated blue warbler.
As I left the park behind to head down-slope, I glanced once over my shoulder and saw a brief but majestic sight. Just above the tree line, over the Long Meadow I suppose, a large red-tailed hawk flew facefirst into the wind. It seemed suspended in one place by the force of the wind against it. It looked massive with its wings arched to catch the wind, and the impression I got of this hawk was pure strength. It dipped below the treeline, only to regain its former height a second later. It must have made some headway because soon my view was obscured by treetops.
So my life bird today was the black-throated blue warbler and I had a nice appearance by a red-tailed hawk. All this happened within a half hour, maybe less. I love stolen moments.