Saturday, October 11, 2008

quick walks in Prospect Park

After a self-guided walking tour yesterday of the Lower East Side with a friend (can you say Pickle Guys and Doughnut Plant?) I had a tiny window of time to scope out some birds in Prospect Park before picking the kids up from school. The sky was as clear and blue as I've ever seen it, and the brightness of the afternoon sun made it necessary to get "on the other side of the bird" with the sun at my back to get a good view. For the half-hour I was there, I had a pretty good time. (Gross understatement. I am at my happiest when looking at awesome birds.)

Almost immediately in my trek across the area that overlooks the ballfields, I spotted a yellow-rumped warbler hanging around a big tree that seemed to be hosting many tiny birds. To my absolute delight, they turned out to be golden-crowned kinglets, my very first ones. They are absolutely as beautiful as I dreamed they would be. Later, near the parking lot of Litchfield Villa, I encountered a group of white-throated sparrows kicking up leaf litter. White-crowned and tan-crowned individuals were present. It was cool to see both types at the same time, for comparison. I climbed the stairs up to the villa and turned around to be even with the canopy of a tall tree. Many kinglets and a few warblers zipped around this tree, including a black-and-white warbler and something with a yellow face and olive appearance overall. It was gone too quickly for me to notice much.

Later the kids had soccer practice, so I had an hour to walk around. I stuck to the area around the pools and had a bunch of great sightings. At the wildflower meadow, many elusive flashes of bird came and disappeared into the thickets instantly, but I got a good look at a northern parula. I love that yellow lower mandible. On the Path Between the Pools I found a northern flicker, a blue jay, and a possible tufted titmouse (one can only hope - I love those guys). On the path leading back to the Long Meadow I successfully found a black-throated blue warbler which a fellow birder named Gil clued me in about. On the Long Meadow side in the brush beyond the fence and toward the pools, I hunted down little leaf-crunching noises and rustlings until I found their source - a brilliant common yellowthroat.

This autumn of my birding life is fun in a different way than last autumn. I have a much bigger mental catalog of birds I can identify by sight and sound, so I'm not oohing and aahing blindly every time a house sparrow deigns to look at me. I guess I can afford to be a little more selective and adventurous. That's not to say any of the magic has gone out of it - rather the opposite. The game is just beginning, now that I know how to play!

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