Central Park Brrrrrrrds

Jan 21 2005 Published by under Uncategorized

I freely admit that I am a cold-wimp. This means that I have not been birding much (only twice) this week, despite my desire to escape my current sadness by losing myself in the lives of birds. My personal goal (to avoid depression) is to go birding at least once per week and more often when the weather is reasonable. But considering the current weather situation, I am not sure if I can live up to this promise: I don't have health insurance but at the same time, I do have a particular talent for becoming desperately ill with pneumonia. As I write this, a blizzard (or "Nor'easter") is on its way and I have no idea how long it will be before I can go out to look for birds again in Central Park, nor how often I will do this.

I am sad about this. My Friday/Sunday morning birding excursions have been the only time(s) each week when I spend time in the company of people. Otherwise, I am alone, unless you consider being crammed into a subway car with hundreds of cranky commuters to be stimulating social interaction. But I was lucky; even though my birding companions don't know me well (nor I, them) they accepted me into their group immediately. I am pleased to note that they also look forward to seeing me each week and they always have fun stories and jokes to share with me.

Because of the weather, only four others (out of 10 or so "regulars") in the birding group showed up on this very cold Friday morning to poke through the bushes in the icy winds in Central Park. Perhaps because I was the last to arrive, everyone laughed and cheered when they saw me walking towards them -- probably in recognition of our shared insanity. It was a nice way to start the morning.

We did not spend much time looking for birds in open areas because the strong wind was so cold. Instead, we spent most of our time near the birdfeeders on The Ramble and at the northwestern end of The Lake. The fox sparrow made an appearance under the feeders while a red-breasted nuthatch fed on suet in a feeder, above. We marveled at a yellow-bellied sapsucker hanging motionless from the trunk of a tree, approximately three feet above the ground. This bird had puffed its breast feathers into a fluffy globe whose diameter exceeded that of a softball so as to capture the warmth of the morning sun radiating from the tree trunk.

At the northwestern end of The Lake, a savannah sparrow picked at our offerings of peanuts from the flat rock in the company of sparrows while chickadees swooped down to collect them and greedily hoard them away into secret niches. Nearby, an immature yellow-bellied sapsucker added new holes to his collection of active sap wells already drilled into the trunk of a small conifer while chickadees closely watched his progress.

The Reservoir hosted many ducks and gulls on Sunday but they were all gone by Friday, when it had frozen over. We also were unsuccessful in our search for the boreal owl near Tavern on the Green, although we have carried out a thorough census of owl poops in the middle regions of Central Park. (Searching for poops and pellets under trees is an efficient way to locate roosting owls).

Although I have seen neither Pale Male nor Lola on or near their restored nest this week, one of my birding companions reported they were both perched on their nest early on Sunday morning and it appeared they had added more twigs to the structure. But I have seen Pale Male from my office window almost every morning this week as he circled low over the bare trees of the park. On all occasions, he seemed to simply be enjoying himself by soaring, and never attempted to capture any of the terrified pigeons that flew frantically from him. Much to my disappointment, Pale Male never once visited me by perching on my window ledge this week.


Central Park Bird List, 16-21 January 2005 (31 species total seen):

Weather: cold and windy; poor light all days

Binoculars: Swarovski 10x50

Telescope: none

Mute swan (introduced), Cygnus olor, 1 adult on The Lake

Canada goose, Branta canadensis canadensis

Mallard, Anas platyrhynchos

Northern Shoveler, Anas clypeata

Hooded merganser, Lophodytes cucullatus, 1 pair on the Reservoir (Sunday)

Ruddy duck, Oxyura jamaicensis

Red-tailed hawk, Buteo jamaicensis, 2 adults (Pale Male and Lola)

Ring-billed gull, Larus delawarensis

Herring gull, Larus argentatus

Great black-backed gull, Larus marinus

Rock dove (introduced), Columba livia

Mourning dove, Zenaida macroura, The Ramble birdfeeders, also Shakespeare Garden

Red-bellied woodpecker, Melanerpes carolinus

Yellow-bellied sapsucker, Sphyrapicus varius, 1 immature working a coniferous tree on the northwestern shore of The Lake (Sunday), 1 sunning itself against tree trunk near The Ramble bird feeders (Friday)

Downy woodpecker, Picoides pubescens

Hairy woodpecker, Picoides villosus, 1 flying through the trees and calling at The Ramble (Sunday)

Blue Jay, Cyanocitta cristata

Tufted titmouse, Baeolophus bicolor

Black-capped chickadee, Poecile atricapillus

White-breasted nuthatch, Sitta carolinensis carolinensis

Red-breasted nuthatch, Sitta canadensis, 1 at The Ramble birdfeeders

American robin, Turdus migratorius

European starling (introduced), Sturnus vulgaris

Fox sparrow, Passerella iliaca iliaca, (rufous with grey stripes) 1 feeding on the ground at The Ramble birdfeeders

Savannah sparrow, Passerculus sandwichensis 1 feeding on the ground at the northwestern end of The Lake (Sunday)

White-throated sparrow, Zonotrichia albicollis, both tan and white morphs

Dark-eyed junco, Junco hyemalis hyemalis

Northern cardinal, Cardinalis cardinalis

House finch (introduced), Carpodacus mexicanus

American goldfinch, Carduelis tristis

English (house) sparrow (introduced), Passer domesticus


The picture linked here is found on the Buchanan County Bird Club photo gallery website. It is linked without permission with no intent to profit in any way, except to satisfy my desire to share the beauty of the birds I see with my readers.

2 responses so far

  • Dani says:

    Would you believe I've never seen a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker?I'm about 35 miles east of NYC, and plan to make many trips to Central Park when the weather eases up. In the meantime, I'll just live vicariously through you and the others who write about CP wildlife. 🙂

  • GrrlScientist says:

    Dani: I linked to a picture of a yellow-bellied sapsucker who is sunning himself against a tree truck. I can't believe I didn't think to do this before since everyone loves to look at birds. From this point on, I will try to add a link to a picture of one of the bird species that I see during my wanderings.