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A heckuva town

June 10, 2011
by

Before last week, I’d never been to New York City.  That’s the sort of revelation that tends to shock people on the east coast.  But remember I grew up in the midwest, so we wanted the big city happenings we went to Chicago, a great destination and full of world-class food and museums and shopping and all the maddening crowds and the heart-stopping taxi rides and the like you yearn for the metropoli for.  And I’m no rube, don’t get me wrong.  My formative years may have been in the sticks, but I’ve tackled London and Paris and Munich.  I’ve done Minneapolis and Philadelphia and San Francisco.  I’ve even traveled down the mean streets of St. Louis, Missouri, and lived to tell the tale.  I have clearly been around, friends.  But I’d never been to New York City.

Till now, when a friend’s wedding in Scranton found us flying into New York with an extra day to spend on ourselves before heading home.  But what to do?

As it turns out, my friend and fellow bird blogger Corey of 10,000 Birds actually lives in New York City, in the beating heart of the Big Apple.  Well, he lives in Queens, which is probably more like the slightly enfeebled liver of New York, but at least it’s not Staten Island.  I had a very brief amount of time to spend in the city, and most of that was doing regular touristy things with my wife (we went to the Natural History museum, we walked through Times Square, we saw a Broadway show), but Corey was flexible, and we decided to meet up in Central Park on Sunday morning for a brief walk through the southern half of the famed urban oasis to see what we could find.

What did we find?  Lots of Black-crowned Night Herons.  Seriously.  Tons of them.  Including one with a massive fish that looked unable to swallow its catch before it gulped it down just as an unleashed dog flushed it across the lake.  I had forgotten my camera, or rather left it behind in a completely futile attempt to seem hip to the residents (I think my cover was blown by the sandals, though), but this photo from my phone illustrates what we were working with here.

Corey also took me into the famous Ramble, where we pretended the Starlings and unleashed dogs gallivanting through lovely habitat were migratory birds.  Even so, we ended up with a fair list.  A Warbling Vireo was new for the year for me, and a Yellow-billed Cuckoo was a new county bird for Corey.  We saw a bunch of those birds to the left and Corey kept telling me that they were Kirtland’s Warblers but I’m skeptical.  There were a few things that didn’t match up in any of my field guides and now I worry that my lists are all screwed up.  On top of that, every time we saw a different color, Corey would tell me it was a new species.  So I’ve ended up with all of the regularly occurring eastern North American warblers on my day list, but you’re not supposed to second guess the guide, right?  I never really got the hang of this birder etiquette when being hosted by a fellow birder.  I just thought you bought them lunch.  Anywho…

After the ramble we made our way down the labyrinthine pathways to meet my wife on 57th street where Corey proceeded to play tour guide for us.  We saw a nice castle and some Eastern Kingbirds.  One of those things was interesting to my wife – I’m sure you can guess which one -before we headed back to North Carolina by way of LaGuardia.  A bit too short to be sweet, but nice nonetheless.

So what do I think of New York?  I can see why people, even non-birders, like it so much.  Will I be back?  Almost certainly, and ready to bird too, even if all I’ll ever see are Starlings, House Sparrows and Kirtland’s Warblers.

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6 Comments
  1. June 10, 2011 7:11 am

    Really? “Slightly enfeebled liver” is how you describe my borough? You’re going to get it, Swick, you’re going to get it good…

    But those hordes of warblers were nice, weren’t they? Especially their calming cooing sounds?

  2. June 10, 2011 7:15 am

    Dearest Corey – I did not know it was birding etiquette to buy the host breakfast. Otherwise, be sure that we would have done so. Sorry we looked like such a-holes. Thanks again for the grand tour of Central Park and for taking our engagement/wedding pics.

    ~Danielle

  3. June 10, 2011 7:28 am

    Good introduction, Nate, to the wilds in NYC. Next time when you have a few more hours get to Jamaica Bay and Jones Beach for fabulous birding.

  4. Nate permalink*
    June 10, 2011 8:01 am

    @Corey- They were lovely. Too bad I can’t check them off on my field guide because I can’t find them.

    @Jane- Had I had more time, Jamaica Bay would have absolutely been on the agenda. Next time, indeed.

  5. June 10, 2011 9:56 am

    Damn, I better check my standing on eBird’s NY state list page. In fact, had I known you were coming to NY I would have made sure I crossed into your territory — too late to get in on this pelagic weekend?

    I’ll have to make a trip down to the City – I still don’t have Kirtland’s on my NY list, glad to know they appear pretty easy in Central Park.
    -Mike

  6. June 10, 2011 12:01 pm

    Too bad I didn’t know about the breeding Kirtland’s Warblers in Central Park. I would have looked for them the last time I was there!

    I’m in agreement about Jamaica Bay’s awesomeness.

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