Sunday, December 4, 2016

Bike, Brunch, Bird.

     I met up with some of my wonderful girlfriends for brunch on the Upper West Side this late morning. I decided I would earn my brunch by biking the 12.7 miles there from my home in Brooklyn. It was a perfect day for a ride and wonderful to see my friends. We had a great meal and a cappuccino was perfect to energize me for the ride back.
     Now I do things strategically. I knew I'd have to pass through City Hall Park, exactly where a Western Tanager has been hanging out, plus some bonus (very) late warblers. So instead of taking the train and having to use up swipes, the bike is free, faster, and I can make a pitstop on the way home to tick this one off on my life list.
     Well, needless to say, mission accomplished:
Photos are subpar, but enough to tell the story. Here is my first look at the Western Tanager!

Also spotted, a [pair of red tail hawks, causing a ruckus among the local pigeons.

My favorite part about going to find birds in a peculiar place is the other peculiar and interesting sights you might never notice, like this hair piece on Lady Justice atop City Hall.

A male American kestrel finds this to be a fine perch.



One of the three bonus warblers, a male black-throated blue! I also spotted the common yellowthroat, but missed the ovenbird. It is super amazing that all this was in a patch of shrubs with a few trees growing out between them, between the courthouse and city hall. I am always super amazed at how in such an urban setting, this small little patch of green provides habitat.
I was watching this tanager as it hung out close to a yellow-bellied sapsucker and thought to myself, I have seen so many birds in conjunction with sapsuckers, a yellow-throated warbler, a Couches Kingbird... and this tanager (as well as the yellow-throat that one time) was feeding among the wells drilled by the sapsucker. These wells "bleed" sap as well as exposes and attracts insects and the sapsucker meticulously drills a series of these wells and feeds from them-- but others feed from them too. In my mind I was wondering if sapsuckers would be considered a keystone species, helping to support others in their community. Well upon investigation, it felt really great to find that my observations and my hypothesis are supported by other sources:
http://www.arkive.org/yellow-bellied-sapsucker/sphyrapicus-varius/
http://www.bbg.org/news/birds_of_brooklyn_yellow_bellied_sapsucker
http://www.borealbirds.org/bird/yellow-bellied-sapsucker

Why is this bird so exciting to see? Well, they don't really come to the east coast. Their range is from the plains and west to the Pacific Coast. Also, by now, this bird should be in Southern Mexico to Central America. You can check out their natural history on their Cornell "All About Birds" page: https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Western_Tanager/id
This bird was not easy to see, it's up high and often on the back sides of thick limbs. Oh yeah, and it's a yellow bird in a tree that is holding onto a few yellow leaves. You really have to crane your neck to see this one.

Also, passerby's -- which there are a lot of in this part of town are all sorts of like "what the hell are you looking at?!"
I'm glad I stopped to catch a sight of this bird on my way home, if you're planning a trip to see her, between this park and Trinity Church just a few blocks south, you can grab 5 rare birds (either out of range or season) in a visit, because the Yellow-breasted Chat is still there (and is apparently a dumpster diver). 
So don't just think NYC's most urban green spaces are just for pigeons, if you look a bit longer, you might discover someone new!