Things that don’t seem to bother the Union Square Park Scott’s Oriole:

Rock Pigeons
The Union Square Park Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, which he apparently pinned to the ground and thrashed during a tussle over a slice of orange, according to some of the birders who got to the park before me
Fire trucks
A huge Barack Obama rally
The audio bird-scaring device across the street. To be fair, this doesn’t appear to bother any of the other birds either. The only living things who pay it any attention are the birders going “Where’s that Cooper’s Hawk?!?!”

I was at Union Square for my second look at Icterus parisorum bright and early, despite the cold weather and a spirited attempt by the G train to derail my schedule. Even with the high concentration of binocular-laden people about, I easily met up with Corey Finger. After some great looks at the oriole and a quick refueling stop in the Farmer’s Market we were joined by Mike Bergin. As the Oriole and his papparazzi dodged around their corner of the park, we headed out to the deep wilds of Brooklyn to try for Yellow-breasted Chat and/or Northern Goshawk in Prospect Park.

Full of hopes and dreams and coffee, we made our way up the Lullwater trail and around the boathouse. The usual suspects were much in evidence – Northern Cardinals, Black-capped Chickadees, White-breasted Nuthatch, and of course a great many White-throated Sparrows. What wasn’t in evidence was the Chat – the obliging ice-skating Chat of Wednesday lunchtime had reverted to the I’m-not-there Chat of every other time I ever looked for the bird. I suspect the fact that Corey and Mike had cameras had something to do with this.

In its place, a Winter Wren bounced on a weedstalk, calling persistantly. There were no other Winter Wrens in sight, no predators to scold. We couldn’t figure out what ze was getting at at all.

Eventually, after circling the Lily Pond and the pagoda, we decided to go down to the lake and see if the Northern Goshawk would do hir trick of buzzing the feeding gulls. On the way, we got distracted by a promising raptor-lump in a tree; it confused all three of us, although later in photos it proved to be very Merlin-like.

We were now just a bit off-course, so we headed over the hill, which proved to be a fortunate turn; the weeds and leaf litter were loaded with birds, including two red-and-gray Fox Sparrows, probably the handsomest creatures to go under the Sparrow name (yes, including Johnny Depp.) There was also a Red-tailed Hawk up a tree.

Then on to the water’s edge, where we stopped to scan the gulls. Suddenly, over the trees, a big crucifom hawk! We looked… we looked…


The sheet of ice on the lake split loudly. All of us lost the bird.

The ice would carry on making weird noises – mostly further gunshot cracks, but also whale-like moaning sounds – for some time. There was a lot of ice. On the plus side, the ice did a great job of concentrating the ducks – the usual Shovelers and Coots, plus the persistant Pintail, a pair of Pied-billed Grebes, and of course a great many Mallards, manky and otherwise, Canada Geese and Mute Swans. Further out, a small pod of Ruddy Ducks mingled with more Canadas. The Ring-necked Duck and Hooded Mergansers seem to have moved on, however.

At one point, a mob of Shovelers took off with great alacrity, and we scanned the skies for the cause, but to no avail. There would be no more raptors; indeed, we’d be ushered out of the park by birds on the other end of the drama scale, a pair of Swamp Sparrows drawn out into the open by the need to get water from one of the few holes in the ice (and running a gauntlet of angry Song Sparrow on their way.)

No longer full of hopes and dreams, but unfortunately still full of coffee, we returned to Union Square and went our separate ways. Eventually, I began to feel my fingers again. Good times. Birding with others is a very different vibe from going alone, but I hope to do more of it in the future, especially with such congenial companions as Mike and Corey.

Trip List:

American Crow Corvus brachyrhynchos
House Sparrow Passer domesticus
Scott’s Oriole Icterus parisorum
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker Sphyrapicus varius
White-throated Sparrow Zonotrichia albicollis
Rock Pigeon Columba livia
Northern Cardinal Cardinalis cardinalis
Black-capped Chickadee Poecile atricapillus
Downy Woodpecker Picoides pubescens
White-breasted Nutchatch Sitta carolinensis
Blue Jay Cyanocitta cristata
Northern Flicker Colaptes auratus
Winter Wren Troglodytes troglodytes
Song Sparrow Melospiza melodia
American Robin Turdus migratorius
Merlin Falco columbarius
Red-tailed Hawk Buteo jamaicensis
Fox Sparrow Passella iiaca
Northern Shoveler Anas clypeata
Mallard Anas platyrhynchos
Canada Goose Branta canadensis
Mute Swan Cygnus olor
Gray Catbird Dumetella carolinensis
Ring-billed Gull Larus delawarensis
Herring Gull Larus argentatus
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus
Pied-billed Grebe Podilymbus podiceps
Ruddy Duck Oxyura jamaicensis
Swamp Sparrow Melospiza georgiana