Seeing new birds is always good. But sometimes, after a few go-round where you see new birds because someone points them out to you – or because a dozen someones point them out to you – you begin to feel like you need to go out and be the person getting other folks on the rarity for once, lest you become less of a bird watcher and more of a bird watcher watcher.
With this in mind I headed to Prospect Park on Saturday in high hopes that the new, unseasonably warm weather might have brought some new, unseasonable birds with it. My first hint that this was, indeed, the case came at the Upper Pool, where a drake Ring-necked Duck and two drake Wood Ducks were paddling about in the morning sun. Good times. Most of the regulars were there too – Red-winged Blackbirds singing lustily, Yellow-rumped and Palm Warblers, lingering White-throated Sparrows, Hermit Thrush….
Oh holy balls, what was THAT?
As I scanned the Lower Pool, spot of yellow that looked practically illuminated from within dropped out of a tree and landed on a twig jutting out of the water. It didn’t take me long to determine that I was not looking at a transcendental meyer lemon, but rather at a male Prothonotary Warbler, because A.) male Prothonotary Warblers look like basically nothing else in eastern North America and B.) I’d only been waiting to see one practically my whole life!
The bird, unaware that it was like the Holy Grail only shinier, drank some water and made some jabs at some bugs. Now I had a conundrum. Because I wanted to stand there and stare at it, but I also wanted to get other people on this bird. Thankfully, a quick glance up the trail revealed two innocent bystanders with binoculars, who I shanghaied into sharing my moment. They were extremely nice about being shanghaied, and extremely enthusiastic about the bird. And they called over a friend with a camera, while the warbler obligingly flew directly at us and posed. It was glorious.
So we all stood around and watched, and eventually the bird flew off in the direction of the Upper Pool and we dispersed. Filled with delight, I went on down the path into the Ravine, bursting to share the Good News of the Gospel According to Prothonotary Warbler with all the birders I met.
Of course, I didn’t want to brag. So when I did run into some more birders, I was careful to preface my exciting news with an inquiry into the state of the Yellow-throated Warbler that had spent the last two days on Lookout Hill. Perversely, Yellow-throated Warbler was not quite as exciting for me as Prothonotary, because I already had it on my life list courtesy of last fall’s trip to Florida. Still, it is not a bird to be sneezed at.
And yet, the birders I queried sneezed at it. “Oh yeah, it’s still around. And did you hear that there’s a Townsend’s Warbler up there too?”
Suddenly, my Prothonotary shrank. The more so with the news that it was one of two (or possibly three) of its kind present and the park that day. Still, it was a damn good bird and it was mine, and I passed along word of it to everyone I met (most of whom had tried and failed to find the Townsend’s).
I did meet two nice ladies who saw the Bittern last week after I told them about it, which was also rather heartening.
I climbed Lookout Hill with practically every other birder in Brooklyn, and heard but did not see (and thus sadly for my purposes cannot count) the Yellow-throated Warbler. The Townsend’s was being invisible, which throughout the course of the weekend would prove to be a technique it was extremely skilled at. Eventually, I walked down the hill again.
As I made my way up the other side of the Lullwater and into the Vale, the true extent of the weather’s unseemliness began to make itself felt, and the birds got less active and enthusiastic. Still, the Vale itself as always had a final surprise – a singing male Orchard Oriole who beautifully closed an embarrassing gap in my life list.
And I saw this guy.
So it’s not like I can be mad.
Other notable sightings: more definitive proof that I have broken my Gnatcatcher curse; FOS Black-and-White Warbler, Ovenbird, Blue-headed Vireo; nesting Robin and Canada Goose, nest-building Mourning Doves, and copulating Song Sparrow; and all the Yellow-rumped Warblers in the world.