Sunday, May 23, 2010

Good Birds, Good Food and Excellent Company...

Female American Redstart

After all the time spent supporting birding events with different organizations, I was looking forward to some birding of my own, so on Sunday May 16th, I headed out to Alley Pond Park in Queens. Unfortunately, I encountered interference at the location in the form of a local race; deciding, it was not worth the hassle, I ended up at Forest Park Queens. It was a sound decision as I met up with Tom Burke and Gail Benson and basically birded the entire day with them at Forest Park. At intervals we birded with other birders like Joe Viglietta, Bob Shriber and renowned naturalist Mr. Guy Tudor.

Cape May Warbler

Tom, Gail, Joe and I were the early birders at the waterhole and got off to a good start picking up 16 species of warblers in very short order (we ended up with 21 for the day at Forest Park). The singing Tennessee Warblers reminded Tom, Gail and Joe of what Forest Park was like many years ago when migrating warblers were in large numbers unlike what it is today. Later on, we had a couple of Cape May Warblers high in the canopy that gave us all good looks despite the tough angles they presented. A Black-billed Cuckoo popped out of nowhere to give a few if not all of us our FOS (first of the season). Guy Tudor’s familiar face was soon spotted along the trail and he along with birder Bob Shriber, joined the four of us and together we began scouring the park for additional birds.

Bay-breasted Warbler

Our first Yellow-bellied Flycatcher of the day was spotted by Tom Burke. We had about 2 + for the day. Further along the trails, a Lincoln Sparrow popped up giving brief views; however, only a few of us got glimpses of it. We had several Swamp Sparrows along the trail and picked up additional birds including outstanding looks at many Bay-breasted Warblers. At one location we had as many as 5 Bay-breasted, the most I have ever seen in such close proximity.

Mourning Warbler

All along the trails we kept picking up Magnolias and Wilson’s Warblers. Joe soon departed and the rest of us went in search for Mourning Warblers. Mournings are tough to find as they stay low and well hidden. Luckily Tom was with us and he was quick to pick up the distinctive chip and before long he had us closing in on one. I had the luck of being the only one seeing it, only too briefly; unfortunately, we could not relocate the bird. We tried a second location and it was Tom again who keyed up on the chip note and found the bird, this time we all got looks and of all the luck, I was able to get a couple of photographs. We then birded our way back to the waterhole, adding to our day list along the way.

Fresh Tortillas

At the waterhole things had quieted down and so not long after we broke for lunch heading to a place recommended by birder, Seth Asubel. It turned out to be a great recommendation, the place Fresh Tortillas, lived up to its name. The overall experience was fantastic; the food, price, portions and hostess were all terrific. In fact, we met the owner’s son who after noticing our binoculars shared his interest of birds with us. Well, as you could imagine we had quite the time speaking at length with him on that topic. Tom was superb passing on advice on where to go and what to look for. If you’re in the neighborhood, be sure to check out Fresh Tortillas and let the owner know that you are a birder, I guarantee you will get the royal treatment…at least that is what she promised us.

L-R Bob Shriber, Joe Viglietta, Guy Tudor, Gail Benson & Tom Burke

It was a terrific day of birding! It is not often one gets to bird with these talent laden birders and naturalists. I felt very fortunate to be able to listen and observe Tom, Gail, Joe, Bob and Guy in action, they are definitely some of the best in the business. Good Birds, Good Food and Excellent Company, that’s how everyday in the field should be.

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