Saturday, October 11, 2014

A Cooperative Connecticut in Queens

Warbler that is and some cooperative bird it was giving all who were lucky to be there, unbelievable views. With a reputation as a skulker and a most sought after bird in our area it was quite the treat for a few of us with some people even claiming it as a life bird after 20 + years of birding.

Nashville Warbler
It unfolded sometime mid morning on October 3rd. I was not in the field when I picked up a message from Danny Melore who could not contain his excitement in relaying that it was "birdy" at Strack Pond in Forest Park Queens, NY. I was intrigued because I had heard from Danny just a few days ago that Strack Pond was doing well with Fall warblers. All this while other notable Queens birding sites were not so hot. I decided that I would give it a crack and headed over. On my way, I called Danny for an update and he indicated things were still hopping and then began to ask me what did a Connecticut Warbler under tail coverts looked like. After discussing with Danny the bird he had seen, I felt he was describing a Nashville Warbler.

When I got to Strack Pond, it was not as "birdy" as it was earlier (according to Danny) but eventually began to pick up as warblers flocked to this one tree which was teeming with aphids. The birds were gleaning them off from the leaves where the aphids were trying to find cover on the underside. While going through the birds, I picked up a Nashville Warbler and got Danny and two other birders, Bill Eisner and his wife on the bird. I then proceeded to ask if that is what he saw earlier that made him think COWA. Danny indicated he thought that is what he saw. At that point, I felt that there was no need for me to go poking around the understory looking for a possible Connecticut Warbler. Plus, I like Danny and I did not want to belabor the issue of whether he had seen a COWA or not. As we were enjoying the looks at the feeding frenzy, another birder, Corey Finger showed up and we updated him on the birds we had seen. Eventually we all parted ways, exploring the area around the pond individually.

Skulking Connecticut Warbler
After a while, I began to make way up the hill away from the pond and was trying to get a good look at birds feeding in the shadows of the understory. There were quite a number of Common Yellowthroat Warblers feeding low and I felt I needed to be diligent in looking at them.  I had looked at a few when a bird give me a brief look from behind some small plants. I thought I saw a nice looking eye ring. No !@#!@$ way I thought. So I stood still and waited. Sure enough, my first thought was right, a Connecticut Warbler walked right out from behind a small plant in the ground. Holy crap, I got to get the guys was my first thought.

Connecticut Warbler
But I was not going to shout or make any sudden moves so I looked to my left hoping either Danny or Corey would show and it was Corey who came into sight. I immediately motioned for him to go into stealth mode and he knew by my body language that whatever it was I had, it was good. It so happened that when Corey made his way to my side, the Connecticut flew and its place dropped a Nashville. Of course, Corey could not help himself and teased me for calling a Nashville Warbler a Connecticut. But I was not having any of it and insisted that he remained quiet to see if the bird returned. And return it did giving Corey a nice enough view for him to confirm the ID.

Then it was Danny's turn and we eventually ended up getting him on the bird; he was quite delighted and I think it was a life bird for him. This COWA was so ridiculously cooperative, it walked out to the pathway and posed for views and photos. If you stood still, it would feed in the understory mere feet away without a worry about who was watching. I was very pleased as it was my second time seeing a COWA this well.

Connecticut Warbler
Soon, other birders began showing up as the word got out.  Later on, I worked with Erik Miller to get birders Rich and Kelly Bossong on the bird and after what seemed like a painstaking effort we finally did and it was was quite rewarding to see the happy smiles of them both. Later on, I also helped new birders, Coco Huang and Ben Chang to get on the bird. A lifer for them both. When I left, other birders were showing up, eagerly hopeful to see a COWA. Several hours after it was found the Connecticut Warbler was still giving good views and making many birders very happy. The next day the COWA was not seen so those who made it out in time were lucky.  I was lucky, first that Danny called and then to luckily stumble onto such a cooperative little bird.

Rich and Kelly Bossong get their Connecticut Warbler

Coco Huang and Ben Chang get their Connecticut Warbler

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