Giant cameras strapped around their necks, binoculars clipped to their back packs, they walk in pairs or groups, all attired in sensible footwear. The tourists of New York City are easier to spot then red cardinals contrasted against green leaves. But there’s a certain group of New York locals that bare the above description as well. They share a hobby you’d never expect to find in the concrete jungle: birdwatching.
Bird watching in New York City? Does that mean covering yourself in birdseed and waiting for the throngs of pigeons to descend? Or sitting on a rock in Central Park, trying to entice a lone duck by throwing pieces of pretzel at it? These are the images that flashed across my mind when my friend Peter suggested I join him for a morning of birdwatching in Central Park.
New York City Birdwatching
We met at the Loeb Boathouse by the 72nd transverse in Central Park on a bright sunny morning. “Haha, you look like a tourist,” I teased Peter, giggling at his binoculars and telephoto lens. Of course the minute we stepped into The Ramble I was suddenly an outcast, the only human in this twisting area of Central Park not sporting this season’s must have accessory around my neck. Whatever, who needs binoculars when pigeons are as fat and slow as turtles in this town?
Walking into The Ramble in Central Park is like Apparating in Harry Potter.
It’s an immediate transportation from the city. You can’t see a single building through the thick canopy of trees. I lifted my head up from my phone screen and turned my eyes towards the sky, looking for any fluttering of wings. I took the headphones out of my ears and focused my hearing on the sounds of nature. The shift was immediate, from the artificial confines of the world wide web to the great wide world around me.
I’ve walked through the park hundreds of times. I’ve stopped to admire a flower or even a robin in a tree but never put all my attention into taking in nature. On this birdwatching adventure in the middle of the city, that’s what we did. Peter had likened the experience to meditation, I’d scoffed. But walking through the park with my senses heightened, focused, and living in the present, I realized it was a perfect comparison.
Swiftly on the heels of the realization came another: there are so many birds that are nothing like pigeons in Central Park! You don’t even need binoculars to spot them, you just need to pocket your smart phone. The above is a Yellow-rumped Warbler, spotted by me, identified by Peter, and captured by my camera. Here he is through Peter’s telephoto lens:
The third realization: my camera is crap for capturing birds! So I’ll just leave the photos to Peter (@DeGi_Pix).
It is fortunate that New York City birds are accustomed to loud noises. My squeals of, “Aw! He’s a pretty bird.” and cries of “There’s one! There’s one, Peter! It’s yellow! What is it!??” didn’t scare any of them away.
Not even this cardinal, “Omigod!! He’s scratching his ear!! It’s so cute I can’t stand it!!!”
We even saw a bat! In the middle of the morning, which made us wonder if it had rabies or some other unfortunate bat condition… Let’s pretend he’s just a New York City vampire killing some time before sunset.
This is the list of all the birds we saw in about an hour and a half. Can you believe it? (Pigeons didn’t even make the list.)
If you are longing to escape NYC but only have a couple hours, run over to The Ramble and do some birdwatching. Peter recommends an app called Merlin Bird ID that will make it easy to identify the birds you see. Peaceful, zen, and a surprising reminder of all the things this city has to offer! If you want advice from the birdwatcher who told me everything I know or if you just want to see a large variety of amazing bird photography (much of it captured in the parks of New York) find my friend Peter on Instagram @degi_pix!
Thanks for introducing me to the joys of birdwatching in the big city, Peter!
Thanks for reading! Until we meet next post. Or check me out on Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat @newyorkcliche.