The top photo is a chipping sparrow. The bottom photo is a branch. Where the chipping sparrow was.
There are many pros and cons to an urban existence, there are many forms of entertainment to be sought in the park’s Ramble, and within one microcosm of life there are many different views on a proper birdwatching experience. There are often small irritations involved in identifying birds, especially in a public area. I am mostly bemused and tolerant of these, and generally find that there is a surprising amount of peace and quiet to be had. I love to think of myself as worldly and already-exposed to many subcultural quirks.
Yesterday, gentle readers, I was introduced to The Pisher of Central Park.
For a moment, let us revisit the art of the pish, just in case you have no idea what I am talking about. Pishing is a catchall term for the making of noises that attract birds to you, and is useful in some cases for drawing out a secretive individual or in bringing in a mob when you are in an area with widely-dispersed birds. It can involve pursing your lips and softly “spishing,” or can be a more aggressive, loud “Pshht!” Lip smacking, tongue clicking, or hand-kissing all fall into the same general idea. Taping is a cousin, but that involves electronic devices and prerecorded bird calls.
For a moment, let us avoid the obvious. Pishing is actively debated as to its merits and ethics. It is pretty straightforward that it has an effect on birds. All of the grey areas fall into how much, how loud, where (as in many cases, urban vs. rural), when (time of day, season), and for what purpose. Many people abhor it, many people use it with discrimination, and some people are just outta control.
There were a lot of birders skulking around the Ramble yesterday, and a Wednesday is a common day for group walks. Groups are pretty good at avoiding West Side Story encounters, for the most part. I was having a decent day, despite the numbers of people and the fact that it kept threatening to rain. The weather forecast had said a high of 68ºF. I had missed the part where someone tells you “not until 4pm; until then it will be 48ºF,” so I was a little cold, but I digress.
I was scouting some of the thicker tangles, chasing a shape that was probably a bird but that certainly had reminded me of an elusive Oporonis species of warbler. I was stock still, peripheral vision all electric and buzzing, with my eyes glued to a speck of movement in front of me, when I heard the LOUDEST pish I have ever heard. The effect on the understory was astonishing: robins flushed from everywhere, giving alarm calls, three blue jays swooped in and began scolding, and a flurry of smaller, more interesting birds flushed silently away into the realm of somewhere else. I jumped almost a mile, thinking someone was standing directly behind me. Within .75 seconds, all of my birds were gone.
Imagine my surprise when I realized the offender was, in fact, no where near me. Imagine my irritation when it became apparent that he did this incessantly. My jaw dropped open when I finally ran into him and realized he was leading a group and effectively teaching them that this was OK behavior. Now, finally, imagine my fury when this continued for about 4 hours. And yes, from an empirical standpoint, the birds outside of his periphery (namely, where I was, always trying to avoid him) flushed EVERY SINGLE TIME. Forget ethics, this is personal.
Of course, I don’t really mean to forget ethics. A nice rundown of codified behavior can be found at the American Bird Association site: http://www.aba.org/about/ethics.html
My bird list for the day, after the jump:
Location: Central Park
Observation date: 5/6/09
Notes: Partially with Starr Saphir & group.
Number of species: 68
Wood Duck (one female at Lower Lobe)
Great Blue Heron
Black-crowned Night-Heron (3)
Great Black-backed Gull
LEAST FLYCATCHER (one seen and heard at the base of Strawberry Fields)
WHITE-EYED VIREO (one seen and heard above the Upper Lobe)
Barn Swallow (3+ flying over Lake)
SWAINSON’S THRUSH (2 seen off Upper Lobe)
Nashville Warbler (2+ singing and seen near Gill and Humming Tombstone)
Northern Parula (multiple)
Yellow Warbler (Point)
Chestnut-sided Warbler (Humming Tombstone)
Magnolia Warbler (multiple)
Black-throated Blue Warbler (many males)
Black-throated Green Warbler
Blackburnian Warbler (3 males seen from the point to Humming Tombstone)
Prairie Warbler (Point)
Palm Warbler (Oven, Cherry Hill)
Blackpoll Warbler (Cherry Hill)
Black-and-white Warbler (everywhere)
Northern Waterthrush (multiple, Starr also had a late Louisiana before I joined group)
SUMMER TANAGER (1 male in a horse chestnut at the top of Strawberry Fields. Also
seen well by Starr & Lenore)
Swamp Sparrow (Humming Tombstone)
White-crowned Sparrow (1 in grass north of Humming Tombstone)
Rose-breasted Grosbeak (2 fem 3+ male)
INDIGO BUNTING (1 male Mugger’s Woods)
This report was generated automatically by eBird v2(http://ebird.org)