#358 Blue Grosbeak

Blue Grosbeaks are regular accidentals in New York. Usually they show up on Staten Island or along the coast at Fort Tilden or Jones Beach. I’d avoided chasing any of several that had showed up earlier this year, but the recent sighting in Central Park, where they’re much less common, was too tempting to resist. Starr Saphir first found the bird on Saturday morning. It has hung around since then, and was reported again this morning at 9:30 A.M. I’d considered heading out early to try for the bird, but I had a noon lunch meeting in town, and I didn’t want to show up all sweaty from the park, so I took a chance that the bird would still be there in the afternoon. It paid off.

Blue Grosbeak in Wildflower Meadow

Apologies for the quality of the photograph. Cal Vornberger has posted some better photos of this individual taken with serious equipment and lenses. My little 12x Point-and-shoot Lumix can’t compete.

I got off the #2 train at 110th street a little after 1:00 P.M. Some see-see-seeing from the trees quickly turned into five or so Golden-crowned Kinglets. There were a few dozen Canada Geese, Mallards, 5 Gadwalls, and three Ruddy Ducks on the Meer, as well as one Ring-billed Gull and a first-winter Herring Gull. I walked along Harlem Meer, and a few warblers tried to attract my attention, but instead I made a beeline for the Wildflower Meadow. (Well, as best a beeline as I could manage. I don’t know Central Park all that well, and I later realized there was a much more direct route I missed.)

I crossed A. H. Green Hill and entered the Wildflower Meadow from the East. Walking along the edge of the meadow, I scanned the flowers for birds and butterflies. All I saw were a few Monarchs, but as I moved further in I spotted the surest field mark of a rare bird: seven birders with their binoculars all pointed into the flowers. Lloyd Spitalnik waved me in toward the bird, and warned me to move softly. Fortunately, with his directions I was able to spot it from where I was standing. Sure enough: it was a rich, reddish-brown Grosbeak. (Blue Grosbeaks are only blue in the Spring and Summer.)

The bird was hiding in the wildflowers, but it wasn’t too shy. It often popped up into view. near as we could tell, it was making a circle that brought it back to our location periodically. My initial sighting lasted maybe five minutes. Then it reappeared 10-15 minutes later. Then it disappeared again. It reappeared one more time, and this time it stayed out in the open and hung around for a good 20-25 minutes.

There’s only so long you can watch one bird, even a lifer (though I know a few hawk enthusiasts who might disagree) so around 3:00 I moved on. It was a little late, but it wasn’t too hot so some nice birds were still feeding in various locations. Other species seen today included:

  • Cooper’s Hawk
  • Red-tailed Hawk
  • Rock Pigeon
  • Mourning Dove
  • Red-bellied Woodpecker
  • Northern Flicker
  • Eastern Phoebe
  • Blue Jay
  • Tufted Titmouse
  • Golden-crowned Kinglet
  • Ruby-crowned Kinglet
  • Hermit Thrush
  • American Robin
  • Gray Catbird
  • European Starling
  • Yellow Warbler
  • Yellow-rumped Warbler
  • Common Yellowthroat
  • White-throated Sparrow
  • Northern Cardinal
  • Common Grackle

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