For the Birds!
This weekend all paths lead to one place … Central Park. I am in awe of Central Park and often forget how incredible and incredibly important it is to New Yorkers (and visitors). It is a superb place for running and cycling, a ramble through the woods, sitting on a park bench, rowing a boat, and one of the best locations in North America for Ornithology (bird watching)!
My interest in birds began with a bet in South Africa; I know it sounds like the beginning of a joke, but it is actually true! My family traveled there with close family friends primarily to go on safari. It was the most incredible trip as we saw a variety of animals in their natural habitat. On the last game drive, on the last day, we saw the elusive and nearly extinct black rhinoceros. What I realized is that a big part of the fun on the game drives was seeing things that hadn’t previously been seen; I didn’t even turn my head for the hundredth antelope, but the rhinoceros blew my mind.
This key insight is why bird watching is such an addictive activity, as there are an incredible variety of birds and they exist in most environments. Therefore, we bet on who would photograph and identify more birds in the subsequent year. Needless to say I won (go me!), in part because of the incredible variety of birds in my backyard (Central Park) relative to the swamp (Miami).
In this weeks Find, I will show you what Tweeting is really about, as well as a few tricks of the trade!
The first place you should go looking for birds is the newly opened (after nearly a century of being closed) Hallet Nature Sanctuary. This four acre area in the Southeast corner of Central Park is just South of Wolman rink, steps away from the Plaza Hotel. It is currently only open to the public three days a week (Monday, Wednesday, and Friday) from 2-5pm. This bird sanctuary was recently renovated by the Central Park Conservancy and is open to the public on a very limited basis. Without a doubt, Central Park is one of the best birding locations in North America. Since the creation of Central Park, more than 280 bird species have been recorded; 192 are regular visitors or year-round residents and over 88 are infrequent or rare visitors. Spring migration extends from late February through the first week of June, peaking in May. Go there with your camera (bring a zoom lens), or binoculars, or your iPhone 6 and get ready to start your bird watching journey and see some incredible birds!
First things first, if you are not an experienced bird watcher, you need a way to recognize the birds you see. Audubon Birds is a great app that allows you to identify birds by shape, location, and even name. Sure I know cardinals and blue jays, but I never knew a Common Grackle or an American Goldfinch! Figuring out what you saw is a surprisingly fun activity. All the pictures above are my pictures and the app makes identifying the breeds easy. You don’t have to go to Africa to find exotic animals, they are right in your backyard!
If you want to be super birdy, join the second annual Global Big Day Saturday May14th. Last year more than 14,000 members of the worldwide birding community noted 6,158 species. All you have to do is download the eBird app (developed by Audubon and Cornell Lab of Ornithology) and note the species you see.
After you have found your first 100 bird species, it is time to make your first picture book (shout out to Becky K. for this find)! This easy to use app takes the pictures from your mobile device and makes a great looking photo album of up to 60 images. The photo album is an 8’x8′ hardcover book that looks amazing. On each page it prints the date and geolocation of the picture, so you can remember where you saw that bird as well as place a comment. Obviously this app is great for any trip, memory book, or present. It is incredibly easy to use and super cheap. It allows you to organize your pictures and have them ready to peruse yourself or share with a loved one.