City at the Water's Edge: A Natural History of New York

By Betsy McCully | Go to book overview

9
Urban Flyway

New York City is along the migratory corridor of Neotropical birds, and Central Park is one of their prime havens. From a birds-eye view, the park must appear like a green oasis in a concrete desert, drawing down thousands of birds to rest and feed before continuing on their long journeys during spring and fall migrations. They are accompanied by hordes of birders hoping for what is known as a “fallout” of warblers, especially in spring, when the birds are in their colorful breeding plumage. Conditions have to be just right: a stiff southwest wind carries birds north, and rain or low cloud cover pushes them down to the ground. During the first and second weeks of May, it's possible for a dawn-to-dusk birder to see as many as twenty-five warbler species and a hundred bird species in a single day, mostly concentrated on the Point, a wooded spit of land that juts into Central Park's Rowboat Lake.1

One Saturday morning in May 2002, I joined a group of birders from the Brooklyn Botanic Garden led by my husband, Joe Giunta, in search of spring migrants. The day started out drizzly, following days of rainy weather and southwest winds—a perfect setup for a fallout. We were not to be disappointed. We gathered beneath an overpass off West Seventy-second Street by Strawberry Fields, waiting for the rain to let up. As soon as it cleared, we headed for the Ramble. We were hardly the only group in the park. Hundreds of people were pouring in—tourists, bikers, joggers, walkers, and birders—all out to enjoy a lovely spring day. Sunlight sparkled on wet leaves and birds stirred to life. Their songs brightened the air and their colors flashed in the trees. A Canada warbler displayed his distinctive black necklace set against bright yellow plumage; a red and black American redstart opened and closed his tail like a Japanese fan; a Blackburnian warbler swelled his flame-orange throat as he sang; a yellow Wilson's warbler donned his black cap; a blackand-white warbler crept along tree trunks and branches; a blue and gold northern parula flitted among the tree tops; a black-throated blue warbler sported his signature white “handkerchief”—and lucky for us that day, a gray

-127-

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City at the Water's Edge: A Natural History of New York
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Acknowledgments vii
  • Introduction - Coming Home ix
  • 1: Bedrock New York 1
  • 2: The Teeming Shore 16
  • 3: At the Glacier's Edge 32
  • 4: Land of the Lenapes 45
  • 5: Staking Claim 62
  • 6: Muddied Waters 76
  • 7: Footprints 96
  • 8: Forests for Trees 111
  • 9: Urban Flyway 127
  • 10: Weathering 146
  • Notes 161
  • Index 177
  • About the Author 186
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