Blue-winged Teal on the Lake

Blue-winged teal pair Sand Lake National Wildl...

Blue-winged teal pair Sand Lake National Wildlife Refuge (Photo credit: USFWS Headquarters)

After adding a new life bird for Manhattan yesterday, I was thrilled to add another one today, one that I was not at all expecting to see. There are some birds missing from my life Manhattan list for which I am always on watch, most notably, Common Raven, which can fly over any time and has been appearing more often in Manhattan this year; or Canvasback, or Boat-tailed Grackle.

Blue-winged Teal, however, has not been reported on eBird in Manhattan since 2009, even though it appears frequently in Brooklyn and nearby New Jersey (the Meadowlands). I have no idea why these birds avoid Manhattan! I suspect that they occur in flyovers, particularly in the fall, but few birders watch the skies for flyover ducks. There must be at least twenty birds I deemed more likely to join my life list than this one.

At 8:25 a.m. today I was scanning the Lake for swallows when I saw a pair of unusual ducks. The male clearly looked like a Blue-winged Teal, or at least like what I recalled a Blue-winged Teal to be from the guidebook — I had never seen one before in the field. I ran to Evodia, where I figured top birding guide Joe DiCostanzo would be with his Museum of Natural History group after encountering him earlier on the way into the park. Joe helped me to confirm the ID with his birding app. Now entirely certain of what I had seen, I sent out an NYNYBIRD alert and led the birders to the shore of the Lake east of and opposite Hernshead. It took a couple minutes, but the pair of teal came into view, swimming together 60 yards offshore near a Gadwall.

For nearly everyone this was a life Central Park bird. It was my 225th lifetime Manhattan species.

Year birds for me today included Yellow-rumped Warbler, Green Heron, and Blue-headed Vireo.