Sora, Bryant Park

I had been waiting for someone to find a Sora on one of the Central Park water bodies. Prospect Park already had a lingering Sora since late September. Bad judgment caused me to miss the Sora that visited Turtle Pond in September 2011, and I was not about to let the next one go uncounted.

So it was with much excitement that I read a Twitter alert (hashtag #birdcp) from frequent birder Ed Gaillard at 4:46 p.m. on Friday, October 12, saying that there was a rail, possibly a Sora, in the planter area at the SE corned of the lawn at Bryant Park.

I wasted no time in getting there, and was on the scene in 25 minutes. I knew that I would have just little more than an hour to observe and identify whatever was there before it got dark. Bryant Park can be an excellent spot for various birds to make an extended stay, such as warblers and sparrows, but rails prefer marshes and this park was notably dry. I did not expect any rail would want to stay overnight.

When I arrived Mr. Gaillard said he had not seen the bird since his tweet. He showed me the few photos he had taken, which I told him were clearly of a Sora. After another 20 minutes of searching, I was getting a little nervous that the bird might have gotten spooked by the attention and sneaked into another planter area. But Ed said he had briefly seen it again while I was looking from the other side, so the bird still had to be there.

Within minutes the bird began walking west through the planter giving us brief but clear views. I noted the light yellow bill and white lines on the wings. It certainly was a Sora, most probably one in its first year.

Now that I knew for sure that the Sora was still present, I issued an NYNYBIRD text alert. A handful of birders responded to it. I lingered until just after 6 p.m. to help direct viewers to the bird. Some viewed it as late as 6:30.

I was surprised to see a report the following morning that the Sora was still present in the same place. I was even more surprised when the Sora was found there again, not just on Sunday, but also on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and even Thursday!

The Sora became my 227th lifetime species in Manhattan and my 186th of 2013.

In the following days, more rare birds appeared in Central Park. On Sunday, October 13, there were two reports of Vesper Sparrow in the park, one in the North End by the Compost Heap, and the other just west of the Pinetum. It turns out that the former flew off soon after the report. I chose to chase the latter, which lingered in a fenced-off lawn area for most of the afternoon and provided good views to many. It became species number 187 for me this year.

Then on Tuesday the 16th a Wilson’s Snipe was reported around midday on the rocks lining the shore of the Lake just east of the Oven. In general, this is a common bird, but it is scarce in Manhattan and observed perhaps only once per year in Central Park. I had my first one in April 2012 at the Upper Lobe. This one was my 188th species of the year.

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