Dickcissel, Central Park Pinetum


Dickcissel (Photo credit: K Schneider)

After finishing a midday workout, I was considering going to the Hudson today to watch for waterfowl driven to move by the sub-freezing overnight temperatures. I returned to my apartment and saw a NYSBirds posting alerting me to a more proximate opportunity: one of Manhattan’s most accomplished birders, Peter Post, had reported a Dickcissel in the Central Park Pinetum.

I had just several week ago chased a reported Dickcissel on the Great Hill only to find that it was actually an exotic escaped bird, probably a Yellow-fronted Canary. I had no doubt about the one today, however. Mr. Post is a noted expert who has been birding Central Park since long before I was born.

I arrived at the Pinetum roughly 40 minutes after Post’s 1:38 p.m. report, and no one had seen the bird since the original sighting. I was encouraged to see that Post, with his camera, was still looking. I surveyed the surrounding area, checking the Pinetum’s inner circle and also the newly-seeded lawn that had attracted many sparrows in recent weeks.

Just after 3 p.m. I saw some birders running and a camera flash going off. I ran toward them, to the area where the bird had originally been seen, the very northeast edge of the Pinetum just northwest of the Great Lawn. The Dickcissel was on the grass only twenty feet from the wire fence, but it did not stay there long. Camera flashes seemed to frighten it, and it flew up into a pine tree and then, apparently, away.

I had gotten a good look, but I wanted to see it again, so I went off looking for it. Most of the other birders stayed in place. After twenty minutes it reappeared on the same lawn from which it had flown. It eventually gave all birders extended, close looks as it walked across the lawn. It had only a hint of yellow on its eyestripe and a dull grey breast. It almost certainly was a female, or possibly an immature bird.

I had had the Inwood Hill Park Dickcissel in December 2011 and January 2012, so it was not a life Manhattan bird for me. It was, however, my first Central Park Dickcissel, and species number 196 for me in 2013 in Manhattan.