Common Raven, Chelsea

The Common Raven has been one of my nemesis birds for over two years now. Until recently, it was extremely rare in the New York City area, with no eBird records (even historical ones) prior to 2010 in Manhattan, and only a few in other parts of the city. Since 2011 it has appeared occasionally in many parts of Manhattan, including Central Park. It has perched on an Upper West Side movie theater, one of the Reservoir pump houses, and the Fort Tryon Park Café.

It is no surprise that ravens should sometimes wander into Manhattan. They are seen regularly in New Jersey over the Palisades and the Meadowlands. They also nest just north of Manhattan and are often occur in Pelham Bay Park.

Ravens have taunted me with nearby appearances. Starr Saphir had one over the Pool just ten minutes before I was planning to meet her in April 2012. More recently, one appeared in January on Randall’s Island the same day I observed the Snowy Owl, and then for a couple mornings after that.

Throughout all these years, there has remained one constant: you have never seen me and a Common Raven in the same place at the same time. The bird has proved superbly skilled at avoiding me — until today.

Over the past week there have been eBird reports on several days of a single Common Raven observed after 4 p.m. in the area near Chelsea Park in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood. Ravens can range widely, and I was not inclined at first to make a long trip to a place where a raven was the day before hoping it will appear there again. But once the second report came in, from the same spot as the first, I knew the odds were high that the raven would return. It sounded as if it could be nesting there.

I arrived at 23rd Street and the High Line at 4 p.m. today, and I walked the High Line north, searching the skies. I figured that the raised track would offer a good vantage point, but after a half-hour of looking I still had not seen any ravens. So I decided to walk closer to where the raven had been seen flying, over 8th Avenue and 26th Street. As soon as I got there, I heard and saw the raven. It was flying between the 8th Avenue corner of 26th Street and a water tower atop a building on the 9th Avenue corner, and calling loudly. What’s more, perching on the water tower was another Common Raven.

So perhaps Manhattan will have its first nesting pair of Common Ravens? We shall see.