Sora, Central Park Loch

A substantial drop in temperature, into the low 50s, and moderate northwest winds the day and night before signaled that today could be a very good day for birding. I was expecting a strong raptor flight, which never developed. But other good things did.

I set out early to first check the Central Park Reservoir for new waterfowl and then head to the North End for sparrows and possibly Eastern Bluebird. But a text alert just before 8 a.m. of Nelson’s Sparrows on Randall’s Island’s northeast-shore saltmarsh made me reconsider. I had looked there for these ammodramus sparrows several times over the past week. And even though they generally linger for many days once they arrive, I did not want to pass up the chance to observe them when they were known to be present. I can reach Randall’s Island in twenty minutes from home, so I would still have plenty of time to chase any sightings in Central Park.

The skilled young birder who reported them on Twitter was still watching them when I arrived at 8:55. Though the Nelson’s Sparrows soon became much less active, I still saw them pop up in the low grass and reeds at least several times. We also heard an American Woodcock calling in the marsh. Further along the northeast shore we found a Lincoln’s Sparrow.

I ran back across the RFK Bridge and took the subway home. The plan was to eat, rest a bit, and then return to Central Park to watch the skies for raptors and waterfowl. Just as I was finishing eating, another text alert came in: a Sora was found in the Loch!

As I have mentioned before, Sora is a mega rarity for Manhattan. It is reported here perhaps only once every two or three years. The last one was in Bryant Park in October 2013.

I ran to the Loch, to an area between the two wooden bridges at the west end, and saw several birders observing the Sora. The bird was slowly moving along the Loch’s shore fifteen feet below in plain view, making for a very easy chase. It was my 200th species in Manhattan for 2015.

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