You may not have realized it but Corey is on a birding rampage, terrorizing the parks and waterways of the New York Metro area like Godzilla with expensive optics. His monomaniacal pursuit of migrants dovetailed nicely with my desire to actualize some pre-business birding so I offered to introduce him to the allure of Inwood Hill Park. Inwood Hill provides an excellent vantage point from which to take in the steady stream of northbound birds, a towering ridge along the Hudson River carpeted with some of the oldest woods in the city. I’ve done well here in the past and suspected Corey would be impressed.
Well, he certainly admired the habitat, as any nature lovers would, but the birding was nothing to write home about, at least to start. Lots of common birds like robins and house sparrows attended our trip along the inlet towards higher ground, although nesting Baltimore Orioles and Warbling Vireos also made the scene. As we climbed towards the upper reaches of the ridge, the park seemed quiet and dim… too quiet and dim. Perhaps we arrived too early. Eking out a Blackpoll Warbler here or a parula there is fair game for most of the year, but it takes more than that to get me out of bed in May.
Fortunately, the birds were just waiting for a little more light to make their move. After exploring some winding paths, we finally reached my favorite promontory in the park, the last vestiges of some old stone structure with a low wall dotted with purple flowers and open to the canopy. This is also where Inwood’s infamous eagle hacking platform is positioned as well as a fertile ground for poison ivy. But how about those birds? Gray Catbirds and Blue Jays are a given, as are grackles, cardinals, starlings, and invasive Old World sparrows. Putting those aside, we enjoyed looks at ten or more species of warbler, including winners like Blackburnian, Nashville, and Magnolia. Cedar Waxwings traveled in flocks overhead while solitary Red-eyed Vireos gleaned high branches. By the time we were through, we’d seen all the expected birds along with a few very pleasant surprises.
My 300th year bird turned out to be a spritely female Ruby-throated Hummingbird hiding amidst honeysuckle. That isn’t really a big deal as I’ll be enjoying much better views of this exquisite bird as summer advances. My 301st year bird, on the other hand, was a very big deal; out on a bare branch suspended in a clearing in the canopy, a large flycatcher was beating the bejesus out of some grub or caterpillar. This bird’s distinctive dark vest was diagnostic of only one species, the elusive Olive-sided Flycatcher, something I haven’t seen in many years. This wasn’t the only flycatcher associated with boreal woods and bogs to cross our path. A Yellow-bellied Flycatcher also turned up, as did Least and Great-crested. A little taste of the Adirondacks in Inwood was just the right flavor to start my day!