Summer in New York City, as I might have mentioned before is hot.  Even on the long downward slide to autumn that is August the heat and humidity can be oppressive.  Many residents of Gotham flee the city for Long Island or upstate New York but those of us who are unfortunate to be left behind have coping mechanisms as well.  These mostly involve air conditioning, ice cream, cold beer, and air conditioning.  But sometimes we come up with clever ideas like doing some birding really early in the morning when it isn’t nearly so hot but it is still really humid.

And so I found myself at walking around Meadow Lake at Flushing Meadows Park at six-thirty in the morning one day this week after awakening at six and finding myself unable to fall back to sleep.  It seemed like a clever idea to give up on tossing and turning and go for a walk instead, and, despite the fact that by the time I got home I had sweat so much that I looked like I had gone for a swim fully dressed, it was a pretty darn good bird walk.

Mallard Anas platyrhynchos

What made it such a nice walk, besides the birds, was that there were few people out and about, and they were almost all joggers or walkers our for exercise, which meant that other than the occasional odd look as I crouched down to get a better angle for a picture, I didn’t have to interact with people at all (not that I am misanthropic or anything but when it’s nice when living in New York to have some time when you don’t have to prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet).  Also, the early morning light was gorgeous for photographs, I hadn’t walked around Meadow Lake in months, and it was a great way to start a day that would later have me spending eight hours in an office.

What did I see?  How about four species of heron and egret, three of which are pictured below (the Black-crowned Night-Heron wouldn’t cooperate).

Great Egret Ardea alba

Green Heron Butorides virescens

mangy Snowy Egret Egretta thula

Green Heron Butorides virescens

Great Egret Ardea alba

The waders weren’t the only birds to be seen; there were shorebirds too!  I was actually rather surprised by the number of Least Sandpipers around the lake, and I was pleased to also see Lesser Yellowlegs, Spotted Sandpiper, and Killdeer, not a bad shorebird haul for such a busy place.

Least Sandpiper Calidris minutilla

Killdeer Charadrius vociferus

There were, of course, a host of common birds about the lake as well, with nearly a hundred Canada Geese, tons of Mallards, European Starlings, Feral Pigeons, and House Sparrows.  Passerines included a Baltimore Oriole, Song Sparrows, American Goldfinch, Yellow Warblers, House Finches and a Brown-headed Cowbird like the female below.*

Brown-headed Cowbird Molothrus ater*

So, though I saw no rarities and suffered through humidity so thick I could taste it, I still enjoyed my early morning stroll, and it was made even better by a happy baby just waking up when I got home.

*I originally labeled this bird as a “House Finch” but an alert reader corrected me and told me it is a Brown-headed Cowbird.  Embarrassingly, it seems that he is right.  If I screw up one more time this year I quit.  Though, in my defense, I saw the bird, snapped this one shot, thought “House Finch” and moved on without thinking about it…is that a defense?

Written by Corey
Corey is a New Yorker who lived most of his life in upstate New York but has lived in Queens since 2008. He's only been birding since 2005 but has garnered a respectable life list by birding whenever he wasn't working as a union representative or spending time with his family. He lives in Forest Hills with Daisy and Desmond Shearwater. His bird photographs have appeared on the Today Show, in Birding, Living Bird Magazine, Bird Watcher's Digest, and many other fine publications. He is also the author of the American Birding Association Field Guide to the Birds of New York.