A Bird-a-thon Adventure in Central Park

Male rose-breasted grosbeak, one of the species spotted during the Bird-a-thon. Photo: Trisha Shears/CC BY-SA 2.0

By 6:30 am on Tuesday, we’d been out and about for a half hour. Despite the early hour, Central Park was already abuzz—with people and birds. We were there for the latter, of course, as part of Audubon New York’s Bird-a-thon.

Each year around this time, when spring migration’s at its peak, thousands of bird-lovers take to the streets, parks, forests to spot the winged wonders and raise money on their behalf. Some people pledge an amount per bird, others pledge an overall dollar value. (I was out with Audubon NY’s leadership group. Yesterday and today, Auduboners statewide went out for part two of this year’s foray.)

Admittedly, I was a bird-a-thon newbie, never before donning my bins for this particular type of bird watching. We had a great morning, spotting several dozen species within a two-hour period. We got plenty of warblers—black-and-white, black-throated blue, common yellowthroat—plus a scarlet tanager, a black-crowned night heron, and an indigo bunting (though the light prevented us from seeing his beautiful blue).

But the bird I just can’t get out of my head was the rose-breasted grosbeak. I’ve seen the species before, but on this particular day, something about the males—their common coloring but for the splash of color on their chests, their awesome bills—had me mesmerized.

After our few hours in Central Park, part of the group continued on to Jamaica Bay in Queens. I sadly couldn’t go, but heard there were many more great birds there. Next time, for sure.

In fact, there’s still time this year to participate in a Bird-a-thon; groups go out from April through June. Here are some ideas for non-traditional outings, from the National Audubon Society:
- The lunch bunch. Set a morning goal, then break for food once you’ve hit it.
- A funny thing happened on the way to the office. Bird from 6:00 to 9:00 am (in your business garb) and then head to work.
- Battle of the sexes. Make it a competition between two gender-divided groups.
- Battle of the ages. Same idea as above, but divide up by age group (e.g., 25 and under, 25-50, 50 and older).
- Pedal power. Bird by bike.
- The big sit. Bird without ever leaving your favorite armchair or park bench.
- Naturally novice. Create an event for novice birders.

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