9:30 am. Saturday, May 10th. Millie is corgi-pulling me west toward Washington Street. A weeza weeza weeza call whizzes across Perry Street. (My bird songs refresher last month paid off.) Next, I’m corgi-ishly pulling Millie to the shade on the southwest corner. Galloping through the treetop is the miniature zebra of a Black-and-white Warbler. Another blip. Another black and white bird. But different. This one zse-zse-zse-ing has a little black beanie – a Blackpoll Warbler. And. Yet another stripy bird. This one with a stylish necklace. The morning sun splattering through the new leaves scrambles colors. Wait. A necklace? On a stripy bird? Come out, come out, wherever you are. Please, a little furtherdown into that sun-spotlight. Thank you. What? Yes! It’s a duple-exclamation-pointed Cerulean Warbler!! That’s my West Village Bird #91. (I haven’t told you about WVB #90, a Savanah Sparrow in Hudson River Park a week earlier, but that’s another story.) Cerulean brings to mind Greek Islands or cornflowers or the clear blue of a baby’s eyes – and right there he is in this small Zelkova tree on Perry Street fluttering his tissue paper wings, already thousands of miles from his Andean wintervacation.
This tree is chirring and whishing and zizzing. Warblers galore. A black-masked Common Yellowthroat caballero is trying to lasso a demure Yellowthroat senorita. Here, there, everywhere are rainbow-throated Northern Parulas. A handful of our clunky neighborhood hausfrau sparrows are brushing shoulders with the visiting royalty of a Chestnut-sided Warbler pair (their sides look smeared with raspberry jam), a Black-throated Blue (always looking so formal in black cravat and tidy white “pocket squares” on their wings), and a peripatetic Ruby-crowned Kinglet (the crown prince of some flighty Lilliputian domain). As a female American Redstart flies across the street to greener trees (she should really be called a Yellowstart with her semaphore-flashing wings and tail), I look up high beyond her, and, I kid you not, out of the blue, an elegant Great Egret pair are flying uptown, their wingbeats in processionally grand synchronization.
Flash forward. Next day. 8:00 am, Sunday, May 11th. TodayI’m pulling Millie west for an encore of yesterday’s morning spectacle. (Corgis often look bemused. This morning, Millie does not.) Looking up, I get a momentary twinge in my neck: it’s not called “Warbler neck” for nothing. A flash of yellow hide-and-seeks through the lower branches, looking like he’s borrowed a black beanie from the Blackpoll yesterday – a Wilson’s Warbler (WVB #92!) Higher up, there’s a sleeker slow-gleaning bird, alas, also sneaking in and out of the labyrinth of leaves, calling out here-I-am, right-up-here, do-you-see-me? with a Groucho Marx eyebrow over a glowering eye – a Red-eyed Vireo (I didn’t realize it at the time, but this was WVB #93). Keeping them company (did they all use the same travel agent?) aremigration after-partiers Chestnut-sideds, Redstarts, Black-and-whites, Yellowthroats, Parulas, and a Cerulean (is it the sameone from yesterday?)– all old friends now.
Incredibly, five years ago on another May morning, standing on this very corner, four new birds signed my guest book: White-eyed Vireo (#50), American Redstart (#51), Magnolia Warbler (#52) and Yellow Warbler (#53). That’s seven, SEVEN, new birds on my West Village list havegraced this single tree.
Later that same morning. (Millie’s now at home for her long morning’s nap.) While on my Hudson River Park WILD! Walk with urban naturalist Walter Laufer (HRPWild! meets 9:00 am at the Christopher Street fountain every Sunday morning through September. Did you catch that invitation?)the double-whammyclimax of this breathless weekend unfoldsin the Honey Locust grove near W. 10th Street:the flitting of a fireball Blackburnian Warbler (WVB #94, his tangerineface seemingto glow from within) followed by a spluttering Black-throated Green Warbler (WVB #95,his name says it all.)
Five new birds. What a weekend! Who says you have to travel to birding hotspots for great birds? Hoorayfor the West Village. Maybe she’s just hungry, but even Millie seems to be walking with an extra bounce as she barks, “What a weekend!”
PS: Sunday, May 25th: Canada Warbler (WVB #96), Mourning Warbler (WVB #97) and Bay-breasted Warbler (WVB #98)!
For a schedule of monthly NYC Wild! nature walks visit www.keithmichaelnyc.com .