Like fishing, every good bird find requires a good story.

In the fall two years ago (uh oh) I was asked to lead the NYC Linnaean Society 
bird walk of Randall’s Island, a favorite spot of mine.  A few weeks before the 
trip, Anne Lazarus asked me to lead the Alley Pond bird walk because the leader 
had cancelled.   It was an okay walk but we decided to go to Kissena Park 
afterwards where we had a windfall of fall warblers - literally birding from a 
park bench.  Last year, I cancelled and I heard the Alley Park walk was meh.  
This year I convinced Anne Lazarus to make the Alley Pond bird walk earlier in 
September instead of October.  And I thought, lemme schlepp the scope, just in 
case things go well, we can forgo Kissena Park for the Alley Pond Environment 
Center for shorebirds.  

It went pretty well, although 1/2 the warblers were Northern Parulas, but we 
did cap it off with an Olive-sided Flycatcher which was first spotted there a 
couple of days earlier.  So I proposed the Environment Center after lunch. We 
had two scopes.  So off we went getting lost in the maze of cloverleafs to the 
northern section of Alley Pond.  At the end of the boardwalk at the platform 
overlooking Alley Creek we got some shorebirds and started observing a 
flycatcher in the stand of trees just behind us to the west.  “Great Crested”, 
“Phoebe”, “Another Olive-sided”?  When we turned our scopes around to train on 
the flycatcher, which moved a lot but would conveniently return to one of three 
tall trees - the middle being mostly bare - I noted, “hey, this looks like a 
Kingbird but it’s not an Eastern.”  It had a yellow wash belly and a distinctly 
forked tail with no white edge, but also the darkish “mask” of a Kingbird.  
Everyone whipped out their birding apps - Cassin's, Couch's, Western, even 
Tropical.  

The light was bad and to make matters worse, a flock of Cedar Waxwings flew in 
to make it difficult to identify which silhouette was the flycatcher.Then a 
group of 30 kids on a nature tour descended on the platform.  So we trained the 
scope back around to a Raccoon for the kids to see.   When the Raccoon left, we 
figured, we have to get closer to this bird and in better light or no one will 
believe us.  So we left the platform and turned left into the tall grass behind 
the set of three trees - sun at our backs, much closer.  Now our scope could 
pick up the tell-tale white edges of the tail - it was a “Western Kingbird”.

I have to share credit with the group - to Anne Lazarus for coordinating, to 
Lenore Swenson for transportation, and the rest for tweeting and bird apping 
and getting some incontrovertible digital snapshots.

Wish us luck on Randall’s Island next month (Miriam Rakowski, who was with us, 
is coordinator).

Happy City Birding
Alan Drogin
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