This spring, a quiet weekday morning in Prospect Park is actually quite bustling. The warm winter has affected plant and animal life, including a slightly different bird migration pattern. And if you’re available on a Tuesday or Thursday morning, City Birder Rob Jett will take you on a tour through the park and tell you all about it.
Rob has been leading weekend tours for various organizations for over a decade, and over time, many people have asked him if he would ever lead trips during the week. “I guess the time is finally right,” he said about his decision to start the tours this month. For $8, you can join him for a three-hour walk that starts at 7:30am, well worth the early meeting time.
I’m not a morning person, but I drank my coffee on the way to meet Rob for the tour, and when combined with his excitement about the Park’s birds, it was definitely enough to keep me going. Whether you can distinguish between types of sparrows or, like me, you can merely point out bright red cardinals, you’ll come out of the tour with a whole new outlook on the Park.
“Experienced birders may be very good at identifying birds, but sometimes just stick to their particular neighborhood,” Rob explained. “Birders are always looking for new places to find birds, as well as learning about local seasonal trends. Sometimes a common bird in one place may be very rare in another. That holds true even for such a relatively small place as NYC.”
If Rob spots a rare bird, you’ll know it. During our walk, he pointed out a longtime hawk’s nest, the call of a Carolina Wren, and several similar-looking woodpeckers, which he assured me would be easier to identify with practice. But when we got to the Upper Pool, he stopped in his tracks. There was a Ring-necked Duck, which is an unusual bird to see in our area, at this time of year, and he wanted to make sure I got a good look.
“I love turning novices on to birding and seeing the excitement on their face when they experience something new,” Rob said, “whether it is a beautiful bird or a resident bird behaving in a fascinating way.”
Prospect Park Weekly City Birder Tours meet Tuesdays and Thursdays at 7:30am in front of the Stranahan Statue at the northeast corner of Prospect Park’s Grand Army Plaza entrance (B/Q train to 7th Avenue, or just walk across the park). You don’t need to register, but if you have any questions, email [email protected]. He’s also leading a birder tour of Green-Wood Cemetery next Wednesday, March 21–and check his site for future tours around NYC.