27 October 2012

Good green - New York birding

When in one of the greatest cities in the world. What do you do? - You go birding!

Perhaps not a matter of course, but to more-then-avarage nature and bird interested people New York is a good place to be for birding. Supposedly New York is good for everything else as well. But - Biotope is on a study trip birding eastern USA and Canada, and we just spent a few days birding in one of USA´s birding hotspots: New Yorks Central Park!

Central Park, New York : architecture meets nature (view from the Rockefeller Building)

October means bird migration season, and Central Park is a green island surrounded by concrete. The park is full of thousands and thousands of birds on their way south taking a rest and feeding in this green heart of the concrete jungle.

New York: Why Central Park (green rectangle) is such a great birding hotspot is easier to undestand when seen from a birds perspective: For a bird green often means food and rest.

Green versus green:

The above photos are zoomed in sections from the google-satelite view above. We have divided the green spaces into three rough categories: suburbia green, central park green and sport green. 

With the work of architects and planners, green actually come in lots of shapes and sizes - and not to mention qualities! At Biotope we are interested in studying the pro nature green. Central Park is a very interesting study in park architecture / green design. We will be back with a more elaborate article on pro biodiversity green design. For now we hope you enjoy this brief overview, written as we are on tour in the US. 

Suburbia green - Typically tall trees + grass, some bushes. Lack of open water. Moderatly good for birds / wildlife. Few species around, but still good visual qualities (for people it is ´recreational green´). Often too managed undergrowth (=less biodiversity)

Central Park green - Very good. Great variety of biotopes, open water + flowing water, ´untamed´ undergrowth. High biodiversity.

Sport green - Almost as dead as concrete. Monotoneous. Biodiversity is not a word that relates at all. 

Memo for architects:
Green is not the same as nature (just try checking out the biodiversity of a golf course). 

Central Park green

Central Park is an impressively lively park. Not only does it cater to the 8.5 million inhabitants of New York city, it is also  very rich in biodiversity. In fact more then 300 bird species live in or pass through this green island! We spent a few days there to experience this for ourselves.

A striking feature of the park is the ability of the designers to not over design, or rather making the decision to leave larger areas of the park to manage itself. Much too often in area planning and design do we see the architect plan every little detail. The result is usually sterile from a biological diversity point of view. It may be green, but it is often as lively as a shopping centre parking lot at night.

In Central Park large areas are planned for nature to unfold itself on its own premisses. This simply takes the will and ability to not design and control everything. Make sure a few key features is in place. The most basic is: add water and life will happen, then leave it to rot - and reproduce, and diversify and so on..   

Nature can best produce itself - and you can plan for the best possible circumstances. The result is intact nature, a kind of ´cultural green´. It is letting nature happen. Central Park proves it can be done in the busiest metropolis. 

The photos below are taken from the same site as the photo above. These are just a few of a wide range of species we saw in three days of birding Central Park. Running water, rotting leaves an a good variation of habitats in the park makes it attractive to thousands of birds. If you think of urban birds are just pigeons, then try to go birding in New York! 

Blue Jay 

Hermit Thrush 

White-throated Sparrow 

Winter Wren 

American Robin

The concrete jungle

And the nature within it. The Ramble in Central Park is a hotspot within the hotspot. A top US bird site.

 Biotope on study trip in New York.

Add water - then leave it alone...

 A Yellow-rumped Warbler taking a bath in one of the many ´rivers´.

If you are going to New York we can highly recommend a visit to Central Park! It is a great nature experience. In fact walking around with binoculars hardly seems strange at all, and you are sure to run in to other birders. We thought the near nude guy in pink thong and Dame Edna style glasses on a bicylce was stranger. Anything goes...

Birding is big in the US, and we are impressed with the amount of information available, dedicated to birders. Check out this bird app in Itunes: Audubon Birds of Central Park (Its free! - I would have paid). A quick google search on birding in Central Park will give you all information you will ever need. An overview of the bird sites within the park can be found here (see ´by location´) and at this google map is another overview of hotspots in the park. Birding is definantely on the rise: check out this trailer for the documentary Birders - the Central Park Effect. Normally we bird in Varanger / Arctic Norway - but Central Park most definantely charmed us. We´ll be back... 

New York / Central Park 

Stay tuned for more articles from US - we are now in Cape May at the annual Autumn Birding Festival. Hurricane Sandy is approaching, and we are having a ´silence-before-the-storm-moment´. Meanwhile we are enjoying some spectacular birding here as well!

You can also follow daily tweets from our US bird trip at @BiotopeOffice

To be continued..

Tormod A. / Biotope