Bryant Park, in the midst of Midtown, is not one of nature’s wonders. It does, however, tend to capture a surprisingly rich assortment of bird life. This is because it’s a trap, a vortex of bright lights and reflections that confuse, a glass cage that stuns those it doesn’t kill outright.One of the park’s typical victims is the American Woodcock. These quirky shorebirds are one of the earliest migrants — they were already being reported in the city in February. The city snags a lot of them, probably because they fly low in migration; you hear about them being found in the middle of Park Avenue, flying into bars on Houston Street, and etc. They’re one of the most common bird fatalities in the city, tallied among the 90,000 birds of all species killed here annually in smash-ups with buildings. So there are usually one or two Woodcock to be found in the park during both spring and fall migration. On Saturday, two were reported. Returning from a trip to the NYBG and Oyster Bar, we found this one because of the paparazzi. It was near sunset: the bird was immobile not six feet from a couple sitting at a table. As it got darker, however, the bird started to move, probing in the leaves for food. I made this short of the bird in motion — note the cacophony of sound in the background: among other things the skating rink was being broken down, a far cry from the spring peepers you might normally hear when looking and listening for these birds in the wild wild.
I wrote this a few years ago:
They come plummeting down unseen
The woodcocks of March nights
Bombarding the city with their light bones.
In the mornings you find them quivering
Like lost sailors from Iowa after a night on the town
In Bryant Park, hung-over and missing their pants.
They huddle in green medians, vest-pocket parks,
Community gardens, even a corner of my small yard,
Low, plump creatures rumored to be tasty,
Long-beaked and classed among the shore-birds,
The color of leaf-litter.
They wait for light’s loss
The twilight space they’ll need
To rise with the heat of the day.