It’s the thrill of the hunt. The adrenaline of closing in on your target. The satisfaction of adding another unique creature to your collection. No, I’m not talking about Pokémon Go.
“The biggest misconception about birding is that it’s boring,” says Heather Wolf, author of “Birding at the Bridge: In Search of Every Bird on the Brooklyn Waterfront.” As she remarks in the introduction of her exquisite bird guide — “How could observing the closest living descendants of dinosaurs be boring?”
On a recent swampy summer evening, I found out what she meant. Meeting Wolf at Brooklyn Bridge Park’s Fulton Ferry Landing, before we even set off on our search bird after bird began to appear. Barn swallow: check. (They nest under the park’s piers and can be seen doing aerial acrobats to catch insects). Gray catbird: check. These are Wolf’s favorite at this time of year. After arriving in spring to court and build nests, you can now find them in the wooded sections of Pier 1 and Pier 6, raising their young. Wolf seems to know their locations by heart. “I love watching the fledglings being fed by the parents,” she said. Binoculars in hand, I feel like I’m on safari as I watch the baby catbirds in their nest, waiting for mom.
The web developer, 46, wasn’t always a birder. Moving from NYC to Florida’s Gulf Coast in 2006, she began studying the birds she’d encounter on the beach, which she animatedly describes in the introduction to her guide.
Moving back to Brooklyn in 2012, Wolf, who now resides in the Columbia Street Waterfront District, was pleasantly surprised to discover an array of new species at her doorstep. After starting a blog (brooklynbridgebirds.com) and taking up photography of the park’s feathered residents, the book was the natural next step.
The more than 150 stunning images featured throughout the guide were all shot by Wolf, and all in Brooklyn Bridge Park. Wolf’s species count for the park currently stands at 138 — and while she’d love to add any new species to the list, the northern saw-whet owl is the bird she’d most like to add. It’s cuter than any Pokémon.
“Birding at the Bridge” can be found for sale at these stores. Take a look below at some of the birds you may be able to find.
Heather’s birding tips:
1. Get a field guide & binoculars (8 x 42 or 10 x 42 are good choices for birding). And the field guide isn’t just for the field — thumb through it on the subway and you’ll start to recognize birds in your neighborhood in no time.
2. Listen. If you hear a bird singing melodically (more than just a chirp), follow the sound and try to find it.
3. Know what to expect - find out which birds are in your local park right now by going to ebird.org and “Explore Data.” Then select one of the birds recently sighted in your park and go find it!
Ruby Crowned Kinglet
Black and White Warbler