Monday, June 1, 2009

Flushing Meadows-Corona Park Conservancy Installs 'Blind' in Hopes of Getting Birdwatchers to Flock by Lisa L. Colangelo - NY Daily News

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Boy Scouts help plant native species of shrubs and other plants in front of an observation blind. Ward for News

Birdwatchers never know what they are going to see in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park.

Several months ago, a rare pink-footed goose took up residence around Meadow Lake.

“It was a huge deal,” said Jeanne Loscalzo, a member of the Queens County Bird Club. “People came from all over the East Coast to see him.”

The Flushing Meadows-Corona Park Conservancy, in an effort to attract more birdwatchers, has installed a wooden “bird blind” along the shore of Meadow Lake.

The structure, funded by grants, has slots so people can watch the ducks, geese and other waterfowl around the lake without being too obtrusive.

“Birds are sensitive to human disturbance,” said Glenn Phillips, executive director of New York City Audubon. “Having a blind means you get to see more birds and more interesting behaviors, because they will act as if no one is there.”

Along with the usual gaggles of geese and rafts of ducks, birdwatchers have also spotted red-winged blackbirds, swamp sparrows, a host of warblers, swans and egrets around the park and its two lakes.

Throughout the year, the exotic hooded merganser and colorful ruddy duck also make appearances.

Loscalzo said too many New Yorkers are unaware that more than 270 species of birds travel through the city during the year. Along with the pigeons and sparrows are woodpeckers, cardinals and owls, as well as red-tailed hawks.

Birders scour the woods and marshes of Queens for prime viewing spots.

Birder Eric Miller first spotted the pink-footed goose in Kissena Park before it took up residence by Meadow Lake, Loscalzo said. “It really is a unique environment worth protecting and enjoying,” she said.

On a recent Saturday, a group of Boy Scouts from Troop 196 in Forest Hills checked out the bird blind as they cleaned up the area.

Patricia Dolan, president of the Flushing Meadow Park Conservancy, shows how bird watchers will use the new observation blind. Ward for News

Patricia Dolan, of the conservancy, said the group hopes to build a similar blind at adjacent Willow Lake, a natural area that also attracts birdwatchers.

Phillips, of New York City Audubon, said he is heartened by the interest.

“If we don’t care about birds here in New York City, there aren’t going to be birds anymore,” he said.