Thursday 2 June 2016

Arriving in the Big Apple

There is so much to say about New York, a wonderful city that I am lucky enough to go to now and again. Every time I go however I barely scratch the surface, or that’s what it feels like. It’s so big, so in your face, so many things to do that I could visit a hundred times and still barely get to know the place. I always feel slightly defeated by it actually, even though I know I’ve got a little more to grips with it every visit. This trip was no different, a whirlwind of eating, drinking, meeting, looking, walking, even some birding. 

Mrs L and I left on a Saturday evening from Heathrow after a lovely day with her entire family and some of mine. We were celebrating a very significant event, which is that I am no longer married to someone in their thirties. Yes, Mrs L has now joined me in haggard middle age, and to make this truly memorable we decided we would go and have some fun in New York City. In order to help us sag that little bit more we devoted the whole of Saturday to gluttony. Even though we had had a nice meal in London at lunchtime, we had another at the airport, and then just to make sure that the calorie count tipped squarely into the millions, we then had another long meal once in the air, although we cut down on the wine this time. I had thrown a ton of air miles at this trip, and one of things you get for that is the ability to sit down opposite each other at an actual table with an actual table cloth, and use actual cutlery to eat real food. Somewhat nicer than eating some sludge out of a plastic box whilst squeezed in like sardines down the back. We obviously can’t do it every time, but as the occasional special treat it is very nice and we made sure to make the most of it before snuggling down for a short sleep. Sadly in separate seats in deference to the other passengers, one of whom was the actor Jean Reno who played Léon in, well, Léon. He tried to come over and get a photo with me, but I was too busy stuffing my face so he had to go back to his seat and watch a film instead.

With my impeccable US credentials we were allowed in very quickly, and were outside our hotel in Manhattan well before midnight. We briefly considered going out for a meal, but could find no nearby motability scooters to get us there so had to pass and instead were carried by the porters to our room and rolled into bed. When we awoke we were in New York City!

It's a great place, it really is. We were only there for a weekend but we packed all sorts of things in. For starters I went birding in Central Park twice as it's a rather good time of year. The weather wasn't all that so birds were a little thin in the ground versus the locals' expectations. I thought it was nothing short of fabulous though, and Mrs L now has Parula on her list! I think I got ten Warblers in total, the best of which was a Worm-eating Warbler - initially 150 feet up in a tree, I lucked out when it came down to a small pond in the Ramble just as was passing, having tired of neck ache a short while earlier. Great views of Black-and-White Warbler too, as well as Ovenbird, Prairie Warbler and Blue-headed Vireo. I didn't bring all the usual photo kit so opportunities were a little limited, however my go-to travel lens, a shortish zoom, takes a 2x converter pretty damn nicely and with this combo I came away with a few images I was reasonably pleased with. Below is the afore-mentioned Worm-eating Warbler, a full-fat world lifer that I had wind of before arriving. I managed to see it with a group of American birders flitting high up in the canopy and calling - poor views but identifiable at least. About an hour later I was birding by myself at a pond nearby when I thought I caught a glimpse of the bird down low. Sure enough, it had come down for a drink. 

Worm-eating Warbler

This wasn't of course a birding trip, it was a trip to enjoy NYC and celebrate, and we did a lot of that. Mrs L spent a week here last year on a choir trip and did heaps. Back then I spent an afternoon with her before leaving for home, so it was a chance for her to show me some of the places that she had been to, and some of the things she had enjoyed. So we went to a seafood place in Brooklyn and we rented a tandem. We had cocktails in a revolving bar and we visited museums. We took a ferry and went to an old-time Piano bar. And when I have a little more time that's what I'll be concentrating on, as it was superb.

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