Birdwatching in Central Park with Birding Bob

My husband and I have hobbies, but we were trying to find one that we could share. We decided on birdwatching which would allow him to work on his photography, while I could enjoy our outdoor walks. Since we were just starting out, we searched online and found a well known and highly recommended birdwatching walk led by Robert DeCandido, aka Birding Bob. On certain days, the group meets at the Central Park Boathouse for walks that last for two hours.

There was no need to sign up, just to show up. On this particular Saturday morning, one group had met at 7:30 and was finishing up as the 9:30 group began to assemble. Ultimately, there were 25 of us, most equipped with cameras and binoculars.

We had read DeCandido’s bio on his website and knew we were in good hands. Born in the Bronx, where he and his partner, Deborah Allen, also a birding expert, still live, Bob earned MS and PhD degrees studying the flora of New York City while working full-time as a biologist for the City’s Department of Parks. His bird walks began in 1992 and have continued each year. He has many achievements reintroducing species to Central Park, as well as conducting research projects in Nepal and Thailand. 

The June walks, Bob told us, would be the last ones until August. The best times to see many species of birds is during migration, usually in April and May. Since this was our first outing just seeing a few species would be a good way to begin our journey.

Bob’s knowledge of Central Park was immediately put on display. When we paused in one area to watch nests created by Baltimore orioles, Bob said it was the birds’ favorite spot which he has watched for 30 years. At each stop, Bob played certain bird calls, one captivating a red winged blackbird who came close to where our group stood on the top of Belvedere Castle.

In two different spots in the park, we saw red-bellied woodpeckers, also northern flickers, a type of woodpecker. And, yes, each one was rapidly pecking at a tree. Coming to one of the lakes in the park, we spotted two majestic black-crowned night herons, posing for our photographs.

Even commonplace birds, like robins, somehow seem more exciting when spotted in such leafy environments, not dodging cars. One, Bob observed, had probably just bathed since his feathers were fluffed up.

It didn’t take long for our group to bond, helping each other out when someone had trouble spotting a bird. While many were locals, we also had tourists who had enjoyed birdwatching in other countries or areas of the U.S., but wanted to have that experience in Central Park.

And the park! Although we have certainly spent lots of time in Central Park over the years, the walk took us into some areas we had never seen. We had to marvel, once again, at the park’s amazing rock formations and discovered gazebos and archways that seemed from another age.

We were grateful we managed to attend one of Bob’s last walks until they resume in August. At $10 a person, these walks pack in an incredible amount of information and lots of fun! A new hobby has taken flight!

For more information, visit Birding Bob’s website.

Top photo: Robert DeCandido, aka Birding Bob
Photos by Charlene Giannetti

About Charlene Giannetti (706 Articles)
Charlene Giannetti, editor of Woman Around Town, is the recipient of seven awards from the New York Press Club for articles that have appeared on the website. A graduate of Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, Charlene began her career working for a newspaper in Pennsylvania, then wrote for several publications in Washington covering environment and energy policy. In New York, she was an editor at Business Week magazine and her articles have appeared in many newspapers and magazines. She is the author of 13 non-fiction books, eight for parents of young adolescents written with Margaret Sagarese, including "The Roller-Coaster Years," "Cliques," and "Boy Crazy." She and Margaret have been keynote speakers at many events and have appeared on the Today Show, CBS Morning, FOX News, CNN, MSNBC, NPR, and many others. Her last book, "The Plantations of Virginia," written with Jai Williams, was published by Globe Pequot Press in February, 2017. Her podcast, WAT-CAST, interviewing men and women making news, is available on Soundcloud and on iTunes. She is one of the producers for the film "Life After You," focusing on the opioid/heroin crisis that had its premiere at WorldFest-Houston International Film Festival, where it won two awards. The film is now available to view on Amazon Prime, YouTube, and other services. Charlene and her husband live in Manhattan.