Once a potter's field, reservoir, construction storage space for new subways, site of a huge anti-war rally, and drug/prostitute marketplace, Bryant Park has certainly seen it all. Before its renovation into a more friendly landscape, heroin sales were so brisk that it was nicknamed "Needle Park" -- not to be confused with the one at 72nd Street and Broadway and the setting for the movie "The Panic in Needle Park." Ah, New York City in the 1970s!
Today's Bryant Park is still heavily used but by office workers, families, and tourists. Not sure about those darker days, but the park is also a wonderful haven for birds, even though it is considered the most densely populated park in the world.
My birding excursions have not been terribly intensive as I usually enjoy the park seated with a cup of coffee in hand, but even such casual visits turn up nice birds. Under the canopy of London Planetrees (Platinus acerifolia) with a shrub/perennial understory that includes Oakleaf Hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia) mixed with Purple Coneflower (Echincea purpurea), and extensive Periwinkle (Vinca minor) groundcovers, those seed- and insect-loving birds have a plentiful banquet!
A brief visit last weekend -- with the requisite coffee -- did not disappoint. Within minutes the birds made their prescence known. Hermit Thrush (Catharus guttatus) and White-throated Sparrows (Zonotrichia albicollis) made the rounds in an empty flower bed, while a Gray Catbird (Dumetella carolinensis) lurked under the shrubs. But the best spotting of the day was a friendly Ovenbird (Seiurus aurocapillus) that hopped nearly underfoot next to the Petanque court. Note to self: next summer move beyond birds, and start checking out the insects that make use of the some nine acres.
Needle Park? Nah, Nature Park!