New York (AFP) – On a sunny Sunday morning, Robert DeCandido stands in a meadow in New York’s Central Park and makes hissing sounds with his lips. “It’s going to be tough today. It should be more crowded but we have winds coming in from the north and from the water and that often drives the migration inland. We’ll see birds, but we should see more.”
About 50 people equipped with binoculars watch DeCandido with anticipation as he calls a jungle-climbing migratory bird, a small black and white migratory bird, on his mobile phone. “You’ll see me playing a lot of those siren calls. It might sound weird, but it works, it brings the birds to us,” DeCandido says.
DeCandido, nicknamed “Birding Bob,” is known as New York’s most famous bird watcher – and the colorful spring migration marks his prime time. The City of Millions is the capital of tall, concrete canyons, but about 14 percent of the urban area is gardens, and more than 100 bird species stop there on their journey from their wintering grounds in the south to their breeding grounds in the north.
Birding tour of Central Park
“Bob the Bird” knows them all. In the spring, he guides groups of bird enthusiasts through Central Park seven times a week for a donation of ten dollars (about 9.50 euros) per person.
He lives near the park and is with his wife for the fifth time, says a man in a blue hat. During the pandemic, his wife read about Birding Bob, so they tried it and liked it. “Mostly because of Bob, he’s always funny.” Meanwhile, DeCandido discovered a Lincoln study near a body of water. “Look to the left of the discarded red plastic cup. This bird is about to fly further over the Adirondacks.”
The 62-year-old Bearing Bob was born in the Bronx. “We had a garden and we kept seeing a cardinal there – that was an important bird to us at the time. Kids are excited about all sorts of things – and I was excited about it, but then I forgot about it again.”
For many years I have been interested in women’s, baseball, travel and hiking across the United States. On the West Coast, I was able to spot all kinds of birds, and the people I was traveling with said, “You’re a bird man.” And that’s when I realized that’s what I really wanted to do.”
Comedy shows with bird watching
For decades, DeCandido has studied birds around the world, worked as a biologist for the New York City Parks Authority and led bird watching tours on their behalf. Back in the ’80s, DeCandido often flirted with “older ladies in tennis shoes”, who also likes to describe his tours as “comedy shows with a bit of bird watching on the side.”
Birdwatching in New York, DeCandido says, is a particularly social effort because of the crowds. Many birds, such as the red-tailed hawk, are also more familiar to humans and therefore can be observed up close.
He’s been organizing trips independently for a number of years – focusing on city parks. Tours have always been well attended, thanks in large part to a committed core group that is almost always present – but the Corona pandemic has changed everything again, and interest is greater than ever.
Make bird watching friendly
“We used to have a lot of visitors from Europe, and we always like up to a third each round. And that’s slowly coming back now. But a lot of New Yorkers have wanted to do things outside during the pandemic.”
DeCandido’s goal: to make bird watching friendly and fun – thus paying tribute to the harmonious coexistence of nature and people in the city. He says 62 years. “I want it to be inclusive, so that everyone feels free to ask any question or even point out a bird themselves. Then it really becomes a community soon, which is great.”
Many Birding Bob regulars watch social media such as Twitter during trips and shout loudly, for example, if a red-headed woodpecker is seen near strawberry fields. “Other bird rounds are as dangerous as they are in a church. Our rounds are insane—when other people see us, they run away or shake their heads,” Decandido says.
But he also knows that his methods for loud calls, made by himself or using special software to play on his mobile phone, are controversial. He was accused of harming birds and was physically attacked for it. But Decandido denied such allegations. He is a scientist and has never harmed a bird.
It also helps in his tours to understand nature. “A lot of people talk about rainforests or something – the real nature is always somewhere else. But it’s also the air they breathe when they walk out the door. This is their environment, this is their climate – and if you understand that, you can try to instill some tolerance in people. , so that humans and wild animals can coexist, and then they are proud of it and want to protect it.”
Bald eagle over a body of water in Central Park
Very special birds have also made headlines in New York and have temporarily become the city’s favorite topic of conversation – like just a few weeks ago a bald eagle hunting over a body of water in Central Park, or, during an epidemic, a banned owl that fans have dubbed “Barry”, or “Pale”. Male”, who was one of the first red-tailed hawks to nest in a luxury apartment building on posh Fifth Avenue.
But this Sunday, “Birding Bob” finds nothing of the sort. On a good day, you can spot about 125 different species of birds in Central Park—but: “Like the stock market here, the prices aren’t always good. It’s like a roller coaster,” says Decandido. “Now even I was about to take a sparrow. Even if it was an insult to see this bird here—because you can also see it in his garden in Brooklyn or the Lower East Side.”
A blue jay flies, and it’s not a rare bird in New York either. “Look, pretty blue bird,” cried the little boy—and Birding Bob sighed in relief. “Oh, that enthusiasm, that makes up for it all.”
© dpa-infocom, dpa: 220513-99-270139 / 2