Book Excerpt: 'The Ramble in Central Park' by Robert A. McCabe

Book Excerpt: 'The Ramble in Central Park' by Robert A. McCabe

Alisa Opar
Published: 07/22/2011

In his new book The Ramble in Central Park: A Wilderness West of Fifth, photographer Robert A. McCabe captures the stunning lake vistas, towering boulders, winding paths and streams, and rustic bridges of this 38-acre forested section of the park. In addition to McCabes photographs, the book includes writing from E.B. White, Marie Winn, and others.

For your viewing and reading pleasure, here are photographs and an excerpt from The Ramble in Central Park (Abbeville Press, 152 pages, $35).

The Birds of the Ramble
By Cal Vornberger, wildlife photographer and author of the book, Birds of Central Park
When I tell people I spent three years photographing birds in New York City’s Central Park, I usually get a response like, “You sure must like pigeons.” While it’s true there are quite a few pigeons in the park, there is also an abundance of warblers, egret, hawks, ducks, woodpeckers, vireos, cuckoos, sandpipers, and flycatchers that visit Central Park, choosing the Ramble as their stopping point. In addition to resident species, as many as two hundred different migrants regularly pass through the park in any given year during spring and fall migration. Since its creation more than 150 years ago, the park has become a magnet for migrating neo-tropical songbirds and other species that winter in the south. More than 325 different species have been observed within the park’s 840 acres over the past century, and many bird watchers consider Central Park—and more specifically the Ramble—one of the top birding spots in the United States.
This phenomenon is a happy accident of geography and nature. Central Park is located on the Atlantic Flyway, the migration route favored by more than 150 species of birds that move back and forth to their breeding grounds in the north in the spring and the fall. Since most of these species migrate at night, the large dark area that is the Ramble among the light-filled concrete canyons must seem like an ideal place to find the rest and nourishment required to continue their journey. The park attracts and holds these birds because it provides a smorgasbord of food and water for these weary travelers. Some spring mornings when the winds have been steady from the southwest, hundreds of warblers seem to drop out of the sky and perch. On those happy mornings you will find bird watchers and photographers throughout the Ramble.

Beginning with the first Eastern Phoebe in mid-March and continuing through late May, a steady stream of migrating birds moves through the park. Most interesting to me are the small, brightly colored neo-tropical songbirds known as wood-warblers. I have photographed more than twenty-five different species of these tiny, colorful birds in Central Park, including such rarities as Black-throated Gray, Cape May, Prothonotary, Yellow-throated, Worm-eating, and Hooded Warblers. While less colorful in their nonbreeding plumage, these same birds stream back through the park beginning in August and continue to do so through early October heading south. There are also other migrants, including American Woodcocks, Spotted and Solitary Sandpipers, and numerous varieties of sparrows—but my heart belongs to the warblers.

In addition to migrating birds, an Audubon study confirmed that there were more than thirty species of birds breeding in Central Park. Along with the ubiquitous robin, starling, sparrows, and gracklenests, the careful observer can find House Wrens, Gray Catbirds, Downy Woodpeckers, Tufted Titmice, Warbling Vireos, Cedar Waxwings, Wood Thrush, Northern Flickers, American Kingbirds, and White-breasted Nuthatches nesting in the park. The Mallards can also be counted on to provide several broods of ducklings on just about every body of water in the park. Some of the more unusual nesters are the Green Herons that return to the Upper Lobe every year and the Eastern Screech-owls that nest in several places in the park, including the Ramble. There are usually two or three Red-tailed Hawks nesting in the park during any given year, and American Kestrels and Merlins make their nests in the buildings adjacent to the park.

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