Dates of the trip: 26 October to 06 November 1994.

To access the bird list straight away, please click here.

This trip was organized as a first discovery of the USA for my prep school students. I was accompanied by Eric Sigward, my maths colleague, and 13 students who were able to make themselves understood in English pretty well.

26 October 1994. We left Luxembourg on board an Icelandair plane which was to stop over in Iceland and fly over Greenland. We arrived in New-York City at 18.50 local time, and were welcomed by the travel agency representative who introduced us to the families who had accepted to host us for free during the whole of our stay in Florham Park, New-Jersey, 45 minutes away from Manhattan by bus.

Our students will probably remember the hearty welcome of these families and the quality of accommodation for a long time. Judging by the size of their houses, our hosts had financial means well above average American households.

27 October 1994. All the houses were decorated for Halloween and as they were located in a wooded area, I was able to see a few birds like a hundred or so Canada Geese, 5 Brown-headed Cowbirds, American Crows which I could make out from our Carrion Crows by their shriller voices, Common Starlings and House Sparrows.

28 October 1994. Now that everybody had had a day to recuperate, we went to Manhattan. We rushed about all the famous sites there because my students wanted to make the most of their stay and I didn't disappoint them.

The Flat Iron

29 October 1994. In the morning, the students had a math course in a Jewish school which had been opened just for us and they were free to spend the afternoon with their families. I took advantage of this to take a stroll in Florham Park where I observed 2 Grey Squirrels, Blue Jays, 150 Canada Geese on the soccer fields, a Tufted Titmouse, a Black-capped Chickadee, a Yellow-rumped Warbler and a Northern Mockingbird.

30 October 1994. I went to Manhattan alone to visit the Guggenheim Museum and to take a walk in Central Park. It was Sunday, the weather was beautiful and everything seemed to be easy-going. People moved about on roller blades or rode their bikes, played the guitar on the lawns or fed the Grey Squirrels. All that looked very American to me. In the evening, I learned that a youth living in the neighbourhood had been arrested by the police for throwing eggs at a house as a Halloween trick. My host, who knew him had a lot of trouble to get him out of the police station where they apply the "tough-on-crime" policy. I found that very American too.


31 October 1994. As the weather was still beautiful, I planned a second trip to Manhattan with my students, but, mind you, after the morning math classes! There were so many things to see that everyone said they would come back some day. In Central Park, I saw an American Robin, a Red-bellied Woodpecker and a few Mourning Doves.

1 November 1994. In spite of the drizzle, I walked about in Florham Park and I twitched a Red-breasted Nuthatch, Ring-billed Gulls, an American Herring Gull and a Savannah Sparrow. My hosts were absolutely charming and I really felt at home.

2 November 1994. Once more, we decided to go to Manhattan in order to see the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. That was an opportunity for me to give my students a run down on immigration in the USA and to see a few bird species in the harbor. I came across many Ring-billed Gulls and even a Peregrine Falcon. I had forgotten that this bird nests on the skyscrapers of that huge city.

Ring-Billed Gull

3 November 1994. Among other sites, we visited the Mecca of capitalism, the "New-York Stock Exchange" and the "Indian Museum" which had just opened its doors to the public. In the harbor, I spotted a Laughing Gull.

4 November 1994. We were offered a free visit of the "Metropolitan Museum of Arts" and this is something you can't refuse so, once again, we went to Manhattan. As we had now been taking the bus a couple of times to go there, we started to know some people who engaged in a conversation with those young "Frenchies". Not one of them got tired of the city and the day passed by very quickly.

5 November 1994. The return trip to France was planned for the afternoon but I still had time to do some birdwatching in one of the parks of the town and little did I suspect what was lying in store for me that afternoon. Among the new birds of this short stay, I saw a White-breasted Nuthatch, a few Rusty Blackbirds, a Purple Finch, a Northern Cardinal, a Dark-eyed Junco, a Hairy Woodpecker and a Red-tailed Hawk.

We said goodbye to our hosts, with tears in the eyes of some of us, and that's when our troubles began. The school bus that was to take us to the airport was one hour late. To catch up with the time lost, the driver opened up the throttle, the engine heated and broke down right in the middle of Manhattan. As it refused to start again, I tried to call the airport but it was Sunday and I could only get in touch with an answerphone which asked me to press #1 if I wanted to know what time my plane was taking off, #2 to make a reservation, etc. . At my wit's end, I called the local organizer to ask her to do her best to inform Icelandair of the situation. At long last, the bus started again, only to break down again for good in the middle of Chinatown, blocking the whole traffic, including a fire engine which had to fold up the rearview mirrors so as to be able to overtake us.



The bus driver, who was now all at sea, telephoned his boss who called a taxi company and finally turned up himself in his private car. I explained to him that we should be at the airport by now, registering our luggage and that it was out of the question that I cough up the slightest dime for a taxi. Of course, the cab drivers required twice the normal price. Our party had to split up, which I didn't like one little bit as there were 3 taxis and only 2 accompanying teachers. Drivers included, sixteen people and their luggage were packed in three yellow cabs and the mad race against time began. One of the cabs headed for the wrong airport and had to cross the highway central reservation to take the right course again, mine first had to go to the petrol station for a fill-up and to cap it all there were huge hold-ups because the road was under repair.

We arrived at the airport in separate groups and the hostesses, who had been informed by the local travel agent, rushed us aboard without going through either police or customs control and hardly had I stepped into the plane that it started rolling on the runway. I counted my students and was horrified when I realized that one of them was missing. Actually I had forgotten to include myself in the count.

On our arrival in Luxembourg, one of the suitcases had been ripped open. I had to fill up the customary red tape and look for what was strayed about on the luggage conveyor belt. This was how I found myself holding a large salmon which I thought my student had bought but which actually belonged to a woman whose suitcase had also been ripped open and who was running after me yelling for her Icelandish souvenir.

Once back home, the students' parents were a bit surprised at noticing their state of excitation. They understood the reason why a little later on.

List of birds observed:

To identify unknown birds, I consulted "A Field Guide to the Birds of North America" published by the National Geographic Society.

Canada Goose (Branta canadensis)
Laughing Gull (Larus atricilla)
Ring-billed Gull (Larus delawarensis)
American Herring Gull (Larus smithsonianus)
Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis)
Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus)
Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura)
Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus)
Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata)
American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos)
Tufted Titmouse (Baelophus bicolor)
Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus)
White-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis)
Red-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta canadensis)
American Robin (Turdus migratorius)
Northern Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos)
Common Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Dendroica coronata)
Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis)
Savannah Sparrow (Passerculus sandwichensis)
Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis)
Rusty Blackbird (Euphagus carolinus)
Brown-headed Cowbird (Molothrus ater)
House Sparrow (Passer domesticus)
Purple Finch (Carpodacus purpureus)

I also saw many Grey Squirrels (Sciurus carolinensis).

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