NEW-YORK CITY, NEW-JERSEY and WASHINGTON D.C.

Dates of the trip: 16 to 28 Avril 2000.

If you want to access directly the list of birds I saw during this trip, please click here.

16 April 2000. As we are cautious people, my wife, my sister-in-law and I left early in the morning for Luxembourg where we were to take the plane to New-York City. We waited patiently for the time of departure and check-in desk to light on but as time passed by I went for information at one of the counters where I was told that check-in had started long ago. Of course, there was a queue a mile long and we were rather vexed we had to run to board the Fokker 50 which was to take us to Amsterdam where a DC 10 was waiting for us. As usual, the flight was smooth and immigration documents as complicated to fill in. As usual too, the taxi driver, a Haitian who spoke half Creole and half American tried to con me. If it had not been for the luggage we had to carry about, I would have taken the "subway". I had faxed a reservation at the Allerton hotel which I had found on the Net. It is located in the south-east of Manhattan and is relatively inexpensive for a hotel in New-York, that is to say you will get the amenities of a French one-star hotel for the price of a five-star palace. The neighborhood looked rotten but it was safe and the hotel was clean.

Would you believe this picture was taken in 22nd Street?

17 April 2000. I was woken up by the soft cooing of a Mourning Dove. We crossed half of Manhattan to have breakfast at the "Word of Mouth", which is recommended by the French "Guide du Routard". It was good indeed but above all far too expensive. There was no comparison at all with what you get in the West of the USA. We took a stroll in Central Park under the torrential rain and I saw about ten American Robins, 5 Northern Cardinals, 2 Blue Jays and a Northern Flicker. We visited some famous sites in the "downtown" area and as there was no end to the rain we entered the Waldorf Astoria hotel to get dry. How pleasant it was to sink into the soft armchairs of this palace which you can visit without anybody annoying you. We then did the same thing at the "Plaza Athenee" and browsed around in "Saks Fifth Avenue", "Tiffany" and "Trump Tower". I had no qualms at all about loafing around in such a den of vice for a birdwatcher because the rain went on and on.

18 April 2000. We had intended to go to the "Museum of Modern Art" and it was a brilliant idea because the sky was grey and the wind was blowing. After this short cultural interlude, we went to "Macy's", the largest store in the world, or so they say, which was adorned with marvellous flowers for Easter. It was a shame birds were missing!

Two celebrities!

19 April 2000. We planned going to the south of the island to see "Miss Liberty" again. This is the place where the French can lick Americans. After all, it was a Frenchman who constructed this statue! This is also the place where you can twitch a few seabirds. I saw about fifty Ring-billed Gulls, 4 Laughing Gulls, an American Herring Gull, 15 Double-crested Cormorants, a Mallard, 10 Canada Geese, 2 Brent Geese and 10 Red-breasted Merganser. We then went to Ellis Island to see what was awaiting immigrants when they reached the USA at the turn of the 20th century. Nothing much has changed since then. A little later, walking about in the streets of Manhattan, I saw a Fish Crow. I was a bit surprised to find this species there but its cawing is much shriller than that of its American counterpart which can be seen everywhere.

20 April 2000. The weather was still awful so we went to the "Metropolitan Museum of Art" to cultivate our minds. A few hours later, we took a stroll near the "Reservoir", one of the lakes in Central Park which add a little natural element to the city centre. I saw 3 Ruddy Ducks, several Double-crested Cormorants and about ten American Robins. While roaming in the park, just like many Americans, I fed the Grey Squirrels. We walked down to the level of 75th Street and went to the part called "The Ramble". This is where local birdwatchers have placed feeders which attract birds that you can observe in very good conditions. It is a very pleasant place which gives you a rough idea of what birds you can find in this large city and you can easily get in touch with local birders there. I watched several different species in less than an hour, among which 3 Northern Cardinals, 3 Downy Woodpeckers, American Goldfinches, 4 House Finches, 5 Red-winged Blackbirds, 6 White-throated Sparrows, 2 Rusty Blackbirds, 2 Common Grackles, one Hermit Thrush, one Tufted Titmouse, one Black-capped Chickadee and to close this long list, a Raccoon. Not far from there, you can find the "Tavern on the Green" and you would never tell from its name what an elegant place this is. If you like molten glass go there, just to have a look.

21 April 2000. The rain kept falling and even if we visited the Guggenheim Museum, it spoilt part of the day. I returned to the "Reservoir" in Central Park and saw 10 Barn Swallows, 10 Tree Swallows, two of which bickered above the water for more than a whole minute,10 Double-crested Cormorants, 20 Great Black-backed Gulls, 6 Ruddy Ducks, among which only one male and a Black-crowned Night-Heron which didn't move a feather while I watched it for a long time only 5 m away.

22 April 2000. There had been a violent thunderstorm and then the weather improved a little. On that day, we met my friends who had accommodated me the last time I spent a few days in New-Jersey. They made us feel at home and were as nice as they had been the previous time. We therefore spent a whole day in Florham Park with them. While driving around, not far from where they live, we saw 4 White-tailed Deer) and a few birds I had already seen before. The best of friends must part and so we came back to Manhattan late at night.

23 April 2000. As it was Easter Sunday, we had planned to visit Harlem and to go to church to listen to some good Gospel songs. Harlem has become far less dangerous than it used to be and you can walk about safely in most streets, at least in the daytime. We were very surprised when we attended the religious service even though we knew what to expect, to some extent. At the entrance of the temple, there was a hall in which they served "sauerkraut" to the needy and the place of worship itself looked like a small theatre with a stage and a band whose drummer played very loudly. The parson warmed up the audience just like Elvis Presley and the big mammas in their Sunday best and wearing extraordinary hats sang their heads off, clapped their hands and danced. It was still raining in the afternoon and I didn't see any new bird species on my way from Central Park to Soho.

A quiet street in Harlem

24 April 2000. We left New-York City and took the train at Pennsylvania Station for Washington, D.C. . Only profitable railway lines are operated in the USA and most of them are concentrated on the eastern coast. The Amtrak carriages were comfortable but packed during that Easter weekend. We went through marshy areas that I would have liked to visit but we were short for time. From the window, I saw numerous Common Grackles, 2 Turkey Vultures, a Red-tailed Hawk, 3 Great Blue Herons, about ten American Crows and a Northern Mockingbird. After 3 h 35 in the train we arrived in the magnificent "Union Station", in Washington, D.C. . We took a taxi to the Harrington hotel which I had found on the Internet and which I can recommend. It is well located, just beside the F.B.I. headquarters and it is probably one of the best bargains in this city. The capital of the USA is very different from New-York City because there are far fewer tall-rises and seven-lane avenues surround huge green areas in the midst of which you will find famous monuments or museums. It is a very pleasant city, especially when the weather is nice, which was not the case then. After a quick walk around in the administrative area, we went to the "Hard Rock Café". This building is a favorite haunt of young people and it is worth going there, if only to have a look at the bonnet of the pink Cadillac which hangs over the dining-room.

25 April 2000. You can take a bus which goes round the most important museums if you want to visit the city. You get on and off whenever you want and you just have to wait for the next bus. If you take this bus in the afternoon, you can buy a ticket which is slightly more expensive but which is valid for a day and a half instead of just one day. That's what we did. It was still raining a lot and we were soaked. We felt very disappointed because the weather is usually very pleasant at this time of year in the American capital. As all tourists, we went to the Arlington cemetery to pay tribute to J.F. Kennedy and we had to do this in a large puddle in front of the grave. Going from one monument to the next, we saw about fifty Ring-billed Gulls walking about on the lawns. What struck us most in the city was the very size of all these monuments. You can't imagine how big they are when you see them on television. After seeing "Washington Monument", the "Smithsonian Institution" and the "Lincoln Memorial" we visited the Capitol and were able to attend a sitting of the Senate where we had the opportunity to see Ted Kennedy. To be allowed in the Senate, you have to be approved by your Senator if you are an American citizen. It was much easier for us foreigners. We just had to ask for permission on the premises and that took me about 2 minutes. After the Capitol, we went to the Science Museum. I strongly suggest you go there and see the skeletons of prehistoric animals. The famous "T. rex" is really impressive.

Ring-billed Gull

26 April 2000. It would have taken us a long time standing in the queue to go and visit the White House. The entrance is free but you have to wait for ages to get the tickets. We could have got them on the black market but we would still have had to wait too long and so we opted for an informative documentary film about the White House inside the Tourist Office. We were lucky because we saw the White House full of kids and their families who had come for the Egg Roll which takes place every year at Easter. We then took a walk in the city because the weather had improved a little bit. I saw a Chimney Swift which stood out against the sky which had turned blue at long last before we went to the "Air and Space Museum". There, you can have a good idea of what famous explorers had to go through. On leaving the museum, I spotted 2 House Finches and a few Grey Squirrels. Not all of them were grey by the way. Some were almost black and one had a grey fur mixed with red.

The Egg Roll at the White House

27 April 2000. That was our last day in the USA but we still found time enough to visit the reconstructed theatre where Abraham Lincoln was assassinated. From the Dulles International Airport I saw a Great Blue Heron and a Turkey Vulture before taking the plane to Amsterdam and then Luxembourg where we arrived on the following day at about 11.00 a.m. .

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.

01
Double-crested Cormorant Phalacrocorax auritus
02
Black-crowned Night-Heron Nycticorax nycticorax
03
Great Blue Heron Ardea herodias
04
Canada Goose Branta canadensis
05
Brent Goose Branta bernicla
06
Mallard Anas platyrhynchos
07
Ruddy Duck Oxyura jamaicensis
08
Ring-billed Gull Larus delawarensis
09
Laughing Gull Larus atricilla
10
American Herring Gull Larus smithsonianus
11
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus
12
Turkey Vulture Cathartes aura
13
Red-tailed Hawk Buteo jamaicensis
14
Mourning Dove Zenaida macroura
15
Chimney Swift Chaetura pelagica
16
Northern Flicker Colaptes auratus
17
Downy Woodpecker Picoides pubescens
18
Tree Swallow Tachycineta bicolor
19
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica
20
Blue Jay Cyanocitta cristata
21
American Crow Corvus brachyrhynchos
22
Fish Crow Corvus ossifragus
23
Black-capped Chickadee Poecile atricapillus
24
Hermit Thrush Catharus guttatus
25
American Robin Turdus migratorius
26
Northern Mockingbird Mimus polyglottos
27
Common Starling Sturnus vulgaris
28
Northern Cardinal Cardinalis cardinalis
29
White-throated Sparrow Zonotrichia albicollis
30
Red-winged Blackbird Agelaius phoeniceus
31
Rusty Blackbird Euphagus carolinus
32
Common Grackle Quiscalus quiscula
33
American Goldfinch Carduelis tristis
34
House Finch Carpodacus mexicanus

Other animal species:

Gray Squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis)

Raccoon (Procyon lotor)

White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus)




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