What can the birders of Central Park teach us here in Arlington? In a new documentary entitled “Birders: The Central Park Effect,” we find that we have a lot to learn from the bird watchers in Manhattan’s largest park.
The film’s title is derived from the observation that the incredible number of bird species that visit Central Park each year do so because there are few patches of green left in the area. As a result, nearly 200 species of birds are concentrated in this 840-acre green oasis. Each of the 117 bird species that make an appearance in the film are listed as the “stars” in the end credits. This is all the more surprising because Central Park is not a “natural wilderness” that was fenced in as the City grew up around it. Rather, it is a completely man-made landscape that is actively managed for the benefits of both the birds and the people who watch them.
In his “Seven Pleasures of Birding,” Chris Cooper explains how these small creatures enhance the lives of the people who come to Central Park to watch, listen and learn from their avian neighbors. We find:
- The beauty of the birds.
- The joy of being in a natural setting.
- The joy of hunting, without the bloodshed.
- The joy of puzzle-solving (identifying the birds).
- The joy of collecting (listing each sighting).
- The joys of scientific discovery.
- "The Unicorn Effect" (finding a bird that you know only from the field guide).
Like Central Park, Arlington possesses several areas where birds congregate in enough numbers to bring the “seven pleasures of birding” to all of us.
The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries has even provided a map of the birding “hot spots” close to home.
Linking all these sites together, the Great Falls Loop (CGF) includes the following stops in Arlington: Roaches Run Waterfowl Sanctuary, Potomac Heritage Trail, Fort C.F. Smith, Potomac Overlook Regional Park, Long Branch Nature Area, Glencarlyn Park and Lubber Run Park.
Reflecting on his first birding trip in Central Park, author Jonathan Franzen commented, “It was one of those rare times in an adult's life where the world suddenly seems more magical, rather than less." So, watch “The Central Park Effect,” grab your binoculars, and head out to view the living ornaments in the trees of Arlington.
Mike Nardolilli will be on vacation over the next couple of weeks. His weekly column will return in August.
He serves as President of the Northern Virginia Conservation Trust, President of the Arlington Outdoor Lab, and as a Member of the Board of Directors of the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority.