NEW YORK—Starr Saphir, a 72-year-old birding guide, shows nature lovers from New York and around the world the surprising diversity and splendor of the city’s wildlife in Central Park when she holds birding tours four times a week. She claims it as her life’s passion. “I have been birding since 1946,“ says Saphir.
The richness and variety of the natural habitats in the area offer the many different kinds of birds a place to live. Saphir says that one can see over 300 different species of birds in the five boroughs. On an average walk in Central Park she can spot more than 70 different species.
Her fascination with birds started when she was 6 years old. After finding a black-and-white warbler while her grandfather was fixing his car, she was hooked and “was looking at birds ever since.”
The Epoch Times: Why is New York such a good place for birds?
Starr Saphir: In the spring birds are flying north from the wintering grounds and in the fall they are flying south after having nested further north. They need places to rest and feed. While there used to be wild areas along the coasts, now the city parks serve as urban oases for tens of thousands of migrant birds coming through the area. Most birds fly at night and with first light they are looking for a place to rest and feed. Our city parks must look very good to them after flying the whole night.
Epoch Times: What is your favorite spot in the city to bird watch?
Saphir: I guess the north end of Central Park, along the Loch, which is a stream, because of the wild character of it. It reminds me of places in Central and South America I’ve been to, where birds will appear and then disappear because the trees are dense.
Epoch Times: Are people aware enough of the nature in the city?
Saphir: No, I don’t think people are aware enough, [though] more people become aware all the time. There is so much available in New York City that people just don’t know about. The Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge is a wonderful resource. They have a wonderful shore-bird migration in most years. Prospect Park in Brooklyn and Forest Park in Queens, the parks in the Bronx: Van Cortlandt Park and Pelham Bay Park—a lot of birds go through those areas. Wherever you live in the city you don’t have to go so far to find a big park that will be beautiful for walking and will have birds.
Epoch Times: What do you like about birding?Saphir: It is hard to explain. I think it’s the mystery of it. You try to know about birds, but it is really something that is not knowable. Very much enjoyable, but you can never really know that much about them. We can find out what birds eat and so on, but there is a certain mystery about what makes a bird appear in a certain time. Birding enhances your life. You should take your binoculars wherever you go. It is going to enhance any trip you take.
[I also enjoy] the inner calmness that comes from forgetting about yourself and concentrating on what is outside yourself in nature.