A scene from "Birders: The Central Park Effect."

A scene from "Birders: The Central Park Effect." Credit: HBO

DOCUMENTARY "Birders: The Central Park Effect"

WHEN | WHERE Monday night at 9 on HBO

REASON TO WATCH Your moment of zen.

WHAT IT'S ABOUT Maybe we should call it Christmas in May. "It was like the trees were hung with ornaments," says one awe-inspired guy, after not just walking through Manhattan's Central Park, but finally stopping, and really looking up at the trees, adorned with some of the 200 colorful bird species seen every year in that wondrous oasis amid the tiny island's concrete bustle.

He and others like him testify in HBO's splendid hour about their intimate encounters with little bits of magic on wings. Better yet, producer-director-photographer Jeffrey Kimball provides visual evidence, layering in hundreds of shots of birds both common and rare, as he walks us through the park's year in birds, from spring to the following spring.

We meet big-time birders, like senior citizen and birding guide extraordinaire Starr Saphir (yes, that's "star sapphire"), along with seasonal gawkers who savor each spring's feast of stopover migrators. We learn why those birds love Central Park and how they adapt to a human landscape dominated by skyscrapers.

MY SAY "Birds are all that's left of the wild world" that's easily accessible to city-zens, as one bird lover marvels. "Birders" makes a wealth of species even more readily available, and close-up. They're "sudden beauty where there wasn't a moment before." Kimball's portrait fairly oozes that sense of wonder, and appreciation, aided by Paul Damian Hogan's serene music score.

BOTTOM LINE Grab the binoculars!


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