Sunday, December 31, 2017

Looking Forward to 2018

2018 will be a very unique year for me. For starters, I cannot do a standard year list, as I will only be at home for about 8 months before I have to go off to college. While I will keep a year list, I want to do something different as well. I am going to start a photographic year list using just my iPhone. While it may seem crude (and it is), pictures taken through binoculars with phones can turn out surprisingly well. That is how the Hooded Warbler in the previous post was taken, and below are a few more examples of photos I took this way:
Winter Wren taken in September at Maintainance Meadow
Red-Tailed Hawk taken in November at Mugger's Woods
Song Sparrows taken in August at The Pond
For a bird to be countable it must be photographed with my phone and be identifiable. The exception would be if I could narrow a bird down to species complex. For example, if I took a photo of a bird that deduced it between a Willow and Alder flycatcher, and I identified it by call, I would still count it.I hope to take many more photos like these in 2018. I am aiming for preliminary goal of 100 species, as I have never done this before. I'm hoping to have lots of fun doing this and bringing many more photos to the blog. And if you're wondering, yes, I will be going out into the icebox that is NYC tomorrow. Happy New Year!

Reflections on 2017

This Hooded Warbler is me 70% of the time
(taken in September at Tanners Spring)

I haven't posted here in a while, so here's the rundown on what happened in 2017

1. I saw a total of 171 species in New York County this year (my last was Red-Shouldered Hawk on 12/12).
2. I participated in the Central Park Christmas Bird Count this year, finding American Woodcock for the count. I was also able to add Northern Waterthrush at the pond the next day, a very late count week addition!
3. I went to ABA's Camp Colorado, finding over 130 species, including specialties such as White-Tailed Ptarmigan, American Dipper, Clark's Nutcracker, Chestnut-Collared Longspur, Burrowing Owl, and many more.
4. I led a birdwalk in Central Park for the New York State Young Birders Club on 9/17, finding a amazingly high variety of birds on what was a slow day for many others, including Red-Headed Woodpecker and Yellow-Billed Cuckoo.
5. There was a HAMMOND'S FLYCATCHER in Central Park from late November to early December. This is a species normally found in the west, and has only been recorded in New York State twice before. I saw it a total of four times, and additionally was the last person to see it on 12/12.
6. I traveled a lot this summer in the northeast, mostly to look at colleges, so I added species for my Massachusetts (a LOT), Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine (a LOT) lists.

I'll follow up on this shortly with a 2018 post.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

May Highlights

Highlights from May

May 16th: The winds overnight were forecast to bring very little migration, but during that morning, the trees were dripping with warblers. During the time I birded in the morning and the afternoon, I saw 23 warbler species, a new record!

I saw a Mourning Warbler feeding on late termite hatchout in a tree on May 28th with others. Also added Yellow-Bellied Flycatcher that day

Very cooperative Kentucky Warbler at Washington Square Park

Very cooperative Blue Grosbeak at Battery Park

2 Summer Tanagers in Central Park

Managed to get Purple Finch singing in the spring on the first of May.

Not highlights

Missed Spotted Sandpiper quite a few times, even one by seconds! Also do not have Willow Flycatcher.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

First Few Weeks of May Highlights

Here is my list of highlights from last last few weeks in taxonomic order:

Eastern Whip-Poor-Will: Seen on 5/7 at the Hallet Sanctuary. Lifer!

Common Nighthawk: Seen on 5/8 at Summit Rock and 5/9 in the Ramble. Both sleeping.

Least Sandpiper: A flock of them were seen on Governors Islamd on 5/7

Red-Headed Woodpecker: One at feeders in beginning of May

White-Eyed Vireo: Heard-only at Belvedere Castle

Yellow-Throated Vireo: One during the month

Worm-Eating Warbler: About 4 seen

Louisiana Waterthrush: 1 on 5/16 at Laupot Bridge

Tennessee Warbler: 1 seen at Turtle Pond early in the month

KENTUCKY WARBLER: Washington Sqaure Park on 5/12. Lifer!

Hooded Warbler: few

Bay-Breasted Warbler: Several

Blackburnian Warbler: Several

White-Crowned Sparrow: Maintenance Meadow beginning of May.

SUMMER TANAGER: female on Sunday at Maintenance Meadows, excellent views of male at Azalea Pond today (5/17)

BLUE GROSBEAK: Battery Park 5/9. Lifer!

Orchard Oriole: 2

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Transitioning to May

On Thursday, April 27th, a new wave of migrants finally started to arrive. In Mugger's Woods I added House Wren and Black-Throated Blue and Green Warblers. At Tupelo Meadow, I added Veery, and at Evodia Field, I added a beautiful Scarlet Tanager. The next day, I added a pair of Solitary Sandpipers hanging around several large puddles at the Compost Heap (this is at the north end), several newly-arrived Grey Catbirds, and a Great Crested Flycatcher and Baltimore Oriole at Evodia Field. On April 29th, I added a whopping 15 species to the year list. These included 9 warbler species, including Hooded Warbler (FOY for park) at Strawberry Fields and Evodia Field, Tennessee Warbler at the Upper Lobe (and likely Bethesda Terrace), a few Blackpoll Warblers (early but here for some reason), and a Cape May and YELLOW-THROATED WARBLER around Tanner's Spring. Other nice species were Yellow-Throated Vireo at Humming Tombstone and White-Crowned Sparrow at Tanner's Spring. The next day, an extremely rare LEAST BITTERN appeared high up in a tree above the Gill, and I got manageable views of this elusive heron.

May Arrives!

On May 1 (Monday), I headed to the Pool for a Lincoln's Sparrow. It took a minute to find it, but it provided great views. As I was walking to the Ravine entrance, I heard a weird song that sounded like a mix between a Warbling Vireo and a House Finch. I was able to locate the singer, which was a Purple Finch, a new year bird for me! In the North Woods, I was able to locate a reported Hooded Warbler, and FINALLY added Winter Wren (a little late) in the Loch. I then went to the Ramble, where I found a beautiful Orchard Oriole at Evodia Field. On Tuesday, I was able to add Tree Swallow at the Reservoir and two male Rose-Breasted Grosbeaks at the feeders. On Wednesday, I added Northern Rough-Winged Swallow at the Reservoir, a few Magnolia Warblers, and a Red-Eyed Vireo at Maintenance Meadow. Now at 135 species for the year, I'm looking forward to Sunday, which seems like it will be an amazing day. Coincidentally, the first day of the second week of May last year was also great, producing one of the most amazing birding days in Central Park that anyone can remember. Will lightning strike twice?

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

April Migrants + RARITIES!!!

Since my last post a week ago, birding has felt really strange. The park has been less active, with less migrants being added than this time last year, but rarities make up most of that. My first year addition from this new wave of migrants was on Thursday, April 20th, when I went to the Point hoping for a Yellow Warbler that had been seen that morning. I heard the bird (#90) sing, but it took me a while to actually find it. The next day, it became pretty quiet like the rest of time through today. I did however, spot a previously reported Belted Kingfisher (#91) at the Point.

Now to get to the first rarity: Wild Turkey. On Thursday evening, a turkey was spotted in the Loch by one person and wasn't refound. Then on Friday evening, it was spotted roosting in the Ramble. Then on Saturday it was seen near the Boathouse and later near Falconer's Hill. That's when I decided to look for it. Since it seemed to be moving south, I searched the entire southern third of the park to no avail...until I went back to Falconer's Hill. The Wild Turkey (#92) was right there in the open! It's times like this that birding makes you go in circles, but this time it paid off. Also, I went to the Upper Lobe and saw a previously reported Northern Parula (#93) in a mixed flock.

On Sunday, I added a Green Heron (#94) in the Oven after missing it the past few days, and then searched for an Orange-Crowned Warbler that has been sighted all around the western half of the Ramble. Right when I was about to give up, it was reported near Bow Bridge. When I got there, it (#95) was surprisingly up in a tree, not the typical understory habitat you expect to find one in!

On Monday, a fellow birder named Kai told me about a few birds he saw, including a singing Warbling Vireo by the MET museum. I went over there, saw nothing, and was about to give up when I heard a familiar sound. I followed it and located the vireo (#97) in a cherry tree. Then, I went to Four Freedoms Park on Roosevelt Island to search for a pair of recently reported Purple Sandpipers, a very rare species in the county. During my first scan on the rocks they were typically on, I did not see any sandpipers. After a bit of scanning the river, I decided to do a second "mercy" scan, and surpisingly, I picked up two shorebirds feeding on the rocks. Purple Sandpipers (#98)!

On Tuesday, I went for a brief chase for a White-Eyed Vireo and Blue-Winged Warbler at Sparrow Rock. There was almost nothing in the park, so I tried for these two uncommon, but expected species. I went there, but only found the Blue-Winged Warbler, which offered great looks just above my head. The next day, I decided to go Sparrow Rock for the vireo, as well as the Rustic Shelter for a BARRED OWL (last one was in 2013) that was reported. I ran into Kai just after I entered the park who said he just had a Laughing Gull on the Reservoir, which wasn't that hard to pick out (#99). I then went to Sparrow Rock, I found Kai looking at a pair of male Indigo Buntings (#100)! Unfourtunately, there appeared to be no vireo, and I went down to the Ramble for the owl. The Barred Owl (#101) was awake and provided great views. I had only seen this species in the park in 2013, where one hung out at the Pinetum for months.

I have finally breached the 100 species mark! I am not far off from last year, being only a day late. Despite the seemingly silent period of what was a time of plenty last year, I am still confident that I can make up lost migration with the coming month.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Cleaning Up the Missed Migrants

I have continued to pick up more migrants since Thursday. The first new birds were on Saturday. I heard of a report of a Field Sparrow in a meadow near the upper lobe. Even though this report was hours old, I was still able to find the bird (#82). I soon received a report of a mixed flock in the Swampy Pin Oak that included a Blue-Headed Vireo. I found this bird (#83) without too much effort. On Sunday, I went up to the Loch to try to find a Northern Waterthrush. It took a while, but eventually, I located this slightly early migrant (#84). To top it off, I had a heard-only Hairy Woodpecker (#85) there as well. On Monday, I thought I would end up with no new birds, but at the Pinetum, I had a surprise flyover of an Osprey (#86). On Tuesday, I had a new sense of determination. Despite no reports that day, I decided to go to the Loch in search of Louisiana Waterthrush, which I saw (#87). I then went to the Grassy Knoll for Savannah Sparrows, where I had found just 1 Chipping Sparrow a few days before. Instead, I found a few Chipping Sparrows and 4 Savannah Sparrows (#88)! Just when I thought I was done, a Barn Swallow flew over at the Reservoir to raise my year list to 89 species. With virtually all bases covered, all I have to do is wait for the next wave of migrants to show up.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

CATTLE EGRET + Mid-April Migrants

On Friday, I went looking for new migrants. I had no luck, until I stumbled across a Ruby-Crowned Kinglet (#76) at The Point. I will certainly see hundreds of these birds this year. Just as I was about to exit the park, I thought I heard something that sounded like a Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher by the Pilgrim Statue, and I found one (#77) hanging around the cherry trees there. This was about a week later than my first one last year, but this is the typical arrival time of these tiny insectivores. On Tuesday, a CATTLE EGRET was found on a residental lawn in Chelsea, which is the last place you would expect this first county record on land to be. Nevertheless, I took the C train over there and got great looks at this bird (#78) foraging on the lawn. Today I went looking for migrants after the good winds the night before. My first new migrant was a Yellow-Rumped Warbler (#79) at The Point, surprisingly a female. I saw several more today, all of which were males. After finding many of the usual migrants, I went up to The Loch to search for a reported Prairie Warbler, which is a bit early. When I arrived there, there were several birders looking at a large warbler flock featuring several Pine, Palm, and Yellow-Rumped Warblers. It took a while, but eventually I got great looks at the Prairie Warbler (#80). I still have not seen Louisiana Waterthrush, but likely will soon. My next year additions will likely be Savannah Sparrow, Black-and-White Warbler, and Blue-Headed Vireo, since reports of them are starting to come in.

Friday, April 7, 2017

First April Year Additions

On Saturday, I went out birding in the park. While migrants were basically the same as the week prior, I did add a Hermit Thrush (#72) to my year list at Tupelo Meadow, my first April addition, and one that I somehow missed in winter despite finding it multiple times in that season last year. Meanwhile, reports of Chipping Sparrows and Palm Warblers began to trickle in, and I was determined to find them for myself. On Monday I did just that, and found a pair of Chipping Sparrows (#73) with a junco flock at the Pinetum (along with a third at the Pinetum), and a Palm Warbler (#74) at Tupelo Meadow. On Wednesday, nothing really changed in terms of migrants, other than a few isolated reports of Louisiana Waterthrush and Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher (I will likely get both in the next week or so), but a Great Egret (#75) had finally made claim to Turtle Pond, and greeted a visiting pair of Ring-Necked Ducks. The egret typically arrives here at the end of March or the first few days of April, while the ducks are rare, but I saw a pair in February on the Reservoir and a male there in March.

The migrants I have been seeing include many phoebes and Golden-Crowned Kinglets, along with smaller numbers of Pine and Palm Warblers, Chipping Sparrows, and Hermit Thrushes.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

April Targets

Here are my April targets. I expect to add around 40 species to my year list if not more, due to the rapid shift in migrants, especially near the end of the month. What's even stranger is that a few birds I got in March last year aren't on my year list yet, such as Winter Wren. However, I'm at a good pace with 71 species by the end of March. Migration has been a trickle, however, it will hopefully kick off again with the next good winds

Chimney Swift (later)
Great Egret (Turtle Pond)
White-Eyed Vireo (mid to late)
Blue-Headed Vireo (mid to late)
Warbling Vireo (late)
Tree Swallow
Northern Rough-Winged Swallow
Barn Swallow
Winter Wren
House Wren
Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher
Hermit Thrush
Veery (later)
Gray Catbird
Cedar Waxwing
Ovenbird (later)
Louisiana Waterthrush
Northern Waterthrush (later)
Blue-Winged Warbler (later)
Black-and-White Warbler (mid to late)
Nashville Warbler (later)
Northern Parula (later)
Yellow Warbler (later)
Chestnut-Sided Warbler (later)
Black-Throated Blue Warbler (later)
Palm Warbler
Yellow-Rumped Warbler
Prairie Warbler (later)
Black-Throated Green Warbler (later)
Chipping Sparrow
Field Sparrow
Rose-Breasted Grosbeak (later)
Indigo Bunting (later)
Baltimore Oriole (later)

Ruby-Throated Hummingbird (later)
Laughing Gull
Green Heron (later)
Osprey (flyover)
Sharp-Shinned Hawk
Belted Kingfisher (lake or ponds)
Hairy Woodpecker
Least Flycatcher (later)
Great Crested Flycatcher (later)
Eastern Kingbird (later)
Yellow-Throated Vireo (later)
Fish Crow (calling)
Bank Swallow
Carolina Wren
Purple Finch
Worm-Eating Warbler
Common Yellowthroat (later)
Hooded Warbler (later)
American Redstart (later)
Blackburnian Warbler (later)
Yellow-Throated Warbler
Savannah Sparrow
Orchard Oriole (later)

Horned Grebe (had last year)
Snowy Egret (flyover)
Black Vulture (flyover)
Bald Eagle (flyover)
Marsh Wren
Prothonotary Warbler

Finally!!! March Migrants!

On Saturday, March 25th, I went out looking for early migrants. There had been good winds the night before, and there had recently been a slight uptick in phoebes, along with the appearance of a few other migrants. My first migrant of the day was at Locust Grove, which came in the form of a Golden-Crowned Kinglet (#69). I passed through Shakespeare Garden, where I found another one, and then went to Belvedere Castle, where I scanned Turtle Pond for Eastern Phoebes, finding two (#70). I then headed to the Polish Statue where a Pine Warbler was reported, which I found (#71), along with around 8 Golden-Crowned Kinglets. In the Ramble, I saw more migrants, including several phoebes and another Pine Warbler. This was a great start to spring, and I can't wait for what April may bring!

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Hudson River Loons!

Over the past week, there have been several reports of Red-Throated Loons on the Hudson River. Perhaps a movement of them. Whatever the case, I decided to go to some piers around West 24th street on Friday, where there have been some sightings. When I got there, I spotted two dark shapes just beyond the end of the pier. They were loons! I got a distant look at them, being pretty sure they were Red-Throated (#68), and then lost them. I went to the end of the pier to scan again, and they were not that far off the end, and allowed great views as they slowly drifted north up the river. They were a treat that I was not anticipating this month!

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Woodcock Wonders!

One of my main targets for mid March was American Woodcock. On Monday, I was in the park hoping for an early phoebe or the reclusive woodcock. After finding nothing at Turtle Pond, a good phoebe spot, I went to a part of Tupelo Meadow that has some habitat that is favorable for woodcocks, but even there, the odds of finding one are low. When I arrived there, I saw nothing. But as I got closer, a cinnamon Mourning Dove-sized bird shot out of the ground. A woodcock (#65)!

On Wednesday, the day after a snowstorm came through, reports of several woodcocks in the Ravine came in, unusual for this time of year. The reason for this seemed to be that the snow covering the ground concentrates the birds around small streams, the only source of open ground available. I decided to head up to the Ravine that afternoon in search for as many as I could find. I didn't even get past the Reservoir before I saw my first woodcock flying over. After that surprise, I decided to briefly head over to the Pool to check for ducks. I found a Wood Duck, and right next to it on the shore was another woodcock! I then run into another young birder named Kai, who told me about woodcocks he had seen, as well as a Rusty Blackbird, Brown Thrasher, and Winter Wren in the Ravine as well. And as if on cue, another woodcock flew in and landed right next to us on the ice! When I went to the Ravine, I found just two woodcocks, but I could see why. 3 or 4 Red-Tailed Hawks were patrolling the area, and may have flushed many of the birds. A nice consolation prize came in the form of three Rusty Blackbirds (#66).

The next day, reports of numbers of woodcocks continued. A similar number of reports also came from the Ramble and Triplet's Bridge, where a Wilson's Snipe was also reported, so that's where I went that afternoon. At Triplet's Bridge, the snipe (#67 and a state lifer!) was gave good looks, along with four woodcocks and a Rusty Blackbird. It was interesting to compare the two species, as they were literally right next to each other! I then went to the Oven, where there were four more woodcocks (another also flew by), bringing the day total up to 9! On Friday, woodcock numbers seemed to have dramatically dropped, with me seeing just two at the Oven, and there were few reports this weekend (which is also the usual amount!). I believe this crazy Woodcockalypse was caused a combination of the birds being more visible and a large influx of the species, but we'll never know the exact reasons as to why this happened.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

American Wigeon 2017

On Friday, a female American Wigeon was found at the Harlem Meer. I wasn't able go to out until Sunday, but when I did, I was treated to great close views of this bird (#65). American Wigeons are rare in the park, appearing only once or twice a year, so this was a nice bonus bird for March.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

First Owl of 2017!

On Saturday afternoon, Ryan called me about a Long-Eared Owl found in Shakespeare Garden. I rushed over there and found the owl (#62) in a yew tree. This species used to be a bit regular in winter, especially near Bow Bridge, but for some reason, they now appear semi-annually, with Shakespeare Garden being the new hotspot for them. On Monday, I finally added Red-Winged Blackbirds (#63) to my year list, with 3 males at the feeders. I expect my next year bird to be Eastern Phoebe, which usually starts to arrive around mid March. Last year, there was an early push around now due to May-like weather, and I added 3 in one day. This year, it happened towards the end of February, but no phoebes came. One just showed up in the park today, and I'm hoping that I find one soon.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Day 58: Peregine and Great Blue Heron Finally!

On Sunday, I was eating lunch in my apartment when I saw a Peregrine Falcon (#60) fly by. This is a species that took surprisingly long to see, as it is resident and I often see them near my building. The next day, I went to the Pond in search of a Great Blue Heron that sometimes appeared there over the last month. I found it hunting on the Hallet shore pretty easily. Now I know I won't miss this bird. Last year, I only saw it here in March, and a pair flew over Turtle Pond in May, and that's it. I am around the same pace of last year, with one more species. I surprisingly did not see any Red-Winged Blackbirds, which I added with days to spare last February. Fortunately, this is a very common species in the city that I am certain I will see a lot of this year, and I have no need to worry. Here is what I think I may add this month:

Black-Crowned Night Heron
Eastern Phoebe
Winter Wren
Pine Warbler
Red-Winged Blackbird

Great Egret (First sightings are around end of March/ beginning of April)
American Woodcock
Hairy Woodpecker (still have not seen)
Tree Swallow
Golden-Crowned Kinglet
Palm Warbler (early migrants?)
Rusty Blackbird

Friday, February 24, 2017

Day 55: Killdeer Meadow

Today, a Killdeer was reported in Central Park's North Meadow at the southeast corner. I arrived there this afternoon. A photo from earlier showed it near a puddle, so I scanned around the puddle, which hadn't dried up yet. I found it fairly quickly, and went and got a closer look. It was clearly a Killdeer (#59), with its double black bands and chocolate brown back. I missed this species last year, and was in Florida when one showed up in the North Meadow in December. And I still haven't seen a Red-Winged Blackbird yet.

Point Lookout and Jones Beach Trip

On Sunday, I went with the New York Young Birders Club to Point Lookout, NY. This is a reliable spot for coastal waterfowl and shorebirds in winter. I got there with fellow birders Ryan and Adrian a bit late, but came across a huge swarm of hundreds of Brant. Outside the swarm, there was a Common Eider and a pair of Harlequin Ducks by the closest jetty (both lifers), and a few Horned Grebes and several loons (both species) in the inlet. The birders had also spotted a distant Razorbill in the inlet earlier, and a while after I got there, it was spotted again, giving me distant but identifiable views of this life bird. We then started to move further down the beach, where we encountered several Tree Swallows flying by us. It felt a bit odd to see these birds in the middle of February, but there's apparently enough food for them (and the wintering Yellow-Rumped Warblers) to overwinter. At the beach a bit past the inlet, we went by another jetty. This jetty had 7 more Harlequin Ducks and 3 Long-Tailed Ducks (lifer), as well as some Ruddy Turnstones, Sanderlings, and a Dunlin (lifer). We also scanned the sea for gannets, with me picking out one or two way out (>1.5 miles). We then headed back to the parking lot and drove to the Jones Beach Coast Guard Station. It had fairly few birds compared to Point Lookout, with just some regular coastal waterfowl, but we did also have our only Killdeer of the trip on the field right next to the docks. We then headed to the dunes by the inlet. These were also scarce in birds. However, we spotted the Razorbill again, this time right along the beach, giving us amazing looks at this normally oceangoing bird! The walk back had few birds, aside for a flock of about a half dozen Red-Breasted Nuthatches. Afterwards, Ryan, Adrian, and I went to go have lunch at the Theodore Roosevelt Nature Center, where we had a large flock of Snow Buntings circle overhead a few times, Northern Harriers hunting in the marshes, and a lone Horned Lark in the dunes (all lifers). After that, we then went to Oak Beach to look for a reported Eared Grebe. We didn't find it, but there were still lots of ducks, including many Long-Tailed Ducks and a Common Goldeneye (lifer). This was a great trip, with 9 life birds and many interesting species, with Razorbill taking the cake!

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Day 41: Ring-Necked Ducks Finally Appear!

On Friday, I heard about a pair (male/female) of Ring-Necked Ducks that had appeared that morning near the south pumphouse of the Reservoir. This species is an annual winter visitor to the Reservoir, usually appearing by December. This season, there was a pair in one day in November which I did not chase because I saw one in January of last year. Since then, there were surprisingly no reports until now. I went to the Reservoir that afternoon, and the pair (#58) were sleeping right by the south pumphouse in a flock of Hooded Mergansers (a species that I don't usually see flock). On another note, February is probably tied with June for the second least productive month for the year, after July. I will likely only add a few species, barely making it past 60 species. Red-Winged Blackbird seems to be the only bird I will likely see.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Day 33 and 36: Rare Grebe and Hearing a Falcon

A Red-Necked Grebe was released by the Wild Bird Fund onto the Reservoir on Wednesday. This bird can only count on my year list if it is active, healthy, and not attracted to humans. On Thursday, I went to find it for myself, which I easily did at the south pumphouse. The grebe was diving and acting completely normal, so I could count it (#56). This isn't the first time one has been on the Reservoir, as during winter/spring 2014, there was a large irruption of these birds due to the Great Lakes being frozen, and a few birds spent some time on the Reservoir. On Sunday, I also added a heard-only American Kestrel (#57) in Chinatown sounding an alarm towards the Cooper's Hawk hunting pigeons above the streets. A bit ironic that I added a falcon on the day they were playing in the Superbowl! Unfortunately, they lost in what was probably the most intense game ever. Hopefully they'll win next year!

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Day 31: The Towhee Finally Appears + Monthly Reflection

During the last two winters, there has been a male Eastern Towhee that has wintered in a patch of bushes near the Boathouse. I searched for it earlier this month, but didn't find it. Today someone told me they spotted it there, and I decided to look for it. At first, I only saw the usual House and White-Throated Sparrows, but after a few minutes, the unmistakable male Eastern Towhee (#54) appeared! This species is a hard to find winterer, about as tricky as the thrasher I saw almost a week ago, but both of these species can often be staked out, and are also fairly common migrants. In total this month, I have seen 55 species, slightly behind the 56 of last year. With the exception of Great Horned Owl and Snow Goose, and possibly Common Merganser and less so for Orange-Crowned Warbler, all of the other birds from last January are expected. However, this year, just Common Loon and Northern Pintail are unlikely to be seen again (apart from the wintering bird). Not seen last year were the aforementioned loon as well as Great Cormorant (lifer!), both on Randall's Island. To catch up with last year, I need to have about 60 birds on my year list by the end of February. Will I succeed? Stay tuned!

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Day 26: Wintering Thrasher

I was out in the park late this morning. After seeing the usual stuff in the Ramble, I headed up to Belvedere Castle. On the steps up to the castle. I notices a large bird that was shaped a bit like a Blue Jay in a tangle of bare shrubs that I suspected may be a brown thrasher. I looked at it through my binoculars and it proved to be a Brown Thrasher (#54), a rare winterer in the park. These birds are usually reported as winterers either at the north or south end of the park, so it was a surprise to find one in the middle. As for year listing, I am certain I will see more. They are very common in late September and early October, and can also be found regularly in spring.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Day 22: Randall's Island Year Birds

On Sunday, I went birding on Randall's Island with my friend Ryan. We started by going on the 104th street footbridge and scanning from the bridge. I immediately spotted a male Red-Breasted Merganser (#49) and a Bufflehead. Then suddenly, Ryan yells out "Loon!". I got a good look at the Common Loon (#50) that he spotted flying low over the bridge. We then go on the island and head towards and island that is a known cormorant hangout where both Great and Double-Crested Cormorants hang out. There were 3 Great (#51) among the Double-Cresteds. We then went to the Hell Gate Saltmarsh, where I spotted a sleeping Black-Crowned Night Heron (#52), an uncommon but regular winterer on the island. Meanwhile, there were also some Gadwalls (#53) in the marsh as well. For the next hour and a half, we looked for more potential year birds, but came up empty. We did hear a Belted Kingfisher, but didn't know whether it was on the Manhattan or Bronx side of the Bronx Kill. Still a great day!

Monday, January 9, 2017

Day 9: Pintail Finally Surrenders!

This afternoon, I went through the park south for the Northern Pintail that I missed on my last few attempts. Along the way, I added a Northern Flicker (#45) near the MET, and a Cooper's Hawk (#46) at Maintenance Meadow. I then got to the pond. On my first scan, I didn't see the Northern Pintail, but I saw it (#47) shortly after. While looking at the ducks in the Pond, I spotted two sparrows foraging right at the side of the path. The first was a Song Sparrow, but the second was a Swamp Sparrow (#48)! I know I will see this bird in the spring, but I wasn't sure if I could find a wintering one. A great day, and hopefully I'm on track to break my record of 56 birds set last month. Here is an overview of what I saw last year in January but not this January (yet), and vice versa.

What I saw this year but not last year
Northern Pintail
Green-Winged Teal
Turkey Vulture
Red-Headed Woodpecker
Red-Breasted Nuthatch
Swamp Sparrow

What I saw last year but not this year
Snow Goose
Gadwall (likely to see)
Ring-Necked Duck
Common Merganser
Great Horned Owl
American Kestrel (likely to see)
Peregrine Falcon (likely to see)
Hairy Woodpecker
Ruby-Crowned Kinglet
Orange-Crowned Warbler

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Day 8: Rare Woodpecker and Other New Birds

Today I went into the park with targets in mind. These were the continuing Northern Pintail at the Pond and a Red-Headed Woodpecker found yesterday just west of 5th avenue and 68th street. I first went for the woodpecker, and I got brief looks at the immature bird (#41) before it disappeared into a hole in a tree. I then went for the pintail, and I saw all the ducks at the pond but the pintail. Along with the American Black Ducks, Green-Winged Teal, and American Coot, I added a male Wood Duck to my year list. I then went back up to the woodpecker spot, where I got a few more looks. After that, I headed to the bird feeders, where I added a trio of Brown-Headed Cowbirds (#43). I then headed up to the Reservoir, adding two Red-Breasted Nuthatches along the way. When I got there, I scanned the waterfowl as usual. But when I put my binoculars down, I saw three large birds soaring in the distance heading south towards me. These were Turkey Vultures (#44)! Later that day, I found out the same situation happened as on January 1st, the Northern Pintail was hiding from me! Guess I have to chase it another day!

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Day 7: Driveby Birds

I went skiing today in Mount Vernon, New Jersey. But before I got there, I added two new year birds this morning on the way there. The first was a flyover Double-Crested Cormorant over a gas station at 96th street and 1st avenue, and the second was a flock of up to 100 Brant in the East River around 110th street.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Day 5: A Few More Regulars

Today I went by the Reservoir and Ramble on yet another sweep of the park to get year birds. Today I added two new ones, which were a single Northern Shoveler (where'd they all go?) at the Reservoir and a Fox Sparrow at the feeders. My total is now at 38 species, and this number will hopefully rise to 45 or 50 within the next several days.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Day 4: A Few More Regulars

Today I had limited time, which I spent at the Reservoir and Turtle Pond. The Reservoir had the usual ducks other than my unseen Gadwalls and Northern Shovelers, but I did see a Pied-Billed Grebe (#35) there. Turtle Pond is often another good place for shovelers, but there were none there today, but a Brown Creeper (#36) was a consolation prize. Both of these additions are regular winterers that I was pretty sure I would see by the end of the month, if not within the first week.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Day 3: Rainy RBNU

In my effort to bird as much as possible, I decided to go briefly to the Pinetum and Reservoir today despite the rain. I first went to the Pinetum, where my main target was Red-Breasted Nuthatch, where they have been seen recently. There were hardly any birds around, but somehow I was able to spot a tiny bird flying between the pine trees. A quick look through my binoculars confirmed my suspicion that it was a Red-Breasted Nuthatch (#34). I felt that I had a good chance of getting this species this month, but if I didn't get it now, there was a much lower chance that I would get it in the fall, so it would be better to get it this winter. I'm off to a bit of a slow start compared to other ebirders (only #16!), but hopefully I can play catchup in the next week, as there are still many common and regular species I haven't seen (Northern Shoveler, Double-Crested Cormorant, etc.). Stay tuned!

Sunday, January 1, 2017

First Birds of 2017

Today started out with a scan from my building's roof, which yielded my first birds of the year, which were Ring-Billed Gulls, American Crow, Rock Pigeons, and Herring Gull. I then went to the front garden where I added House Sparrows, starlings, and American Robin. At the park, I had a decent list of 33 species, including all previously mentioned. At the Pond, a lingering Northern Pintail must've been hiding (it was seen today), but the lingering male Green-Winged Teal provided great looks. Not a bad way to start the new year off!