The 200 bird challenge

Just as I was contemplating a year without a marathon, the woman sitting opposite me at the potluck dinner after the Kings County Christmas Bird Count mentioned the “200 bird challenge.”

The basic idea is to see 200 species of birds in New York state over the course of a year.

The beauty of the challenge, as she explained it, is that 200 birds is more than the casual New York birder can expect to see in one or two favored birding destinations. It’s a big enough number that you’re going to have to venture out to a variety of different habitats. And yet, it’s not such a crazy big number that getting there means putting the rest of your life on hold while you chase after every rare bird report from Montauk to the Quebec border to the shores of Lake Erie. (One birding friend has already told me that I should be able to surpass 200 birds in NYC alone.)

So perhaps the challenge sets the bar a little low. But no matter: I’m sticking with 200 because it’s a nice round number that’s somewhat ambitious, but eminently achievable. Not really a big year, but a biggish year. You can even think of it as the birding equivalent of qualifying for the Boston Marathon – i.e., an ideal obsessive quest for the likes of me.

It’s also an opportunity to blog more about birds, birding and birders. (And to create birding spreadsheets and pivot tables – needless to say, I’m super-excited about that!)

So, here goes nothing: I’m taking on the 200 bird challenge in 2016.  I was planning to launch the project tomorrow, with an epic Brooklyn Bird Club hike from Brighton Beach to Plumb Beach and back to Coney Island. However, a couple of continuing rarities in Prospect Park seduced me into toting my binoculars to “Harry’s Handicap” (PPTC’s annual celebration of hung-over running), the better to bird before and after the race.*

That got me Brooklyn’s celebrity painted bunting, along with our black-headed gull (a Eurasian species that regularly winters in Canada’s maritime provinces and irregularly visits the east coast of the U.S. where, of late, it has become inexplicably fond of Prospect Lake), and a bunch of more common birds.

For the record, the very first birds I saw this morning – almost as soon as I stepped out of our building – weren’t pigeons or starlings or house sparrows, but a small flock of monk parakeets raising a ruckus in the treetops.

A year that starts with Brooklyn parrots is bound to be a good year.



*I DNFed, unfortunately. Over-consumption of alcohol last night didn’t exactly help my recurring digestive issues.






2 thoughts on “The 200 bird challenge

  1. Mmmmm . . . maybe. But to stick with my running analogy, that would be like doing a 3:40 marathon, and I’m just not sure I’m up for it. (Plus, I want to use birding the way I used marathon training the last couple of years: as a way to explore more of the city, including the other four boroughs.)


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