My biggish year (mid-summer update)

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After hitting the magic 200 number back in May, I fully intended to give bird-blogging a rest. The plan was to refocus this blog on other things (running! interesting or odd things seen while running! food to fuel my running! and, of course, politics . . . because nothing fuels my running like rage!).

Then the summer doldrums hit.

But here I am, back at it, with a quick update of birds seen over the last two months. That would include the fine specimens at the top of this post, spotted by the Brooklyn Navy Yard yesterday and photographed today. Turns out they’re part of an art installation to dramatize the effects of climate change (you can read about the project, and the artist behind it, here). In addition to provoking thought, they also lent a note of grace and beauty to the landscape – something we could all use more of, especially after this past week.

Of the real, live birds I’ve seen over the last month and a half, the most exciting were the small group of black-bellied whistling ducks that showed up in Marine Park at the end of May. Like last winter’s painted bunting – not to mention the handcrafted birds on the Navy Yard fence – these ducks aren’t supposed to be here. They should be in Mexico, or south Texas, or if they’re real wanderers, Arkansas. They should not be chilling along Avenue U in Brooklyn. And yet, there they were. Spotted in the morning, they hung around for the better part of the day, and then disappeared as abruptly as they’d arrived.

This week, a group of roughly the same number showed up in Ithaca – the same birds, mayhaps? And where do you suppose they’d been hanging out over the intervening period?

The ongoing list:

209. Clapper rail*
210. Eastern wood peewee (my 200th Brooklyn bird)
211. Black-bellied whistling duck*
212. Willow flycatcher** (hard to believe this was a life bird, since I now see – or at least hear – them on virtually every outing; but before this year, I never did much birding by ear and consequently dismissed members of the genus Empidonax as “oh, yeah, some kind of flycatcher”)
213. Black vulture*
214. Grasshopper sparrow** (seen on a group trip to the Fresh Kills park-to-be on Staten Island)
215. Royal tern*
216. Tri-colored heron*
217. Barn owl** (turns out the secret to seeing these in their nest box at Jamaica Bay is to wait until the young are so big that they’re crowded up against the opening)
218. Purple martin* (required a special trip to Staten Island, site of NYC’s only martin colony)
219. Marsh wren
220. Gull-billed tern**
221. Cliff swallow* (currently summering in da Bronx)

*First time for me in NYC
**Life bird

Dare I imagine hitting 250 NYC birds by the end of the year?

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