400 birds

16B70747-7872-451F-A25B-3D70B710959EAh, the appeal of round numbers! Ah, the lure of arbitrary goals! Ah, the joy of obsessive pursuits!

I haven’t prattled on about birding on this blog of late, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t continued to devise ornithological challenges for myself. Two years ago, I documented my quest to see 200 species in New York City . . . something that turned out to be ridiculously easy for anyone with a pair of binoculars, a Metrocard, and (most important) time on her hands. So I upped the goal to 200 birds just in Brooklyn, and managed that as well. (The final tally: 249 species in NYC, 225 in Brooklyn.)

Last year began with a focus on Brooklyn (235 species, thank you very  much), but when an October trip out west pushed my U.S. total past 290 (who knew the water treatment plant in Henderson, Nevada was such a bird-magnet!), I could see (and smell, and taste, and almost touch) 300 birds for the year. So I staked out a vesper sparrow; furiously pedaled a Citibike to the Prospect Park peninsula to tick off a cackling goose; arrived late to Thanksgiving dinner with the in-laws after dipping* on both a trumpeter swan and a king eider off Detroit’s Belle Isle – and closed the year with 299 species.

And so this year’s challenge was born. Going for 300 again would have been too easy; 500 would have been too hard; 400 seemed tough – more birds than I’ve ever seen in a year – but doable.

Thanks to a trip to Spain, where even the starlings, pigeons and urban sparrows were “year birds”; to an amazing spring migration week revisiting my childhood haunts in northwest Ohio; and to continued obsessive birding in New York City and its environs, my year list stands at 357.

I’m currently sitting in the C concourse of LaGuardia’s main terminal (not a very birdy place), Albuquerque-bound. In addition to my binoculars, brand new Sibley guide to the birds of the western United States, and list of target species, I’ll be taking this blog with me for updates from the road.

If for some unfathomable reason you find birds boring, I also plan to cover food, culture and whatever non-bird adventures I stumble into.

. . .

*”Dipping” is birder slang for making a special trip to see a particular bird, and failing miserably.

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