After 2021’s kinda big Brooklyn year, I relaxed in 2022. The birds helped me. There were no redpolls picking their way through the sweetgum trees in Green-Wood last year, no siskins turning up in random places, no scoter trifectas at Coney Island. Clearly, this was not meant to be a year for the record books.
So I chased less, although I of course made exceptions for lifers. I also worked on my patience, on paying more attention to gulls, and generally being a better and more helpful birder.
And guess what? I had a lot of fun, and I saw a lot of great birds. As always, looking back at the year in birds is also about remembering the year in full, a way to mark the passage of time.
Because of other things going on in my life right now, both good and bad (good: I finished writing this post on the plane to Ecuador), I’m dividing the recap into two parts.
I had never seen a Purple Sandpiper before I moved to Park Slope, took up birding again, and began to venture outside my Prospect Park comfort zone to the wilds of south Brooklyn. They’re not rare; neither, more disappointingly, are they purple. At best, their grayish plumage is washed with the faintest of violet sheens . . . and that’s if the light is just right and you squint a little.
What makes these birds so cool – and what keeps many birders from seeing them, including, until recently, myself – isn’t their color. It’s their habitat preferences. In the winter, Purple Sandpipers hang out on rocks and jetties, the more surf-pounded, the better. These are not wimpy shorebirds, scurrying away from incoming waves like Sanderlings or, for that matter, yours truly (“Ayeeeeeeeeee, it’s COOOOOOOOLD!”). No, these birds don’t flinch when January waves come crashing down. They just shake themselves off and continue eating.
Knowing where to find Purple Sandpipers in Brooklyn is one of those bits of local knowledge that makes one feel like a real birder. And so, in the helpful spirit I cultivated in 2022, I’ll share some pointers with any readers who want to freeze their asses off looking for plump, non-purple birds with orange legs, droopy bills, and a weird indifference to getting doused with cold water.
Still with me? Great! Your two best bets are the rocks that line the breakwall along the Shore Promenade in Bay Ridge and the far western end of Coney Island, where a jetty juts out into the ocean between the public beach and the private Sea Gate enclave,
Time to catch up with the folks who skipped ahead.Continue reading