2016 in birds: the final tally

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So long, 2016

249.

That’s my final count of bird species seen in the five boroughs of New York City over the course of the last year. Number 1 was monk parakeet, a flock of which were squawking in the tree across the street when I opened the front door last New Year’s Day and officially launched my biggish year. Number 249 was white-winged scoter, seen from the beach at Fort Tilden, Queens, yesterday morning. Continue reading

Late summer birding update: bird and food pairings

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Pairs well with cafe bombon. (Photo credit: Gus Keri)

I’m all too aware that many of the folks who enjoy my posts on running or food (or both – there’s a substantial overlap between the two) are less than enamored with my birding updates. Try as I might to spread the love I feel for skulking sparrows and soaring seabirds, it’s proving to be a hard sell.

But, you know, I started this 200 Bird Challenge, and I’m going to finish it. With the better part of four months yet to go, and fall migration just beginning, you can count on more birding posts to come.

Sorry about that.

But birders, like runners, need to eat. And so I’m adopting a new approach in this update; if it’s popular, I may extend it to future updates as well. Besides tallying up birds and doing my best to describe them – their beauty, their peculiarities, the threats they face, why non-birders should care about them – I’ll try to couple each sighting with a food review from the same outing. Continue reading

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. Continue reading

200 Bird Thursday – week 19 (almost there)

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Brooklyn cuckoo (photo credit: Peter Paul III)

Back in January, when I embarked on this “200 bird challenge,” seeing 200 species of birds in the state of New York over the course of a year seemed like a pretty ambitious goal. When I told more experienced Brooklyn birders about it, they were less than impressed. And as my count quickly grew, I came to understand why. Well, then, how about limiting the challenge to the five boroughs of New York City?

More experienced Brooklyn birders bit their tongues.

So here it is, not quite halfway through May, and my 2016 NYC count stands at 197. With spring migration still in progress and a “big day” on the calendar for Saturday (I’m checking the weather forecast nervously), I anticipate hitting the big 2-0-0 this weekend.

After that . . . well, that can wait until we’re actually there. In the meantime, a few words about my favorite sighting – actually, sightings – of the week.

I’ve been birding in Prospect Park pretty seriously since 2014, and I’ve never seen a cuckoo there. Continue reading

200 Bird Thursday – week 18 (what’s the point?)

IMG_4131200 bird Thursday is a day late this week, on account of spending far too many hours (a) birding and (b) pondering the point of all those hours. It started in Central Park last Friday. I’d gone there hoping the Swainson’s warbler seen the day before would still be around (it wasn’t). Swainson’s-less, I sought consolation in the Ramble, where a knot of birders converged around a tree that held several yellow-rumps, a blue-winged warbler and a singing white-eyed vireo, while an ovenbird hopped around on the ground below. Cameras clicked and whirred. A man laden with photographic equipment noticed another man with just binoculars. “Excuse me – you don’t take picture? You just look? What’s the point of that? I’m curious what do you get out of it.” Continue reading

200 Bird Thursday – week 17 (looking up)

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Glossy ibis in flight (Photo credit: Gus Keri)

I started my birding week last Friday by looking up at just the right time. I’d gone to the Salt Marsh Nature Center at Marine Park, and after smiling at the kids, parents and teachers engaged in some sort of science lesson (buckets, sieves, shovels and tubing were involved), I happened to look up at the sky.

Above me was a loose, shifting V of 21 glossy ibis, necks outstretched, long, curved bills in silhouette against the sky. They passed over the marsh, heading west, and disappeared. If I’d looked up a few minutes earlier or later I would have missed my bird of the week. Continue reading

200 Bird Thursday – week 16 (misnomers)

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What color is this bird’s head? (Photo credit: Gus Keri)

A slow week, punctuated by conversations with other birders about wind and weather – when would the winds blow from the south, or better yet, the southwest, nudging reluctant migrants our way?

I’d targeted a few birds for my list: brown thrasher, blue-headed vireo, and at least one new warbler. With luck (and southwest winds), I thought I had a shot at reaching 150.

But the migrants never really came, and an unusually heavy schedule of meetings and political commitments cut into my birding time. (I can report that unlike in Portland, no birds landed on Bernie Sanders’ podium during his rally in Prospect Park.) I did get my brown thrasher, singing raucously on Prospect Park’s Lookout Hill. I got a couple of new warblers. And I got my bird of the week, the blue-headed vireo.

Which brings us to the issue of misnamed birds. Continue reading

200 Bird Thursday – week 15 (Patagonian picnic tables)

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This little beauty graced Fort Greene Park this past week. (Photo credit: Karen O’Hearn)

The Saturday before last (as recently recounted on this blog), I raced a 10K in Central Park and ended up in the medical tent with an IV in my arm and cardiac leads on my wrists and ankles. This past Saturday, I took it easy and birded. What could possibly be a gentler, more restorative activity?

Hahahahaha!

Trust me, there’s nothing gentle or restorative about birding Brooklyn’s coastal wetlands on a cold and blustery day. Continue reading

200 Bird Thursday – week 14 (and Staten Island, too)

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Barely visible swarm of northern gannets

I reached a milestone this week: I can finally claim to have birded in all five boroughs of New York City. My maiden foray into the wilds of Richmond County didn’t yield any new birds, but I enjoyed Great Kills Park (so much so that I spent the entire morning there instead of running farther south to check out a few more spots, as planned).

In the process, I learned that S79 Select Bus Service from Bay Ridge is pretty zippy, and that while Staten Island is big (and Hylan Avenue singularly charmless), it’s still possible for a carless runner to get around a pretty wide swathe of it. Continue reading