200 Bird Thursday – week 16 (misnomers)

blue headed vireo

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)

yellow throated warbler

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?


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)


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

200 Bird Thursday – week 13 (quarterly report)


Great egret and even greater egret (Photo credit: Gus Keri)

Three months into my biggish birding year, I’ve seen 128 species in Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan and the Bronx. (I’ll get to Staten Island eventually, but the transportation logistics are daunting for someone without a car.) Within Brooklyn, I’ve ventured far beyond my well-trodden Prospect Park birding paths, to Coney Island (beach and creek), Floyd Bennett Field, Dead Horse Bay, Plumb Beach, the Salt Marsh Nature Center at Marine Park, Calvert Vaux Park, Highland Park, Green-Wood Cemetery, Canarsie Pier, Fresh Creek Park, Spring Creek Park, the strip of green between Hendrix Creek and the Gateway shopping center, the middle parking lot off the Shore Parkway, the back of the BJ’s Wholesale Club, and other hot spots I’m surely forgetting.

I’ve learned at lot about birds, and I’ve also learned a lot about buses. Continue reading

200 Bird Thursday – week 12 (spring!)

piping plover

Cute-as-a-button piping plover. (Photo credit: Peter Colen)

I missed the official “first day of spring in Prospect Park” bird walk – I was too busy running the NYC Half – but spring is definitely in the air. And so are birds – in the air, in trees, on ponds, and along the shore. This week’s list reflects that. Eight new birds (the most since week 3, when I was just getting going), two of them lifers.

Continue reading

200 Bird Thursday – week 11 (harbingers of spring)

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Folk wisdom celebrates the American robin as the harbinger of spring – but folk wisdom would benefit from pulling up its window shades, venturing outdoors, and paying closer attention to its surroundings. In fact, a significant robin population hangs around the north all winter. Adaptable and omnivorous, robins do well in urban and suburban landscapes. When the ground is frozen and snow-covered (which was true for approximately 5 days in Brooklyn this winter) and they can’t slurp up worms, they flock to all those decorative trees and bushes that bloom in the spring and remain attractively fruit-covered through the winter.

Many robins do head south for the winter, and will soon be converging on lawns in a frenzy of worm-eating before continuing farther north, but their return is a gradual process, not a clear-cut event.

Still, the appeal of designating some bird as the “harbinger of spring” endures.

Continue reading

200 Bird Thursday – week 10 (timberdoodles)


Woodcock are easier to flush than to spot. (Photo credit: National Park Service)

Here are some of the folk names bestowed on week 10’s Bird of the Week: mud bat, mud snipe, brush snipe, bog snipe, bogsucker, night partridge, big-eye, Labrador twister, sky dancer, pop-eyed shot dodger, woody and timberdoodle.


And here, with a hat tip to the City Birder, are some of the words used to describe a group of them: covey, cord, fall, flight, plump and rush. (“Fall” seems to be the most commonly used, although “plump” and “rush” strike me as the most evocative.) Continue reading