Saturday, June 24, 2017

The Last Post - 23rd June

And so our American adventure comes to an end after a hair over 3 years. We'd expected a longer stint, but life sometimes has other plans. We'll be  moving to Ireland on 30th June. When reflecting on the time I've spent here the thing that strikes me is the sheer variety of birds that can be seen in New York. The state itself is big, and stretches north into the boreal zone which boosts the potential birds that can be seen, but I'd had no idea of the variety of migrants that pass through the city each year. The south shore of Long Island was also a big surprise, I was astounded at the general birdiness of places like Jones' Beach and Fort Tilden. I wasn't completely unaware of the spring warbler scene in Central Park, but it was still a thrill to be able to witness it.

All in all the birding has been excellent. I wish I'd got to grips with the songs and calls sooner than I did, a good ear is essential here, but in general I'm happy with what I've seen. The only birds that I feel that I've missed are mainly pretty scarce or tricky to see. Some are irruptive winter visitors, mainly to The Adirondacks, such as Red Crossbill, White-winged Crossbill and Pine Grosbeak. My first winter trip to the north was this year (an unsuccessful twitch for a Ross's Gull), and I should have done more. I also dipped several times on Thick-billed Murre (Brunnich's Guillemot). One more winter would probably have been sufficient. Of the three phalaropes that occur I saw the rarest (Red/ Grey), bit not Wilson's or Red-necked. I dipped several times on Wilson's which is annual at Jamaica Bay on the East Pond. The Red-necked is most readily seen on the spring pelagics out of Brooklyn, but they are very inconveniently timed in the middle of exams so I was never able to get on one. Had I done so I might have had a chance at another big miss, Long-tailed Jaeger (Skua), and even South Polar Skua. I love rallids, and I was especially disappointed with my failure to see a Virginia Rail. Inexcusable really, I just didn't get into the right place regularly enough, too distracted by warblers I suppose.

I did quite well for warblers to be fair, recording 36 species in NY state (and one other in Texas). I missed none of the regulars at all, and only 3 other species were recorded in NY in the time I was here; Hermit, Virginia and Black-throated Grey, each of them being one day birds at best.

Sparrows are a big feature of the avifauna here, and most are pretty easy to get onto. Nelson's took a while and a few false starts, as did Clay-coloured. LeConte's was the only semi-regularly occurring species I didn't connect with, but they are less than annual and rarely twitchable.

North American forests are well -populated with another of my favourite groups, woodpeckers. I basically cleaned-up on the eastern half of the country with the exception of American Three-toed Woodpecker which is now very scarce in the northeast (last sighting in The Adirondacks was 2012).
If we had stayed I would have started to do a few more trips. Our family road trip to Florida last year, and this year's Texas excursion were great fun and I had my eye on a few birding holidays:

  • Great Plains grouse round-up: It's possible to design a one-week road-trip through Nebraska, Colorado and Kansas that will produce Greater and Lesser Prairie Chicken, Greater and Gunnison Sage-Grouse and Sharp-tailed Grouse. The trip would have to be timed to coincide with the lekking behaviour these birds are known for, which means early April. Very inconvenient for my school timetable! A great trip, but a lot of driving.
  • South-east Arizona: The northern limit of a lot of Mexican birds, loads of birds!
  • Alaska: All those Auks!
  • Pelagics: Seattle and San Diego to mop up all the north Pacific seabirds, Mmmmmmm!
As to numbers, my US list stands at 457, and New York is 333 (triple Nelson!). I wasn't particularly bothered about chasing some of the more humdrum species (Tufted Duck, Ring-necked Pheasant etc.) so I could have seen more, but that seems to be a decent total for a reasonably active birder spending 3 years in NYC.

It's been a great 3 years!

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