Monday, October 1, 2012

New York State Big Year update ...

So yesterday, on the last day of September, I stopped of at Plum Beach in Brooklyn and, following Shane Blodgett's most excellent directions, added Nelson's Sparrow (NYS 2012 #342).  I actually saw a couple of Nelson's, part of a big wave of arrivals that allowed many New York birders to add that species over the weekend.  A nice way to end September, and hopefully to draw a line under a pretty crappy Summer birding season.

So, to update.  I came into the Summer at a record setting pace, having hit 300 species in May, and having high hopes for setting a new mark for the NYS year-list.  Fast forward to the end of September, and I'm not even sure I'm going to get to 350.  The reasons:

- A poor pelagic season.  Partly because I spent too much time in-shore (6 stubborn birdless trips), which in the end just didn't produce new species, even after the amazing June start.  Partly because my planned off-shore trips were either weathered-out, or just didn't produce.  Either way, I missed 3 or 4 species I was hoping for.

- No hurricane!  So no storm-wrecked terns, tropicbirds, etc.  I haven't even been able to get a Brown Pelican this Summer!

- A poor vagrant Summer.  There just weren't many Summer rarities this year, and I had a rough time with the few I could chase (Franklin's Gull and Sharp-tailed Sandpiper put 1,600 miles on the car, but nothing on the list).

So I'm actually glad to change the season, and enter the last quarter of the year needing 12 species to break the NYS record.  So where am I going to find 12 species?  There are still a few possible options:

1) The dreaded Winter Cod Boats - slogging out to deep water in the Winter could yield: NORTHERN FULMAR, RED PHALAROPE, ATLANTIC PUFFIN, DOVEKIE, or (very long-shots here) perhaps a Skua, or a Thick-billed Murre.

2) Waterfowl/Gulls:  I could chase ROSS' GOOSE around Montezuma, or hope for a PINK-FOOTED GOOSE on Long Island.  Perhaps a SLATY-BACKED GULL or a MEW GULL will show up at Niagara.  Then there's always the chance of say a TUFTED DUCK ....

3) Winter Passerines: The most obvious missing bird this year is still LAPLAND LONGSPUR and I'll chase 'em 'til I get one (I will not miss Lapland Longspur in New York this year!).  Then I'm hoping that this Winter's Finch Forecast comes through and I can add a HOARY REDPOLL, and who knows, maybe even a PINE GROSBEAK.

4) Gifts from the West:  I'm still smarting that all three of this year's Western Kingbirds showed up while I was bobbing over a largely birdless Hudson Canyon, 90-miles from shore.  To add insult to injury, as we came in, and still stood a chance of chasing one of them, a bridge operator kept us waiting for over an hour at the Loop parkway draw-bridge, guaranteeing we'd miss it.  So that one may be gone, so perhaps an ASH-THROATED FLYCATCHER, or a vagrant warbler (Black-throated Gray and Hermit Warbler have showed in recent years), or a SAY'S PHOEBE, or a WESTERN TANAGER, CALLIOPE HUMMINGBIRD, or ....

5) Others: Aren't we due for a NORTHERN HAWK-OWL?  Or a BOREAL OWL? Or hey, what ever happened to CAVE SWALLOWS?  I'm hoping that we get at least one really unexpected rarity, a la the Lewis's Woodpecker, Northern Lapwing, etc.

So, while that sounds like a lot of species, I've named only ~25 species here, and some of them are 'once-in-a-lifetime' birds in New York State.  So .... it's going to come down to the wire .... and, after a Summer, where I couldn't seem to catch a break, I'm hoping for a bit more luck in the home stretch.  We'll see .....

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