And the Spring migration that I've been waiting for finally gets underway. This isn't a time for rarities so much, but rather a 'mopping up' operation. Over the next six weeks I can get most of New York's migrant breeding birds without going too far from home, but each one that I miss requires a trip to look for them in their breeding habitat. Too many misses and I'll be running around like crazy chasing breeding birds through June instead of focussing on the rare ones. So through April and May I find myself doing a lot of migrant watching.
I end up getting 56 year-birds in April almost all from New York City parks and the State Parks on the South Shore of Long Island. Barn Swallow is my 200th species of the year on April 6th and other 'good birds' include a Yellow-throated Warbler at Riverside Park, a Prothonatory Warbler in Bryant Park, several Kentucky Warblers in Central Park and a Golden-winged Warbler in Crocheron Park in Queens. That bird turns out to be my last add of the month but things are looking pretty good as I head into May with few misses to worry about so far.
|Golden-winged Warbler in Queens. Photo - Corey Finger (used with permission).|
Is my absolute favorite month of the year in Eastern North America (and large chunks of the Palearctic too for that matter). Migration is at full force and life seems to be flooding back to every habitat in our area. It's a month that I could happily be outdoors in Nature every single day, and this year I think I might just well have been.
May started with a good vagrant bird for my 250th bird of the year - a breeding plumage male Yellow-headed Blackbird which had set up territory near Binghamton. It also included my 300th bird when I managed to levy my local network Out East to track down a calling Northern Bobwhite on the North Fork of Long Island. In total I added 57 new year birds in May, ending up at 306 and feeling really positive about breaking the record.
On the record front, by now I was pretty much openly acknowledging that I planned to try to break the New York State big year record and had even given an interview to Corey Finger at 10,000 Birds that said as much. Things seemed to be going well and once again I missed very few birds - a Swainson's Hawk and a possible Swainson's Warbler being the most notable misses. It was also a lot of fun racking up such big numbers of year birds day-after-day. You get a lot of endorphins from checking things off a list.
|The almost mythical Henslow's Sparrow - crappy shot, great bird.|
Coming out of May I was in pretty good shape with a very defined list of breeding birds still to hunt down and a fair amount of time to do it before shorebird season kicked off in July.
Involved a lot of miles as I slogged back and for across the North Country trying to track down those scarce, or even semi-mythical, breeders that are often the envy of many a New York Birder.
Spruce Grouse (a small and declining relict population hang on in the Adirondacks) became something of an obsession and 'Hunting the Snark' as I came to call it took me to these mountain bogs, and fed a lot of mosquitos, three times this month. I had good intel from local birders and research scientists, including the location of a breeding pair, but it still took me six long days of searching before I finally bumped into a mother and young at Spring Pond Bog.
|The Snark! Or Spruce Grouse. A lot of hours went into this bird.|
|Curlew Sandpiper at Pike's Beach. This was my first digi-phone shot and I was quite encouraged|
but I haven't been able to get much in terms of results since.
|Cory's Shearwater looking very imposing and close to the boat.|
|The Fea's Petrel, a first for New York State.|