Starting 2010 in Prospect Park

Saturday, January 2nd, 2010

This morning I took a quick spin around Prospect Park to see what was still hanging out in the cold, and perhaps start a BGBY list for the year. I haven’t yet decided how aggressively I want to pursue a BGBY list this year. It wouldn’t be too hard to cross 200 species in Brooklyn and the surrounding parts of Queens, especially using a bicycle so I can get out to the coast, but honestly the habitat around here is fairly familiar and not nearly as interesting as Orange County. Prospect Park is beautiful, but I’ve been visiting it weekly for over 10 years; and there’s just not that much new to see here anymore.

Before I even got to the park I found several White-throated Sparrows hanging out with the usual House Sparrows in the small gardens along Eastern Parkway. This is unusual. Maybe there’s too much snow cover in the park and gardens? Mostly the park was extremely quiet. There were only a few hotspots of activity, mostly where there was food for one reason or another. The first spot where I saw any bird at all was the Vale of Cashmere, where they’re a lot of ornamental plants that have berries throughout the winter. Here I found White-throated Sparrows, Tufted Titmice, Black-capped Chickadees, Mourning Doves, Northern Cardinals, a few flyover Ring-billed Gulls, and a surprising 2 Hermit Thrushes. At this time of year, even a single Hermit Thrush is a good find, but 2 visible at the same time is excellent.

Looking Back on a Medium Year

Friday, January 1st, 2010

2009 wasn’t exactly a “big year”, but with 319 species it’s probably the biggest year I’ve ever had. Of course some of the species I ticked don’t really “count”. You can argue for Orange Bishop in California and Muscovy Duck in Louisiana, even if they are exotic; but Black Swan and Cockatiel are complete domestics. :-) I birded in five states and a dozen or so counties in three widely separated areas of the country. I took one pelagic trip. I got 18 countable life birds including the Verdin from Anza-Borrego, although I finished 24 short of my target goal of 500 birds for my life list.

small bird with yellow head

My list certainly increased by birding both east and west coasts last year, though I did miss several easily chaseable life birds that showed up within walking distance of my apartment after I left Irvine: Mountain Bluebird, Green-tailed Towhee, and Bar-tailed Godwit, two of which I could have seen on my walk to work! I also neglected to chase a couple of Northern Wheatears that showed up within driving distance in Connecticut and New Jersey after I returned to Brooklyn. The BBC trip to Barnegat to look for Harlequin Ducks was canceled, and I broke my scope when I searched for them at Point Lookout. :-( I also missed the Barnacle Goose at Sunken Meadow State Park, though I did find the Pink-footed Goose. I also passed on a couple of Ivory Gulls that were reported south and north of me.

In 2010 I should finally be able to push my lifelist to 500 with just a couple of trips out of town. Harlequin Ducks are still regular at both Point Lookout and Barnegat. I’m still missing Mourning Warbler, and that’s regular in Prospect Park. (Opornis warblers are notoriously hard to find, even when they’re present.) Beyond that, if the TSA doesn’t get even stupider, I’m planning my first trip to the Caribbean in April which may just push me over 500. If that doesn’t, I’m looking at South Texas and Southeastern Arizona in the late summer and fall. See you next year!