Save the Cedar Waxwing

For the last ten years or so, the real markers of the holiday season for me are the annual Christmas Bird Counts. I try to get to as many of these as I can. Yesterday was Kings County’s (which actually includes part of Queens County for reasons of convexity). This year I counted at Jacob Riis Park and Fort Tilden on a beautiful cloudy winter day. Conditions were ideal for sea watching, and we had a lot of great birds including all three scoter species (maybe more than a thousand Black Scoters), hundreds of Red-throated Loons, and eight Common Eiders.

However for me the highlight was three Common Waxwings that Joshua Malbin and I found in the woods at Fort Tilden. Shockingly, these were the only Cedar Waxwings anyone saw anywhere in the count circle yesterday, which makes them a save. They usually aren’t that hard to find, and we didn’t think much about them when we did see them. If we hadn’t bushwhacked the overgrown trail behind the West Battery, or been a few minutes earlier or later when we did, the entire count would have missed Cedar Waxwing this year.

The Cassin’s Kingbird that’s been at Floyd Bennett Field for the last month was a miss, though it was seen during count week. Snow Buntings were another miss, though most years they’re only seen at Breezy Point. Snowy Owls were seen at two sites, Northern Saw-whet at two sites, and Short-eared Owl at one. Grackle and Cowbird numbers were extremely low, though in the case of Cowbirds it’s likely that the big flock that hangs out in the vicinity of southern Flatbush Ave. simply never intersected with any of the counters. Snow Geese numbers were also quite low, though again it may simply be that most of the Snow Geese that winter in Jamaica Bay happened to be over in the Queens Circle yesterday. Birds don’t always respect county lines. :-)

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