Wilson’s Snipe, The Point, Central Park

Yesterday, April 10, a Wilson’s Snipe was reported at the Point in the Central Park Ramble just after 7 a.m. I was immediately faced with a question that I knew would come up often throughout the 2014 spring migration season: do I chase this bird? I am not trying to do a big year in 2014, at least not with anywhere near the level of effort that went into my 2012 big year, and probably not even with the much-reduced effort level of 2013 when I observed 199 species. Still, I enjoy the challenge of birding and I like to observe rare birds. I did a great job again at winter birding, so my total species for the year places me among top few (now second place, 101 species) on the eBird New York County “Top Birders” list, not far from the overall lead. It was a pleasant morning and I can run to the Point in under ten minutes, so I decided to chase the snipe. I got it, but only after a short delay when I first checked the shore of the Point that faces the Boat House.

Wilson’s Snipe figured in my 2012 big year — one appeared at the Upper Lobe and I had to choose between chasing it or chasing a much more distant Yellow-throated Warbler in the limited time I had before a lunch date. I chose to get the snipe, and I ended up getting the Yellow-throated Warbler with Starr a couple weeks later. Wilson’s Snipe is a very good bird for Central Park, one that gets reported roughly once per year. One also appeared in 2013 in nearly exactly the same place on the Point.

When the “do I chase this bird?” question arises next time, I am more inclined to say no — unless it is a life bird. I want to get my securities trading business going, and this requires beginning work by 8 a.m. or so. I probably will make exceptions for some of the best migration mornings. Or I might go out very early, at first light, which is already 6:30 a.m. and will be 6:00 a.m. in a few weeks. This can be a very productive time to bird, when the city is quieter and the parks are mostly empty.

I went out at 7:15 a.m. today, April 11, for what promised to be an excellent morning, one followed by a day and night of moderate south-southwest winds. It was disappointing. There clearly was a huge flight of Northern Flickers, which could be seen everywhere, both in the air and on the ground. I saw at least 50. Many Ruby-crowned Kinglets arrived, too. Just two days ago I was delighted to see a single one, my first of the season. Today I saw at least 15, and they finally outnumbered the Golden-crowned Kinglets.

I added three new species for the year: Palm Warbler, Field Sparrow, and Blue-gray Gnatcatcher. But I observed no other warblers, not even Yellow-rumped (which I had seen a few days ago), nor did I have any Blue-headed Vireos.

I did reach the 100-bird milestone for the year (101), and so for the sake of comparison I looked back at the prior two years. As of April 11 in 2012 I had 94 birds; in 2013, 98. Of course, spring migration in New York was a disaster last year. All these numbers show is that I have had successively better winters. We will see what happens with the 60+ species that are slated to arrive over the next six weeks.

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