Black-headed Gull, East River

Welcome to 2015, everyone! My thought for the day is that big-year birding requires a huge commitment in terms of time and effort. I have heard from some readers who will be doing theirs this year, and I wish them all the best. I concluded my book by saying I would not be doing another big year for a long time, but went out and still had 199 Manhattan birds in 2013 after dialing back the effort and birding more efficiently. Then I began 2014 determined to take it even easier, but I soon sensed that my “amateur” record of 208 might be in danger, so I upped the intensity and ended up exceeding my 2012 total by five birds, with 213.

I think four big Manhattan years is enough — at least for now. I have some other priorities that require focus. I will still be birding, but I will do a lot less chasing and pay a lot less attention to the numbers.

Today’s relatively warmer temperatures (40 degrees F with 15+ mph winds, ha!) encouraged me to run along the East River and over the bridge to Randall’s Island, where I quickly regretted not carrying another layer to don while walking and observing.

My goal was ducks and other waterfowl — Common Goldeneye and the scaups, in particular, both of which have been showing up around New York City in good numbers. I did not see any of those, nor did I see any loons, which used to be regular on the East River and off the Randall’s Island shore.

But did see something even rarer: a Black-headed Gull fishing on the East River near latitude 116th Street, across from Icahn Stadium, at 3:40 pm. Perhaps it is the same gull that has been observed flying over the 70th Street Pier just before sundown since the end December. Next to the Couch’s Kingbird, it is my best bird of 2015 so far.

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