A Big Week, But Not a Big Year

In the first eight days of 2016 I had 62 bird species in Manhattan, my strongest-ever start to a year. My list is notable for the many fall birds that remained during the unusually warm December: Orange-crowned Warbler, Wilson’s Warbler, Black-and-White Warbler, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Brown Thrasher, Gray Catbird, Hermit Thrush, Eastern Towhee, Cedar Waxwing, and Northern Flicker.

It is also notable for the absence of many species, mostly waterfowl, that I usually have in January. I had no unusual ducks, geese, or gulls, just Brant and Red-breasted Merganser. No loons.

Even so, I definitely will not be doing another big year in 2016. I have done four of those, the first of which — in 2012 — was the subject of my book. My yearly totals have been, in chronological order: 208, 199, 213, and 203. In each case I had the highest eBird species count of any amateur birder in Manhattan; in three of those years I exceeded the next highest by over 20 birds.

Big-year birding requires a great deal of time and effort spread throughout the year. In 2016 I want to focus on some other challenges. I’ll still bird when I want to, perhaps even quite a bit at times. But I don’t want to put much effort into chasing or searching for species that I regularly have — and there are a lot of those.

Exactly how many? I did some list comparison to find out. I had 191 birds appear on both of my 2015 and 2014 year-lists. Of these, 179 also were on my 2013 list. A few, like Long-eared Owl and Chuck-will’s-widow, are rarities that could not be expected to show up most years. Still, this leaves roughly 175 birds that form the core of an annual Manhattan list. Only five Manhattan eBirders reported even this many species in 2015.

I will continue commenting here on both my own birding and Manhattan birding in general. To all my readers, best wishes for a great 2016!