Winter 2016 Review

December 2015 was unusually mild, and unseasonably warm conditions continued to prevail over Winter 2016, allowing some species that are usually gone by January to linger throughout part or all of the season. At the same time these conditions discouraged a number of species that usually visit Manhattan in the winter from moving south.

The overall effect was an excellent winter species total for me of 86 through March 21, just one bird off my best (in 2013). By contrast my lowest post-2011 total was 78 last year (2015). But Winter 2015 was better than my species total for it suggests, just as Winter 2016 was not as good.

The problem is that my Winter 2016 total is padded with lingering species that I would be certain to get later in the year, and it is missing many that will be very difficult to get.

These common species that lingered include Cedar Waxwing, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Hermit Thrush, Gray Catbird, Swamp Sparrow, Brown Thrasher, Eastern Towhee, Northern Flicker, and two warblers: Wilson’s and Black-and-white. Yes, I generally do have a few of these birds (not the warblers) during the winter, but not all of them.

I missed Lesser Scaup, which in other years was an easy winter bird, and one that is very hard to get later in the year. I also missed Horned Lark, American Pipit, both loons, Long-eared Owl, Red-necked Grebe, Long-tailed Duck, and American Tree Sparrow. Most of these species were not reported by anyone. There was a single report of Red-necked Grebe on the Hudson in Chelsea, but travel time would have made the chase odds not so good. Common Loon is still very likely to show up on the Reservoir this spring (and on the East River), but there is less-than-even chance for Red-throated Loon.

As I said in my first post of 2016, I am not planning another big year. Still, I like winter birding. Very few birders go out in the winter. Aside from the feeder area, I mostly have Central Park to myself.

Highlights

I had two life birds this winter — Lapland Longspur on January 31 and Glaucous Gull on March 6 — which is outstanding. Last winter I did not have any.

I did not write up my chase of the Glaucous Gull on the Reservoir, which was well-reported but which lingered for roughly only a half-hour after the initial report. I was particularly glad to get this species because an unexpected event forced me to cancel a visit to Governors Island in March 2015 where a Glaucous Gull ended up being observed.

I also had these very good birds: Great Horned Owl, Pine Siskin, Orange-crowned Warbler, Ring-necked Duck, Snow Goose, Common Merganser, Common Goldeneye, Canvasback, Horned Grebe, MerlinAmerican Woodcock, and Common Raven.

[Follow-up: The last ten days of the March were very productive for finding new species for the year. I added these:

87 Golden-crowned Kinglet Central Park–The Ramble 23-Mar
88 Pine Warbler Central Park–The Ramble 23-Mar
89 Fish Crow Central Park–North End 25-Mar
90 Eastern Bluebird Central Park–North End 26-Mar
91 Blue-gray Gnatcatcher Central Park–Great Hill 27-Mar
92 Osprey Riverside Park–79th St. Boat Basin 30-Mar
93 Great Egret Central Park–Turtle Pond 31-Mar
94 Palm Warbler Central Park–North End 31-Mar
95 Chipping Sparrow Central Park–North End 31-Mar

95 species is my highest-ever total through March 31.]

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