Review of Manhattan birding in 2013

Even though I devoted only about half the time to birding that I did in 2012, I still had a very active and productive year in 2013. The biggest personal highlight was adding 15 new species to my lifetime Manhattan list, ending with a total of 233. I also had 199 species for the year, not far back of the 212 I had in 2012, a total aided by both an epic finch irruption and a hurricane — neither of which occurred in 2013. And once again no other amateurs (i.e., birders not named Farnsworth) came within 20 birds of my county total for the year.

In 2014 I expect to bird a lot less often, and I am not at all going to pursue a year list. I want to get back to my work, which has been managing hedge funds and trading securities. This work requires a daily commitment to preparing and trading during the early morning hours. The other issue is that I have done Manhattan birding about as well as I think I can, and it’s time to move on to new challenges. I will still bird for enjoyment and exercise when I want to, and I definitely will take advantage of opportunities to expand my Manhattan life list.

Here are what I consider my top seven birds of the year:

7) Blue-winged Teal — Though not in general a hard bird to find in the New York area in recent years, it has been very rare for Central Park. The last prior observation before I found a pair on the Lake in April was from 2009.

6) Northern Pintail — This duck has been even rarer, with the last Central Park record in 2007. The one that appeared on the Lake in late October lingered on various park water bodies through early December.

5) Lark Sparrow — A rare vagrant anywhere in the New York City area, one showed up on the Great Hill in October and stayed for at least a couple days. One also was found in the same area in 2011.

4) Black-headed Gull — The first eBird record of this species in Central Park was on 30 January 2013. It was only the third such record for Manhattan.

3) Virginia Rail — A very cooperative one appeared on the banks of the Loch on 10 September and was seen again the following day. The Virginia Rail is rarer than the Sora, one of which remained at Bryant Park in mid-October for roughly a week.

2) Red-necked Phalarope — There was only one prior Manhattan eBird record of this species (during Hurricane Irene) before one was found swimming near the Hudson shore just south of Pier 40 on 18 August. Because of an afternoon commitment, I was unable to chase it earlier in the day when other birders were on it and had to race out for it alone with dusk approaching. A very satisfying twitch.

1) Chuck-will’s-widow — Easily the rarest bird on my list, there had been only one record of it on eBird in all of New York City during the past 17 years. It gave good views to many high up in a tree just north of Tupelo Meadow on 16 May.

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Red-necked Phalarope on the Hudson

Just before 1 p.m. today a Red-necked Phalarope was reporting swimming near the Manhattan shore of the Hudson River south of Pier 40.

The only other historical eBird record of this species in Manhattan is from 28 August 2011, when Andrew Farnsworth observed over 70 birds in several flocks flying south after being displaced by Hurricane Irene.

I was at the gym, so I did not see today’s alert until 2 p.m. Then I needed to eat, and I also needed to be ready to meet a friend at 3:30 in midtown. I was not set to to leave until 2:35, when I realized that I probably would not be able to both see the bird and make it to my meeting on time. Later a report came in that the bird was no longer being seen at 2 p.m., so I was glad I had not tried for it.

After I was free again at 5:35 I saw reports that the bird had been re-found near the prior location. I walked home, refueled quickly, and by 6:20 was out the door. The Lexington line was fast and took me right to Canal Street, from which I ran to the Hudson shore, arriving around 6:49. Still plenty of light, but a scan of the area did not turn up the bird. I ended up walking further north to Pier 40. It took a few minutes of searching, but the small, long-billed bird popped into view near a couple of gulls. By walking out on Pier 40 I was able to observe the phalarope from as close as 20 feet.

This Red-necked Phalarope was a life bird for me, my 228th, as well as my 176th species of the year.