2015 Year in Review!

2015 Year in Review
Each year has its own distinct personality. You can’t tell how it’s going to turn out until It’s over and it takes shape as it goes along. There are twists and turns and highs and lows. 2015 fits that description perfectly. The year started out quietly. There were some winter finches, Common Redpolls and Pine Siskins. Waterfowl came in good numbers and we had nice late winter season for them. In March, my first really good birds for the county were found. Bill Fiero and I were touring the county searching for new birds for Bill’s list when I heard crossbills. They soon came into view and it was a nice little flock of RED CROSSBILLS, three females and a male. This was only my second time having Red Crossbills in the county and a new county bird for Bill.
A Gyrfalcon found at Blue Chips Farm remained for several weeks and was enjoyed by many.
The end of March found me on a Caribbean Cruise. I would visit Puerto Rico, St. Thomas, St. Maarten and Virgin Gorda. It was a great trip with some really nice birds. I would add 18 lifers on this trip, ultimately the only life birds I would add this year. For me, the hummingbirds were the best, I got to see many Antillean Crested Hummingbirds and Green-throated Caribs!
On April 10th , Curt McDermott found Orange County’s first record of CRESTED CARACARA! It was only the second for New York State . Fortunately, the bird remained in the area for a couple of weeks and was seen by many birders. This was, of course, my first new state bird of the year.
A thought I often have in mind through the year is whether or not this will be the year I miss finding a new county bird in Sullivan County. It wouldn’t take too long before I had my answer. In late April, I saw a report by Rebekah Creshkoff of a YELLOW-THROATED WARBLER coming to her feeders in Callicoon. Arlene Borko and I zoomed up and spent a morning waiting out the bird that had just flown as we pulled up. It never returned that morning. The next day, Lance Verderame, Scott Baldinger, Arlene Borko and I were all there at sunup. No worries, the bird came and went a number of times in the first hour, giving us all great views of this new county bird for us. Bill Fiero was able come see it the following day. I would once again like to thank Rebekah for her hospitality.
The rest of the spring season went about as expected. A nice assortment of birds showed up. The best bird for the month of May was a beautiful YELLOW-BREASTED CHAT I found in the orchard off Haven Road on 5/6. Fortunately, Arlene Borko, Scott Baldinger, Deb Powell and Lee Hunter were able to come see the bird in the brief hour it spent there. Always rare in the county, they last bred at Linear Park in 2005.
My next new state bird came in the form of New York States first record of LITTLE EGRET! Found in Gardiner Park on Long Island on 5/20 by Peter Morris, Bill Fiero and I zoomed down the next morning to great views and some decent photos of the bird. Unfortunately, it disappeared later that morning and was never seen again. How lucky could we get!
Just a week later, a FRANKLIN’S GULL was found on Plumb Beach Long Island. Once again, Bill Fiero and I zoomed down the following day and had great views and photos of the bird on 5/28. Now my mind was starting to race. You never know how many new state birds you might get to see in a year, but one thing is for certain, the more birds you’ve seen the fewer opportunities there are for something new. I now stood at 399 species for my total New York State list, and had already seen three new state birds this year. Could there possibly be more this year? For many years I have wanted to add Arctic Tern to my state list. I had missed this bird so many times it had become absurd. I was committed to finally getting to see this bird this year. The birds began to show up in early June as is usually the case. The problem is, they often stay on the beach only a short time before heading back out to sea. On 6/9, a couple of them were seen on Nickerson Beach on Long Island. This is not a usual site for these birds but ever hopeful, Bill and I headed down again the next day. There were many birders there that morning and an abundance of terns. We had several species including Common, Black, Least and Forster’s, but no Arctic. We finally decided to go for lunch. Upon our return an hour later we were surprised and disappointed to see that all of the birders had left while we were gone. With tremendous numbers of birds, the more eyes the better. No worries! In just a short time, a first summer ARCTIC TERN flew in and landed right near us. It took me a while to be absolutely certain of its ID, but it cooperated with many great photo ops and it was in no doubt an Arctic Tern! New York State bird #400!! A total 23 years in the making. I don’t know what took me so long to get this bird, the next week I came back to Long Island, Cupsogue this time, and had two more Arctic Terns!
Things quieted down after that. Summer was in full swing and new, year birds, were few and far between. As shorebird season picked up, I began getting new county year birds at Morningside Park. July was ok, but in August things picked up quite a bit. A few storms brought us some good birds. Pectoral and White-rumped Sandpipers were seen. On August 11th yet another front brought us our fourth record of a SANDERLING, the first ever at Morningside. This was all great, but who could have guessed what September would bring. On 9/6 there was a nice assortment of shorebirds at Morningside as the result of a storm. As I sifted through them, I came upon a Dowitcher. I initially thought it was a Short-billed. I took lots of photos, and with a little help from the pros, it turned out this was Sullivan County’s first record of LONG-BILLED DOWITCHER! Another milestone for me, my 280th Sullivan County bird! Our biggest event was yet to come. On 9/15 yet another front passed. This would prove to be the single most productive front for shorebirds since Swinging Bridge and even outdid that site for a single day species count. As I kayaked around the mud flats and islands, I found one species after another. Spotted, Least, Pectoral, Semipalmated and White-rumped Sandpipers were all present. I then spotted a peep with the Semipalmateds that I was sure was a different species. I studied it long and hard (having made a mistake on an individual last year) and took an abundance of photos. This time I was right! Sullivan County’s first record of WESTERN SANDPIPER! The new species continued to add up throughout the day (I had to leave and come back later). Killdeer, Semipalmated Plover, Lesser Yellowlegs and Wilson’s Snipe were all seen. Then another great bird, only ten days after the first, our second LONG-BILLED DOWITCHER! This brought to eleven the number of species of shorebirds present at Morningside that day, a single day record! Scott Baldinger and Arlene Borko were able to come and scope the birds from the shoreline! The following day, the number of birds had decreased considerably, but luckily, the Western Sandpiper stayed for a second day of great views and photo ops.
The fall of the year was one of the quietest periods of birding I can ever remember. In mid -November, an intense southwestern front came through the northeast. High winds and warm temperatures continued for several days. The result was an invasion of southwest species to the northeast. I was away in Florida during this event, but regardless, it had little effect on our immediate area. No rarities were found in our Tri-county area that I am aware of, most birds showing up on the coast from Virginia to Maine. Franklin’s Gulls (100’s), Ash-throated Flycatchers (4) and Mountain Blue Birds(7) were the common arrivals. A couple of birds really did affect us though. The event resulted in the arrival of a gorgeous adult male PAINTED BUNTING! It was found in Prospect Park in Brooklyn about a week after this event occurred. It remained for several weeks and was seen by hundreds of birders, including many of us locally. On 12/14, a LARK SPARROW was found at Croton Point Park in Westchester County. I was able to try for it on 12/16 and had great views of the bird. The rest of the year was uneventful. I would go as far as to say it was the least productive fall I can ever remember. The current El Nino combined with a jet stream that remained well north of the great lakes, failed to push any waterfowl or winter finches our way. Hopefully the new year will bring some good birds.

My candidate for Bird of the year is decided for three areas. The first “Sullivan County” the second “New York State” and the last “The World”. Here are my choices:
Sullivan County – with excellent candidates including, Yellow-breasted Chat, Red Crossbill, Long-billed Dowitcher, Western Sandpiper and Yellow-throated Warbler. My choice is – a tie! The event that brought us eleven species of shorebirds gave us our first (and second) records of WESTERN SANDPIPER and LONG-BILLED DOWITCHER! It was a real thrill to get to study these birds closely and photograph them thoroughly from just a few feet away on our little mud flats. This leaves my current county total at 281 species.
New York State – I was able to add five new state birds this year. The candidates for bird of the year were Crested Caracara, Little Egret, Franklin’s Gull, Arctic Tern and Painted Bunting. My choice for bird of the year goes to – LITTLE EGRET! This first record for New York was long over- due and the bird cooperated for two days, allowing many people to see it. This leaves my New York State total at 401 species!
World Bird – This is a tough category. I added 18 lifers this year, none of which were in the ABA area. While I thoroughly enjoyed adding birds in many families, ie. new Hummingbirds etc. My choice for world bird of the year goes to – ARCTIC TERN! You may find this an unusual choice, but for me it is just perfect. When you combine the years it took me to actually find one in New York with the fact that I found the bird myself and studied and photographed it thoroughly, and the fact that I was able to find two more just a week later, this was my favorite bird. The Arctic Tern has perhaps the longest migration of any species, breeding in the Arctic and wintering in the far south of the southern hemisphere, this bird is an amazing creature that fascinates me. I am so glad I got to spend time studying them this year right here in New York. My ABA total remains at 677 and my World total at 867 species!
I’d like to thank everyone for continuing to follow my blog! What makes it great for me is the feedback I get from so many people. Comments on the site, emails and even calls, make it quite rewarding to keep it up. I can’t tell you how many times I run into people in the field who mention a particular post or bird that they happened to enjoy. That makes it all worthwhile. By the way here are some statistics for my site you might find interesting. Over 26,000 views occurred this year, bringing to over 110,000 views overall during the now nearing five years of its existence! People from over 75 countries have viewed the site through the years.
As usual, I can’t wait to see what the new year will bring, hope to see you out there!

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8 Responses to 2015 Year in Review!

  1. scott baldinger says:

    Wonderful write up John! Here’s to a successful birding year in 2016!

  2. Thanks Scott! And thanks for sharing so many great birding adventures this year! Good luck in 2016 to you too!

  3. Super job John, what a great look at the past year of birding. I’m looking forward to see what 2016 holds for us – see you out there.

  4. Thanks Matt! Happy Birdy New Year to you and Trish too!

  5. Bill F. says:

    I bet you’ll see me out there ( read NELSON’S SPARROW). Great wrap up, good buddy!

  6. Bill says:

    I bet you’ll see me out there ( read Nelson’s Sparrow). What a great write up! Shakespearean in scope !

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