Wednesday, February 3, 2016

2015 Christmas Bird Counts Recap...

In lieu of doing individual posts, I decided on a summary for all the CBC's I did in 2015.  This year, I managed to get in 4 Christmas Bird Counts. Three of them, Montauk, Captree and Southern Nassau were on Long Island while the other one was in the Bronx/Westchester. In two of those counts I am an area leader--Captree and the Bronx. This requires a bit more work than just showing up to count as, recruitment, planning, coordination and execution are all critical ingredients for a successful count.

I am a firm believer that a leader, is only as good as the team he or she surround themselves with so I am always looking at match-ups and recruitment along with skills as a package. Some folks are of the opinion that only skilled birders are required but I encourage new birders to participate in the counts because this is the way to grow and develop the team. 

A few "dodgy" looking characters sheltering from the wind.
The first count for 2015 that I participated in was in Montauk LI, on December 19th. This count, required a bit of driving since it is all the way out on Eastern Long Island and is one of my favorite. Mostly, due to the camaraderie and hosting provided by Karen and Barbara Rubinstein, Angus Wilson, Naoko Tanese and Vickie Bustamante. Additionally, the last few years I have driven up the day before with Tom Burke and Gail Benson and that is one of my favorite things to do. My Montauk team is the Lake West Drive Team laden with some "dodgy" but highly skilled characters. The toughest part of the count is the seawatch which often times is conducted in weather only crazy folks would be out in. I recall one year that it was so cold, some of us were experiencing a situation where our eyelashes were getting iced up. Not this year.  Although windy, it was not too bad. We ended up with a total of 111 species despite battling strong West to Northwest winds all day. The highlights were Ash-throated Flycatcher, Green Heron, Dovekie, Clapper Rail, Virginia Rail, King Eider, Short-Eared Owl, Snowy Owl and Common Redpoll. I opted not to stay for the compilation dinner but stayed over night on Long Island thanks to the generosity of my friends Patricia Lindsay and Shai Mitra.

This is a sought after bird on most of our CBCs.
Staying overnight on Long Island saved me the long drive into and back from Queens. The next morning on December 20th, I linked up with Joan Quinlan and we did our morning Owling as I began my second CBC of the year, the Captree Count. As Captain of the Seatuck area, I had several teams covering a number of areas plus I had mine to cover. Unlike our "Black Rail" year, Joan and I did not have anything spectacular but we had a good time. Our Captree overall count was "122 species way above our ten-year high which was achieved without any boreal irruptive species" (Shai Mitra and Pat Lindsay). The highlights being, Tufted Duck, Long-billed Dowitcher, Prairie, Nashville and Orange-crowned Warblers and a Lincoln Sparrow. We did not have any saves this year but my Seatuck team did a great job and we hope to do even better next year.

Yellow-belied Sapsucker is always a good bird to get.
On December 27th, I participated in the Bronx/Westchester CBC. I have done this count for several years with different teams. This year was a bit different as it was my first crack at Captaining the West Bronx. Bronx birding, has a special place in my heart for many reasons including the history and I was excited at a chance to contribute to a great tradition. It was challenging as the West Bronx, covers a lot of territory which requires a lot of bodies to get ample coverage. Despite a few regulars not being able to participate, we held our own and did reasonably well. Karen Hue was my partner in crime and we got off to a good start by picking up Eastern Screech Owl in Van Cortlandt Park around 4:30 a.m. in the morning before heading off to our own turf, which was the Bronx Botanical Garden.  Overall, the count ended up with 114 species with the highlights being, Black-and-White Warbler, Snowy Owl, Great Egret, Laughing Gull, Barred Owl, Saw-whet Owl, Nashville Warbler and Orange-crowned Warbler. Our West Bronx team had a total of 61 species with 2 saves, Red-breasted Nuthatch (Bronx Botanical Garden Team) and Nashville Warbler (Woodlawn Cemetery team).

Red-breasted Nuthatch another good CBC bird.
My final CBC was on January 2nd, when I participated in the Southern Nassau CBC. This was my final CBC of 2015 and we had a good turn out with over 80 participants. I was on the Atlantic team led by Rich Kelly. My team and I found the seabirds to be scarce but we pounded it out. I coaxed Joan Quinlan out to join me and to cover my areas for Atlantic. Overall, the count recorded 130 species which was the highest for all the CBCs taking the crown once again. Our highlights included Osprey recorded by the Atlantic and Bladwin team was the first ever recorded on count day, Lark Sparrow (Atlantic Team) and Ravens (Massapequa Team) were the second only ever record for the count. Other notables included Turkey Vulture, Bald Eagle, 3 Pine Warblers, 4 Orange-crowned Warblers, Eastern Phoebe, Yellow-breasted Chat, Blue-winged Teal Northern Saw-whet Owl and Baltimore Oriole to name a few. The final count was wrapped up with the traditional dinner at Otto's Sea Grill.

These counts require a lot of planning and the compilers/organizers do a lot of the work which involves getting permits, assigning captains their roles, assisting in plugging team gaps and most important dealing with the various personalities. You would be amazed at some of the "drama" that some birders are into. I want to acknowledge and thank all the compilers and organizers, Notably, Karen and Barbara Rubinstein, Angus Wilson, Naoko Tanese, Vickie Bustamante, Shai Mitra, Patricia Lindsay, Michael Bochnick and his wife and anyone else whose contribution to organizing, planning each CBC and making them possible. Thank You!

If anyone is interested in joining my West Bronx Team for 2016, please e-mail me at, I am already getting my teams lined up. Note: If you are into the drama thing, pretend that you did not see this request!

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