It took me long enough. This weekend in New York Daisy and I spent two hours at the southern end of Staten Island in Conference House Park and Mount Loretto trying and failing to find a reported Western Kingbird. And Sunday morning I met Mike at Manhattan’s Central Park and searched for and failed to find a reported Connecticut Warbler. So when I got back to Queens a quick visit to Jamaica Bay was in order to add something to my year list for the weekend. Which is just sick. I mean, really, why was I birding my third borough in 24 hours?

Seeing 300 birds in New York State in one year is a disturbing and virtually psychotic idea that shouldn’t be attempted. It makes you do things you wouldn’t ordinarily do, like visit Jamaica Bay’s East Pond for the umpteenth time in the last couple months, hoping to find a bird that, in the words of a birder I called to report finding it, “You must be the last person left who didn’t see it.”

Was this bird a lifer? No. It wasn’t even a year bird, seeing as I saw some in California in January, it was just new for me in New York! What bird am I talking about? The Eared Grebe, not a particularly rare bird, just one that visits New York in small numbers each year in widely-scattered locations. In this case two of them have been off and on the East Pond for at least three weeks and have somehow managed to avoid me every time I’ve visited.

Until today. High noon. Low tide. Stinking hot mudflat. Stench. Sweat running into eyes. Scanning the pond. Mallards. Green-winged Teal. Canada Geese. Lesser Yellowlegs. Walking. Wiping sweat from eyes. Socks sliding inside of boots. Scanning some more. Double-crested Cormorant. Glossy Ibis. Short-billed Dowitcher. Pectoral Sandipiper. Greater Yellowlegs. Ruddy Ducks. Mud squelching. Sun beating down. Scanning some more. Forster’s Tern. Laughing Gull. Pied-billed Grebe. Semipalmated Sandpiper. Blue-winged Teal. Herring Gull. Hot. More sweating. More walking. Heel painful. Blister forming. Scanning some more. Wait. What’s that? Wiping binoculars. Scanning, there! EARED GREBE!

I didn’t get a picture. It was far. I don’t care. 280 for the year in New York. 20 to go.

But here’s a bird I did get a picture of, a Pectoral Sandpiper.

Pectoral Sandpiper

After getting the Eared Grebe and walking the length of the East Pond I decided against walking through the mud again on my way south. Instead I walked the trail that parallels the pond through trees and brush hoping to find wood-warblers or other passerine migrants. And I did! A mixed flock that included Black-and-white Warblers, a nice male Black-throated Blue Warbler, a couple of American Redstarts, the probable Blackpoll Warbler I posted about yesterday and a cooperative Prairie Warbler made its way past.

Prarie Warbler

Prairie Warbler again

And that was it for birding for the weekend. But if it hadn’t been raining when I got back to Albany I might have went out for more…

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Written by Corey
Corey is a New Yorker who lived most of his life in upstate New York but has lived in Queens since 2008. He's only been birding since 2005 but has garnered a respectable life list by birding whenever he wasn't working as a union representative or spending time with his family. He lives in Forest Hills with Daisy, their son, Desmond Shearwater, and their indoor cat, B.B. His bird photographs have appeared on the Today Show, in Birding, Living Bird Magazine, Bird Watcher's Digest, and many other fine publications. He is also the author of the American Birding Association Field Guide to the Birds of New York.