Making the Best Bird List in Queens
According to eBird my life list in Queens County, New York, which is geographically identical to the Borough of Queens, one-fifth of New York City, currently stands at exactly 235 species. This ranks me third in terms of life lists in Queens on eBird, behind the North Fork Audubon Society, which hardly seems fair, seeing as they are a whole organization and I am a solitary birder, and Doug Gochfeld, a Brooklyn resident and excellent birder who birds Jamaica Bay way way way too often (and who will be remembered by 10,000 Birds readers as the guy who showed me a Eurasian Collared-Dove when I was doing my New York State Big Year in 2007 or as one of the birders who convinced me to stop birding when I stepped in a hole). Now, the NFAS is only five species ahead of me and Doug is only two species ahead of me so my plan is take advantage of the fact that NFAS can’t possibly add any more species by the end of the year (I hope) and the fact that Doug is busy counting birds in Cape May and try to take the eBird lead by the time 2009 is over. But where am I going to find five new species for Queens by the end of December? And, more importantly, what the heck does it matter?
I’ll try to answer the second question first. Daisy lived in Queens as a kid and as adults we chose to make our home in Queens so we take some pride in our borough. And from what I have seen of Queens-based birders we are a rather set-upon group, prideful and willing to take offense, whether because surrounding bird clubs historically stole chunks of our CBC territory (ask a long-time Queens birder about that sometime if you want to see someone froth at the mouth!), or because the Western Reef Heron turned up in Brooklyn instead of Queens, or because New York City birding seems synonymous with Central Park to so many birders. Maybe it is because our two best birding spots are a waterhole (in Forest Park) and a mudhole (which, really, is what the East Pond of Jamaica Bay is). With birding spots like those we almost make New Jersey sound good! Finally, it seems only fair that someone actually living in Queens should take the top spot in the eBird Top 100 for Queens (though I am sure that there are at least five people living in Queens right now who could take the top spot if they just entered their sightings in eBird).
As for the first question, well, it will be difficult for me to find the six needed species for my Queens life list by the end of the year, especially considering that my list includes three species normally found breeding in Siberia among 34 species of shorebird, 32 species of wood-warbler, every expected species of vireo and thrush, and, generally, lots of good birds. But, I will say, I do have some rather surprising and hopefully easy-to-fill gaps. For example, I have never seen a Saltmarsh Sparrow in Queens, despite seeing both Seaside and Nelson’s Sparrows at Big Egg Marsh in one day. In the beginning of October I should be able to rectify that problem by catching Ammodramus caudacutus in migration. Two other species I should be able to find in migration are rare-on-the-east-coast wood-warblers, Orange-crowned Warbler and Connecticut Warbler. Seeing as I managed to spot both in Central Park in one day last year I anticipate having no problem repeating that task in Queens. Another bird that I have managed to miss so far but that I might be able to find on the barrier beaches if I get out there this weekend is Piping Plover, a species that I could have found easily before if I ever bothered to go to beaches in Queens in the summer time. It might be too late for the plover as they might have all migrated by now but is there any reason I can’t manage to finally spot a Turkey Vulture over Queens this fall? They are a rarity here for sure but now that some have been confirmed breeding out on Long Island I have to think that they will make their way through Queens on migration. Any of five rare-in-Queens waterfowl, Cackling Goose, Ross’s Goose, Greater White-fronted Goose, Eurasian Wigeon and Barrow’s Goldeneye, all of which have shown up in Queens recently and been missed by me would be new additions to my list, and all are possible once the snow starts to fly.
So I think it will be possible for me to find the six birds I need to take the Queens eBird title, a title I need more than ever now that a young whippersnapper has taken my only New York county eBird title, the Rensselaer County top spot. At least I will always have Honduras…
So am I an obsessed crazy person or a passionate birder? And what is your best county, state, or country list? And why aren’t you using eBird? And if you are using eBird, are you on any top 100 lists that I am on?