It was surprisingly easy.  There were four of us birding the edges at Fort Tilden when I saw a flash of extremely bright yellow out of the corner of my eye.  My bins were at my eyes in a second and I was focusing on a mostly dull green bird with a bright yellow chest and throat and white spectacles that was only about fifteen feet away on a bare branch in the sun.  Using my excellent field-craft I blurted out “Chat!” and it disappeared back into the brush.  My first Yellow-breasted Chat in Queens, bird number 265 in the borough.

Three other birders converged on my location demanding details.  “Where?” they cried.  “Where is your chat?”*

“It bolted back into those bushes,” I said, “I hope it comes back out.”

Ten minutes and about a hundred Yellow-rumped Warblers later they were doubting my birding abilities and I was doubting my sanity.  Chats are known as skulky birds after all, and I had only seen two of them before, the most recent being my first-ever in New York.  Why would it have been sitting out in the open?  Jokes started being made about how a Common Yellowthroat was probably honored by my mistaking it for a chat.  Then the bird popped back up, again directly in front of me and again on a bare branch.  I have never been so happy to see Icteria virens in my life.  “It’s up again,” I said in a low voice, “There, in front of me, on those horizontal parallel branches about four feet off the ground.”

Somehow, no one could get on the bird.  I was convinced that I was going insane and hallucinating a chat.  Finally, after what felt like an hour of torture but was more likely about fifteen seconds, Isaac got on the bird followed quickly by Seth, and, finally, Tom.  I wasn’t crazy!  But the chat sure was, sitting there in the sun and letting me get all of the images you see in this post.  After about a minute-and-a-half of posing, as much as anyone can ever hope for from a chat, it took off back into the bushes and was not refound at all.

Now if I could only get a Swainson’s Warbler in Queens.  Or a Yellow-throated Warbler.  Or a Connecticut Warbler

*Please remember that all conversations that I report are simulated and even quote marks tend not surround actual quotes but theoretical ones.

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 and Desmond Shearwater. 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.