The now world-famous Eurasian Eagle-Owl known as Flaco has died. Released from his enclosure at the Central Park Zoo by unidentified vandals in early February 2023, Flaco’s story drew intense media attention within hours of his escape. Initial recapture attempts were vocally opposed, and in some cases actively thwarted, with pushback spearheaded by the perennially controversial Manhattan Bird Alert Twitter community. When the captive-raised owl began hunting for himself and was no longer tempted by the baited traps, the retrieval effort was called off. Well-intentioned Flaco fans rejoiced in his newfound freedom, while many scientists and birders voiced their concerns about the long-term prospects for a non-native apex predator in New York City, as well as his potential impact on the local environment.
Read More
The first few weeks of a new year are always an exciting time in the world of a birder. For those of us who enjoy keeping track of our annual species counts, everything old is new again, and the possibilities feel limitless. While I am not the type to dive deep into a proper Big Year or get hypercompetitive about racking up a massive tally, I do enjoy playing against myself with small-scale year listing goals and personal challenges. One tradition that I have always been partial to is the January 100, a quest that inspires me to start the annual cycle on the right foot by trying to find as many species as I can during the dead of winter. I have not missed the mark since I started keeping track in earnest, and I was eager to see what the first month of 2024 had in store.
Read More
Another year has come and gone, and 2024 is now just a few days away. In keeping with annual tradition, the imminent end of 2023 calls for a retrospective review celebrating the best birds of the past 12 months. This year has provided an incredible suite of remarkable contenders to choose from, including dramatic lifer encounters, unexpected state list additions, and memorable experiences with local specialties. Even with my travel opportunities limited exclusively to the Northeastern States, I managed to rack up a total of 320 species for the 2023 year list, with some genuine all-star birds among them. Whittling that tally down to create a compact highlight reel is no small feat, but I am always grateful for the exercise in reflection and reminiscence.
Read More
At its core, birding is a collaborative effort. The most basic fundamentals of the pastime, such as strategies for identification and understandings of ecology and distribution, are built on the collective knowledge of observers who came before us. News of noteworthy sightings is shared across a dizzying array of communication channels, and most birders would admit that some of the fondest memories of their careers can be attributed to the discoveries of others. Even when we bird alone, we carry with us the wisdom of multitudes in our field guides, apps, and minds. There are times, however, where this wonderfully wacky extended family comes together in truly remarkable ways, to the benefit of all members involved. Throughout the birding community of North America, November is widely considered to be The Weird Month.
Read More
Tropical Kingbird, 8 Nov © Drew Weber A Tropical Kingbird was discovered in farm pastures near Fleetwood, PA on Monday, November 6th. Originally it seemed inaccessible, but in the following days it ranged around enough that it has been viewable from the surrounding roads. A big thanks to Ross Gallardy and Jeff Vinosky in figuring out access. Instructions for searching: Adapted by a post by Jeff Vinosky to the PA Discord server. Frequent updates will likely be posted in the RBA on Discord. If you aren’t a member yet, you can join the PA Birds Discord server. The Tropical Kingbird has been moving around and recently has been viewable from the Walnuttown Mennonite Church lot, looking south towards the creek valley. We have been in contact with the original finders and farm owners and they are agreeable to this as suitable public access.   11/13 Revised visitation.
Read More
Randall’s Island is something of an enigma to most New Yorkers. Located at the confluence of the Harlem and East Rivers, where three of the City’s five boroughs brush up against one another, this remarkable park has developed a reputation as being difficult to get to and confusing to navigate. Despite the multitude of public facilities and recreational infrastructure present on the Island, it also hosts an impressive array of diverse habitat types that provide seasonal homes and migratory stopover sites for a variety of birds. Although the potential of this site has been well-documented over the years, birder coverage has historically been spotty at best until fairly recently. Now, an ongoing Randall’s Renaissance has put this hotspot back on the map, with regular sightings of regionally uncommon specialties and a hearty haul of surprising rarities documented by an ever-expanding network of dedicated observers.
Read More
There are few animals on Earth as universally recognizable as a flamingo. Beloved the world over for their vibrant pink plumage, these leggy, long-necked waterbirds are delightfully contradictory creatures. They somehow occupy the precise intersection of elegance and oddity, equal parts gangly and graceful, with their dramatically attenuated proportions and bizarrely bent bills. Despite their association in popular culture with idyllic tropical lagoons, many species of flamingos are most at home in extreme environments like high elevation salt pans or caustic soda lakes. The iconic likeness of these wacky waders is frequently utilized for cartoons, beach apparel, and suburban lawn ornaments, but the birds themselves have always been a rare and highly sought-after prize for birders in the ABA Area. In recent weeks, however, flamingo fans across the nation have been presented with a unique opportunity to learn more about the fascinating ecology of these famous fowl through firsthand observation.
Read More
There are few forms of birding that I find as captivating as pelagic trips. The ocean and its myriad inhabitants have long held sway over my imagination, and the potential for new discoveries that each outing promises appeals to my sense of adventure. The amount of time I spend offshore is only limited by how infrequently these excursions are offered. I would gladly greet the sunrise in the deep multiple times a month if scheduling, funding, and weather conditions allowed for it. As it stands, I count myself lucky if I find my way to the continental shelf at least once a year, especially after the forced hiatus that pandemic protocols imposed on our voyages asea.
Read More
Birding is a crucial, inextricable component of my life. It is the lens through which I engage with the splendor and complexity of the world around me. It fills my days with wonderment and frustration and heartbreak and joy in equal measure. It is more than just a hobby, more than a simple pastime. It is the only way I know how to be.  Birding is so many things.  Birding is an excuse to get out and explore one’s surroundings. It keeps me busy on even the hottest, laziest days of the year. It inspires me to rise before dawn on the first morning of summer break after a hectic semester, motivating me to seek out species I have not yet connected with since the start of 2023 as if they were old friends.
Read More
With the halfway point of 2023 fast approaching, it’s safe to say that this has been a remarkable year so far! The transition from the end of spring into the start of summer is always an exciting time, and this month was a particularly busy one. In the worlds of birding and education alike, June represents a dramatic shift. As the school year winds down, students prepare to move on to the next chapter of their academic careers and teachers breathe a sigh of relief before turning their attention to preparations for next fall. Wildlife across the Northern Hemisphere are caught up in the peak of breeding activity, and evidence of the new lives born in this baby boom can be seen even in the heart of New York City.
Read More