When the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve, a full twelve months of untold potential lie ahead. eBird resets the year list totals to zero, and the annual cycle of the seasons begins anew. For birders, each new year presents new opportunities for exciting encounters and unexpected discoveries. 2022 was undeniably one for the record books, and I am looking forward to seeing what 2023 has in store. In keeping with tradition, Jacqi and I celebrated the changing of the calendar in the company of friends, this year in Providence, Rhode Island. The highly anticipated honors for First Bird of 2023 went to a Northern Cardinal that I heard chipping outside our window at daybreak: a delightfully welcome surprise considering our temporary residence’s location in the heart of the city.
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With the beginning of 2023 fast approaching, it is time once again to reflect on the most memorable birding experiences of the past year. These annual highlight reels have been a tradition since I first started chronicling my adventures on this site, and there are plenty of amazing experiences to choose from this time around. 2022 has been a wild success on the birding front, easily ranking among the best years of my career to date. I added 17 new species to my state list, encountered 8 life birds, and boosted my county totals for each of the 5 boroughs of NYC as well as Suffolk County.
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This fall has been one for the record books. All across the continent, a diverse array of incredible records has left the birding community dazzled. From continental firsts like an Icterine Warbler in Alaska to unprecedented events like the invasion of Red-legged Honeycreepers along the Gulf Coast, it seemed that there was no end to the avian excitement this season! My personal autumn experience was enjoyable and lively from the beginning, but it got off to a bit of a rocky start in terms of adding new species to my New York State list. I struck out with a trio of consecutive would-be state birds between early September and mid October, dipping on a Crested Caracara at Montauk, a Fork-tailed Flycatcher in Dutchess County, and New York’s first Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher in the Bronx.
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Pelagic birding is one of my absolute favorite forms of birding. There’s no thrill quite like an expedition at sea to seek out wildlife that spend most of their lives far beyond the realm of land-dwellers. I’ve been a diehard boat birder ever since I worked for Project Puffin back in 2014, and my fondness for seabirds has only grown over the intervening years. Starting in 2017, I had the good fortune to partake in multiple trips per year with the esteemed See Life Paulagics team. Regrettably, the onset of the pandemic had a dramatic impact on the pelagic scene, completely shutting down voyages for the entirety of 2020. By summer 2021, people were starting to feel a bit more comfortable about group trips aboard crowded vessels, but there were still some obstacles preventing a swift return to form.
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At the end last year, I bid a fond farewell to the lovely neighborhood of Astoria, where I had lived since December 2019. I spent the first 6 months of 2022 living on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, but I knew when I first moved in that this would be a temporary arrangement. Jacqi and I started seriously looking for new apartments when spring rolled around, hoping to find a building that would provide comfortable and affordable amenities while also shortening my daily commute. To my great delight, it didn’t take us long to find exactly what we were looking for, and the new place was only a few blocks south of my old home.
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Whether you’re a world traveler intent on seeing as many species as possible or a casual window watcher cataloging the visitors to your feeder, birding and listing go hand in hand. While my overall life list is undoubtedly my personal top priority, my New York State list comes in at a close second place. Traveling around the Empire State in search of rare vagrants and localized breeders has brought me a great deal of pride, joy, and occasional frustration over the years. While far from the largest territory, New York is expansive enough that seriously birding it requires a lot of dedication. The boundaries of the state encompass a wide range range of habitats, from the boreal forests of the Adirondacks to the productive seas off the coast of Long Island.
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In the birding calendar year, the month of May is the big event that everyone looks forward to. After a solid showing in April and an uncharacteristically strong March, May 2022 had a tough act to follow. Even with the pressure of sky-high expectations, spring migration always manages to deliver a unique and wonderful experience year after year. This season was no different. I had the good fortune to spend much of my free time this month birding, and every time I was out in the field there was something exciting to be found.  Due to the concentrated intensity of northbound migration, May is one of the best months of the year for big days. Birds are in a rush to get back to the breeding grounds and secure their territories in the spring, so the action is limited to a narrower window than the prolonged passage of fall migrants.
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The month of April often feels more like an appetizer than a main course in the world of birding. While we’re well past the late winter doldrums here in New York, the maximum excitement of the May peak has not yet arrived. Though migration activity increases steadily but slowly throughout the month, the anticipation of the coming high can make the gradual build-up feel like a bit of a tease. Mindblowing days with rich diversity and high counts of individuals are relatively rare during April in the Northeast. Even so, the slow boil escalation of northward movement can produce plenty of surprises, including early arrivals and wayward wanderers. The first act of Spring 2022 was no different, featuring a number of fantastic finds that set the stage for another brilliant migration season. In the last days of March, several nights of southwesterly winds provided ideal conditions to jumpstart spring migration.
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The Adirondack Park is one of my favorite regions in all of New York. I’ve waxed poetic on numerous occasions in the past about how much I love exploring the forests and bogs of this magnificent mountain range. The birding in this part of the state is excellent year round, but each season offers unique highlights. It had been several years since my last winter visit to the Adirondacks, and I was eager for an excuse to get back up there. Particularly, I hoped I would finally have the opportunity to add a long-overdue species to my New York State bird list: White-winged Crossbill. During the later months of 2021, I started hearing reports that irrupting crossbills were invading the forests of upstate New York. The Winter Finch Forecast for 2021-2022 had predicted that these species would likely move into the Adirondacks in some numbers.
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This January, I officially finalized my departure from Astoria and moved the last of my things into the Upper West Side apartment. Though this is a temporary arrangement, lasting only until the end of the lease in June, I am thoroughly enjoying the opportunity to experience Manhattan life for a few months. I’ve managed to pack plenty of chases and expeditions into the first quarter of the year, but the bulk of my birding during winter’s back half has taken place within the borders of New York County. Fortunately, there has been plenty of excitement on offer to keep me busy! The first noteworthy NYC bird of 2022 came just days after I returned home from Arizona. In mid-December, Manhattan had experienced a mini-invasion of Western Tanagers, with three distinct individuals appearing in different city parks over the course of a few days.
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