Saturday 28 December 2019 was a fine day for the 80th iteration of the Southern 
Nassau County CBC, with mild temperatures, light winds, and no precipitation. 
The total of 135 species recorded on count day was above our recent average of 
about 130. This count has an impressive resume of genuine rarities discovered 
on count-day, and our participants added to this legacy twice again this year: 
a Painted Bunting found near the Gatsby restaurant at Jones Beach by Pete 
Morris and Taylor Sturm, and a Townsend's Warbler found at the Florence Avenue 
Beach, along the bay shore in Massapequa, by John Gluth. By my calculations, 
the overall count probably missed three or four species that would otherwise 
have been found, as a result of effort re-directed to admiring these little 
green birds.

As usual, there were many other notable species as well:

Blue-winged Teal at Bellmore Mill Pond
Red-necked Grebe from Jones Beach
Clapper Rail from the boat
Common Gallinule at Bellmore Mill Pond
12 Red Knots at Point Lookout
36 Purple Sandpipers at and westward from Point Lookout
99 Razorbills along the oceanfront
Black-headed Gull at Jones Beach West End
American Bittern at Tobay
2 Barn Owls somewhere near water of some kind
Short-eared Owl also, curiously, somewhere near water of some kind
Northern Saw-whet Owl somewhere
6 Eastern Phoebes at various places in Jones Beach, Hempstead Lake, and Mitchell
House Wren in Massapequa
3 Marsh Wrens from Jones Beach and the boat
a count-week Grasshopper Sparrow at Point Lookout
3 Eastern Meadowlarks in the Five Towns
Nashville Warbler in Baldwin
3 Orange-crowned Warblers from Jones Beach, Tobay, and the Five Towns
Common Yellowthroat in the Five Towns
Palm Warbler at Jones Beach

As often is the case on good-weather days, high counts were recorded for many 
23 Cooper's Hawk
40 Red-tailed Hawk
213 Blue Jay
130 Carolina Wren
24 Gray Catbird
190 Northern Mockingbird
17 Hermit Thrush
660 Song Sparrow
66 Swamp Sparrow
288 Boat-tailed Grackle (this impressive number being the remainder after 
careful excision of potential duplicate flocks)
16 Common Ravens (again, after adjustment for possible duplications; meanwhile, 
Bald Eagle has aged out of being notable!)
7 Chipping Sparrows

Only two species were recorded in unusually low numbers:
25 Snow Bunting
2573 Herring Gull 

And only three more or less regular species were missed:
Purple Finch
Lapland Longspur
Rusty Blackbird

--though Snowy Owl should be cued here, too, given their documented presence 
(and torment) within the circle, both before and right after the CBC.

There are many lessons to be learned from these data, but I'd like to take this 
opportunity to point attention to just two questions. First, it is not by 
chance that all three of our rarest species (Grasshopper Sparrow, Painted 
Bunting, and Townsend's Warbler) have shown distinct waves of occurrence in the 
Northeast this season. Those who dismiss vagrancy as a passive consequence of 
weather systems ought to ponder why so many other species, present in the same 
source regions and experiencing the same weather patterns, have NOT been lining 
up along our shores lately, as these species have.

But perhaps even more mysterious is the great Chipping Sparrow flood of 2019. 
Although our tally of 7 was admittedly smaller than the rounding errors 
suffered by Hugh McGuinness et al. in Accabonnac, it is still a very large 
number for urban western Long Island. And all of the counts I know of or 
participated in this season, from southern New England to Long Island, 
encountered this species in much higher than usual numbers--close to triple 
digits in some cases. There are a lot of parallels between Chipping Sparrow and 
White-crowned Sparrow: both are good CBC species at our latitude, but unlike 
other half-hardies, both show a preference for inland and rural settings vs. 
coastal/urban migrant traps. And this December's Chipping Sparrow phenomenon 
reminds me a lot of last year's large numbers of White-crowned Sparrows on all 
the CBCs. How does this happen?

Many thanks to our 90+ participants and to Otto's Freeport for hosting our 

Happy New Year and the best of birding in 2020!
Shai Mitra & Patricia Lindsay
Bay Shore

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