Seatuck Long Island Birding Challenge

Seatuck Birding Challenge 

Seatuck’s Birding Challenge is Long Island’s only island-wide birding competition. It helps promote bird watching, wildlife conservation and open space preservation across the region – and the event generates an important one-day snapshot of early fall bird populations across Long Island. The event is open to all levels of experience, from expert birders to complete novices. Fall migration provides large numbers of birds and a great diversity of species. The 2024 Birding Challenge will be held in mid-September – please check back for the official date and event details.

Annual Birding Challenge Summaries:

The 10th Annual Seatuck LI Birding Challenge was conducted on 16 September this year, in very pleasant weather. As the rosy fingers of dawn lit the sky, it was 61° and mostly cloudy under northwest winds, warming up into the mid 70s and clearing to mostly sunny skies, with low humidity.

This year’s competition felt very different; we did not have any junior teams competing, and the formidable, perennial champion Pteam Ptarmigeddon defected to go storm-chasing in Massachusettes. This left only three teams in the field, with a total of 12 participants. There were two Island-wide teams, The Four Harbors Herons and the Small Day Birders, and the Captree Bombay Hornadays reprised their Big Sit at the Fire Island Hawkwatch, initiated in 2018. There was no coverage on the east end of Long Island, nor for Brooklyn, and the water level was unfortunately quite high at Jamaica Bay, with fewer than normal shorebirds detected. Not surprisingly, the overall total of 131 species was quite reduced from our long-term average of 167, and included no new species, so the cumulative list total remains at 247 species over the ten years.

Among the many highlights were the healthy number of warbler species seen by the Four Harbors Herons, including Tennessee, Cape May, Bay-breasted, and Wilson’s; a Broad-winged Hawk spotted by the Small Day Birders, a bird that is always scarce on Long Island, away from the flyways of the city parks; and the mash-up of migrants, including a nocturnal migrant Gray-cheeked Thrush and a cooperative day-flying Common Nighthawk, past the the Fire Island Hawkwatch.

The three teams’ totals were remarkably similar, and with so few teams in the field, the number of “saves” (species not seen by any other team) for all the teams reached record numbers. The Four Harbors Herons took first place with 89 species, which included 15 saves. The Captree Bombay Hornadays, a hybrid mixture of several past team groupings, came in second with 85 species and 22 saves (retaining the Hunters’ Hoard), and the Small Day Birders followed up with 82 species and 16 saves. The compilation was festive and intimate, and a great chance for the 12 participants and the Seatuck folks to reconnect.

Thanks to Enrico Nardone, Peter Walsh, and the Seatuck team for organizing and hosting this enjoyable friendly competition.

We hope to see everyone back next year, and as always, we welcome new teams to join us!

– Pat Lindsay and Shai Mitra

The 9th Annual Seatuck LI Birding Challenge was conducted on 17 September this year, in very pleasant weather. Cool and cloudy to start in the morning, the day warmed up into the mid 70s under mostly sunny skies, with low humidity. With northeast winds early, followed by a warm, sunny afternoon, the day was not especially conducive for active migration, despite the perfect date, but many migrants were nonetheless detected, perhaps remaining after the good flights of the previous two days. Enthusiasm was high all the way to the five o’clock hour when the compilation and celebrations began at the lovely Scully Estate, in person for the first time since 2019. A special treat this year was Enrico’s presentation about the history of how this precious parcel of land came to be preserved, followed by a tour of the mansion.

Competing this year were seven teams with a total of 28 participants. Retaining the “COVID era” rules for limited-area coverage as part of the new norm, we had two Island-wide teams, single teams representing Queens, Nassau, and Western Suffolk County, and two teams in Eastern Suffolk. The overall total of 166 species was very close to our long-term average of 167. It included three new species, Long-tailed Duck, Bonaparte’s Gull, and Black-headed Gull, bringing the cumulative list to 247 species over the nine years.

Few if any real rarities were recorded, and the highlights recounted by the various teams mostly involved enjoyable experiences with species expected as to date and location, and with team-mates. Many participants noted the relative abundance of Cape May Warblers this fall, and the two teams that visited Jamaica Bay appreciated the excellent conditions at the East Pond this year.

Pteam Ptarmigeddon competed island-wide and took first place for the overall species total for a remarkable sixth time. Their total of 131 species included 7 “saves” (species not seen by any other team). The High Flyers had the second highest species total, 110 in Queens County, and contributed 4 saves. The Aphid Eaters, working Nassau County, had 99 species and 6 saves, and the Four Harbors Herons came in with 90 species in Nassau and Suffolk (so nominally island-wide), including two saves.

Captree Counters Imperiál came in with 108 species within the Western Suffolk category and retained the “Hunters’ Hoard” prize for most saves, 12 in all. The Savage Trackers and Erin G’s junior team birded Eastern Suffolk County; each contributed one save, and the Savage Trackers won the area prize with 42 species. At this stage in the evolution of the Challenge, it occurs to us that the collaborative dimension has been growing in importance, as regionally focused efforts complement each other and contribute toward the overall species total as a collective achievement each year, analogous to CBCs.

Thanks to Enrico Nardone, Peter Walsh, and the Seatuck team for organizing and hosting this enjoyable friendly competition. For more information on this important organization and information on this annual event, go to

We hope to see everyone back next year, and as always, we welcome new teams to join us!

– Pat Lindsay and Shai Mitra

Twenty-three participants on ten teams conducted the Seatuck Long Island Birding Challenge on Saturday 25 September 2021, the eighth consecutive year for this friendly competition. Like last year, each team stayed within one of the three western counties or within either Western or Eastern Suffolk County, and teams were allowed to split up and bird separately within their chosen area. Single-person teams were also permitted this year.

All regions except for Brooklyn were covered this year, with two teams in Nassau, four in Western Suffolk, and three in eastern Suffolk. Repeating as overall champion was Pteam Ptarmigeddon, with 132 species in Western Suffolk. This Pteam has competed each year with the same lineup and won the Twitcher’s Trophy five times. The Queens Creepers ruled in Queens and were second overall; Les Miserables counted 112 species in Nassau, and the Orient Tears found 53, tops in Eastern Suffolk. The Hunters Hoard award, for finding the most species not recorded by any other team, went to the Captree Counters, with 10 saves, including this year’s only species new to the cumulative SLIBC list, a Lark Sparrow. We especially welcome new competitors, including The LIU CVM Society of Real Birders, the Orient Tears, Jayne Johnes, and Erin & Co.

Depending on pandemic-related considerations, we hope in the future to resume islandwide competition under the 95% Rule; but in any case, we expect to continue to feature options for regional teams and Big Sits (only one Big Sit has been attempted to date, in 2018, with 64 species). Future challenges will be scheduled within the period 20 Sep-10 Oct, and the boundary between the Western and Eastern Suffolk regions will be revised eastward by a committee of cartographers.

Many thanks to all participants, and especially to Enrico Nardone and the Seatuck organization, for making this exciting event possible.

– Pat Lindsay and Shai Mitra

The Seatuck Long Island Birding Challenge was conducted on Saturday, 26 Sep, for the seventh year. We thank Enrico Nardone, Stephane Perreault and others at Seatuck for the effort and care they devoted to revising and refining the rules to ensure participants’ fun and safety in this strange pandemic period.

The rules changes driven by covid concerns included a requirement that each team restrict its activities to a single county (or in the case of sprawling Suffolk County, to either the four western towns or the more easterly towns), but also relaxed the requirement for team members to travel and bird together.

In combination, this probably improved overall coverage of the island and yielded a collective tally of 194 species, 10 more than the previous highest annual total for this count. This achievement is even more notable for having been made on a signiciantly later data and on a much less active migration day than that of the previous high tally. Also notable was our failure, for the first time in seven challenges, to add any new species to the cumulative species list, which still stands at 235. This is further evidence of the overall thoroughness of the teams this year in detecting uncommon, hard to find, and localized species, even in the absence of rarities.

We had 8 teams in the field, with a total of 29 participants, and each of the five designated areas was represented. As noted above, it was not a major flight day, but the weather was mostly very benign all day long, without heavy winds or other impediments to birding effort. It was 63-75 F, overcast with good visibility in most places early, then warming up with sun. The biggest issue was patchy fog in the morning that reduced visibility for some.

Area champions were:

Brooklyn: Rails Against the Machine (Shane Blodgett, Rob Jett, Heydi Lopes, Tom Preston, and Mike Yuan) coming in at 108.

Queens: Ladybyrders (Mary Normandia, Lisa Scheppke, Amy Simmons, Meryl Ackley, and Phil Ribilow), tallying 111 species.

Eastern Suffolk: Masked Tityras (Patricia Lindsay, Shai Mitra, Mike Cooper and Doug Futuyma) coming in with 130. Three additional teams covered Eastern Suffolk: The Bushwackers (Richard Gostic and Bob McGrath), Savage Trackers (Stephen and Bob Savage), and The TWIN ROSE breasted Grosbeaks (Raina Angelier, Cayla, Iris and Craig Rosenhagen).

And finally, the two leading teams achieved totals only two species apart:

The Classic Birders (Tim Healy, Matt Klein, Ryan Mandelbaum, and Stephane Perreault), covering Nassau, was the runner-up team with 139 species.

Pteam Ptarmigeddon covered Western Suffolk and came in overall first at 141, wresting back the Twitchers Trophy from the Outlaws (whose misdemeanors had resulted in their dispersion into different teams). The Pteam has competed in the Challenge with the same members every year, won the trophy the first three years, and is now back on top.

Every single team had a least one “save,” a species not recorded by any other team. Tied for third were Pteam Ptarmigeddon and The Classic Birders, with 5 saves each. Second place went to Ladybyrders with 6 saves. The winner of the informal Hunters’ Hoard award (a cache of canned spinach, creamed corn, cream of mushroom soup, cling peaches, sardines, and Fancy Feast ) was the Masked Tityras, with 11 saves!

– Pat Lindsay and Shai Mitra

2023 CHAMPIONS! Enrico Nardone presents the Twitchers Trophy to this year's winning team, Four Harbors Herons. From left - Sue Avery, Kathleen Coyle, Luci Betti-Nash, Patrice Domeischel.
2023 Captree Bombay Hornadays, snacking during their Big Sit at the Fire Island Hawkwatch.

Official Event Documents:

Click below to download the 2023 Birding Challenge rules and official checklist.

Birding Challenge Rules (PDF)

Birding Challenge Checklist (PDF)

Event Format:


The Birding Challenge is TEAM event!

– Teams must consist at least three members

–  If you don’t have a team, you’re welcome to join the Seatuck team (we can use your help!)

– Clever team names are welcome!

Teams can compete in one of the following three categories:

1.  Island-wide – Teams can bird anywhere on Long Island (including Brooklyn and Queens)

2.  Regional – Teams can bird anywhere in one of six geographic categories:

– All Long Island


– Queens

– Nassau County

– Western Suffolk County (Babylon, Brookhaven, Huntington, Islip & Smithtown)

– Eastern Suffolk County (East Hampton, Riverhead, Shelter Island & Southampton)

3.  Big Sit – Teams pick one location, stay inside a 17-foot diameter circle and see how many birds come their way!

**Copyright to Diane Abell**

 Special team categories!

– Special categories/recognition for school and family teams

– No registration fee is required for school chaperones/coaches

• Checklists must be submitted by 5 p.m., either electronically or in person at the Suffolk County Environmental Center (Scully Estate), 550 South Bay Avenue, Islip

 In-person compilation dinner at the Scully Estate in Islip, NY