I’m in a way envious of people who have both the time and the resources to devote an entire year to birding. These special individuals are few and far between, however in the birding community we always hear about them and soon submerse ourselves as we live vicariously through them. I realize that this flaw in my character to be “envious” of others is something I have to deal with, but to have the opportunity , and the credit cards, to travel over the North American continent on one big twitch is something one only dreams of. So instead of actually doing a Big Year, myself and others are satisfied by following their trails and tribulations, ups and downs, discoveries and dips , heartache and heartburn through their blogs.
For myself it started in 2011 when local Cincinnati birder Matt Stenger started his Big Year, so when I found out he was writing a blog about his exploits, his URL became one of my “favorites” on my web browser. It was a magical ride for me. It was at this time I really started to bird watch on a more serious basis, so his blog was a real motivator for someone who needed motivation.
Matt’s blog is no longer around, however as 2011 came to a close I discovered one which I heard about too late, and is still going strong to this day. ” Big Year 2011 by John Vanderpoel” was an exceptional blog to go along with his big year. He was the first person to come close to Sandy Komoto’s record Big Year, so even though I learned of his blog really late in 2011, I soon caught up with reading his well done blog. To this day he’s still blogging, and you can link to his current page by clicking on the underlined hyperlink above.
So as 2012 dawned so did my thirst for more Big Year blogs. And this time I found it from a Texas couple, Renee and Michael who write “Birding On A Budget“. What really drew me to their blog was how they budgeted their money for the Big Year. They set their total budget to $10,000 dollars. Granted when you set a budget this tight you are going to have to exclude trips to Alaska and pelagic trips, but with this in mind you have a good idea of how many birds you’re going to see in a year. It was a great read! With any Big Year you can’t help but count the pennies. And folks with families, pennies are a valuable commodity.
In 2013 we were blessed again with 2 Big Years. And both with blogs. The first one came from Neil Hayward and his “Accidental Big Year” Now here’s a blog full of excitement, and tons of birds. So many birds that as far as I’m concerned the record holder, surpassing Sandy Komoto by 1 bird.
The second blog I was following that year from another local birder, and someone I’ve birded with, Jay Lehman. As soon as he retired from P&G as a chemist, this bachelor traveled just as much as Neil Hayward however came away with fewer birds, but just as many memories. “Jay’s Big Year 2013” is still up and ready to read for anyone interested. Ironically both Jay and Neil ended their big years while doing a pelagic trip off Cape Hatteras on December 28th with Brian Patterson scoring on a Great Skua which gave Jay 732 birds and Neil with 746. A great birder and a great read.
So how could you possibly top a year like 2013 when you had 2 top notch birders doing their respective Big Years? You do it while riding your bicycle all over this great country. Talk about down and dirty, full of stress, fatigue and bad food, Dorian Anderson kept me glued every day as he faithfully posted his comings and goings while racking up and impressive number of birds considering he couldn’t ride to Alaska and pelagics were out of the question. Having just finished “Biking For Birds” I felt I had a close relati0nship with someone I never meet. There was more to this blog than just the birds. You felt his pain as he rode head long into head winds that would stop any normal cyclist, he’d trudge along to his next stop so he’d have a chance to pick up another bird. An adventure worth reading.
So what next? How about sinking your teeth into “Birding Without Borders” Noah Strycker, photographer, writer, and adventurer has just started his Big Year. But what a Big Year! His goal is to tick off 5,000 birds covering the whole world. In 2008 Ruth Miller and Alan Davies counted 4, 341 birds which is a s–t load of birds in 1 year. And as of right now he’s in Antarctica on a Russian ship adding birds to what I’m sure will be a year never before seen. This is one blog that I’ll read everyday.
So where is the next Big Year?