Have you been following the Big Year drama this year? Several birders are doing really Big Years and one, Neil Hayward is tied with Sandy Komito’s 1998 record at 745 species plus 3 provisional species (new birds for North America yet to be approved). Will he break the record this year? Time will tell. You can read more about his Big Year here.
Hopefully you all have had a delightful Christmas with family and friends. I have had a wonderfully quiet Christmas and some time to collect for next year. Are you thinking about next year yet? Do you have any birding goals? Have you ever thought about a Big Year? They can be awfully expensive. Maybe you have fancied a smaller Big Year but didn’t know best how to go about getting to your goal.
Enter eBird, a fabulous Citizen Science project on a grand scale. They collect birding checklists from around the world in an online database. This data can be accessed by anyone, not just scientists. It provides a terrific resource. But can it make a plan for Big Years with goals for 300, 400, or 500 species? The quick answer is, Yes. Yes, it can. That is what this post is about–Fast Track Big Year Plans for goals of 300, 400, and 500 species in the ABA Area (American Birding Association’s designation includes the Lower 48 United States plus all of Canada and Alaska). Let’s get right to it:Fast Track 300
So where does one start in planning any birding Big Year? Go for the very best place to give you the biggest variety of species in the shortest amount of time. Then the next best place where you can find the most amount of species that would be new (not duplicates of what you already found at the best place). This method would be continued until you reach your goal. Fortunately, someone has taken eBird and done all the work for you. It should be noted that this information is only as valuable as the accuracy of the submissions into the eBird database. Still, this may be your best information for now. So here we go.
Week #1: Texas – April 22-30; 240 new species; total species = 240
First of all, Texas is a very big state. And in looking at the results I can tell that this would be a very big week involving birding the Upper Texas Coast as well as the Lower Rio Grande Valley. That is pretty aggressive for most people. But, it does offer a huge variety of species hitting the peak of spring migration in the Upper Coast as well as getting LRGV specialties. It affords the easiest place on the continent to pass the 200-mark. Many birders with good skills can see even more with this trip. I know birders who have recorded just over 300 species in a week. But for the average birder 240 species is not an unreasonable expectation.
Week #2: Alaska – June 1-7; 130 new species; total species = 370
Speaking of large states, Alaska is enormous. Looking at the species list for this trip I can tell it will involve more than just birding in the Anchorage area. There are a number of sea bird species that will require a trip to either the Pribilofs or Gambell to get all the target species.
This will easily get a birder past the 300-mark. But I figure most folks will not want to stop here. Either they will be doing more in their year or they are using this to help boost their life list.
Fast Track 400
Follow the plan for 300 species. Then add one more trip. There are many ways to get the next 30 species, but I will give you the best one:
Week #3: Arizona – May 1-7; 65 new species; total species = 435
Most of this trip will be spent in the Southeast corner of the State. Many breeding species occur here and no where else in North America.
Fast Track 500
You would think getting to 500 is easy. But it will actually require some effort. In fact, it requires almost double the effort of reaching the first 400 species. As your birding list increases, it will become increasingly difficult to get to those new goals of 600, 700, 800, etc. Follow the tracks for 300 & 400. Then do these trips to ensure getting to your goal of 500.
Week #4: California – September 8-14; 29 new species; total species = 464
California is another big state. And this week will include lots of driving, too. There are a number of Southern California birds to add. But the biggest number of additions will require a pelagic trip (an ocean-going birding trip) or two. Monterey is a good place to start for a wide variety of sea faring species.
Week #5: Maine – June 22-30; 22 new species; total species = 486
Most of your travel here will be along Coastal Maine. It should be noted that you will need a trip out to Machias Seal Island (or other equivalent) in Down East Maine for Atlantic Puffins and other sea birds.
Week #6: Montana – June 8-14; 18 new species; total species = 504
Montana is another huge state. And yes, this is going to involve lots of driving. You will need to see longspurs in the plains and montane species in the mountains in the western part of the state.
And there you have it. Fast Track Big Year plans for 300, 400, and 500 species. This is just a terse introduction. If there is interest from the birding community, I will be happy to elaborate on these destinations and the target lists. If you need help on many of these areas, you should consider purchasing birdfinding guides from the ABA (American Birding Association).
Here’s wishing everyone a wonderful 2014!!!