Fast Track Big Year Plans

Great Kiskadee displaying crown - Quinta Mazatlan - McAllen TX - 2012-12-12

Great Kiskadee displaying crown – Quinta Mazatlan – McAllen TX – 2012-12-12 photo by Greg Miller

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: Continue reading

The Birds Migrating Through NW Ohio Need Your Help

Bay-breasted Warbler - Magee Marsh - Lucas County OH - 2013-05-05

Bay-breasted Warbler - Magee Marsh - Lucas County OH - 2013-05-05. Photo by Greg Miller. Nearly 1 out of every 5 sightings of this species in North America in May 2013 was recorded in NW Ohio (18.9%). eBird as of 11/29/2013.

Each year, birders from across the U.S. and around the World come to northwest Ohio to go birding. Spring in particular is a great time when visitors come by the tens of thousands and spend millions of dollars in the area. I do not have the exact numbers, but I am sure others do.

Continue reading

Two Years After The Big Year Movie

Two years ago last month (October) the movie, The Big Year, was released. I personally have seen the movie 24 times since then. Of course I really liked the movie. I am biased though. I got to proofread the script and I got to be on the movie set as a Bird Consultant. What a surreal experience! It still seems like a dream. Like it never truly happened. A Hollywood movie with A-List stars (Jack Black, Steve Martin, and Owen Wilson) was the last thing I would have expected from my Big Year in 1998. So many things had to happen to make this a reality. I often wondered “Why me?” Most folks reserve that for bad experiences. But I soon realized it really wasn't about me. It was waaay bigger! What is it? There is a new wave of popularity in birding. And I am privileged to be riding along with this one! And I can't help believing that we are only beginning to scratch the surface of what is about to be! I am full of hope for our future!

Recently someone asked me how many times I've spoken. Great question. I was curious myself. My friend, Erica Rusk, compiled a list of all the places I've been in the last two years. She has been keeping my calendar for me these last two years. Thank you, Erica! Here is a map I put together with Erica's list and a website called Batchgeo.

Thank you everyone! It has been wonderful traveling all over America (and Canada, too) talking about a contest I didn't win and signing books I didn't write!


View After The Big Year Movie in a full screen map


Letter To Dad 2013-11-22

Green Jay on arch - Bentsen Rio Grande SP - near McAllen TX - 2012-12-06

Green Jay on arch – Bentsen Rio Grande SP – near McAllen TX – 2012-12-06 photo by Greg Miller

Dear Dad,

A whole lot of people remember JFK on this date.  He was a leader that inspired many people to reach beyond themselves and do great things.  But a few folks will remember you.  Like me, they valued your friendship and respected your character.  And it was you that helped me gain the confidence to believe that I could do anything.  JFK I did not know.  But I did know you.  You were my father, my birding mentor, and my friend.  And for that, I am glad.

I lost you on this day 13 years ago, November 22, 2000. I had just moved back to Columbus, OH and got a job there so I could be closer to you during your final days. Little did I know that those final days would only be 2 weeks. <sigh> Your physical presence here on this planet is sorely missed. Much has happened since then. Continue reading

Panama in January 2014

Yep. I’m behind on my target list for Panama. I’m behind with my blogging. I’m behind at work. I’m behind with half a dozen other projects. Sigh. It happens. What’s hollering the loudest? Panama, of course. It still seems just like a dream. But it’s only just 2 months away! I am writing tonight because there’s been some shuffling on the roster and there are now 6 spaces available. I know it is a last minute proposition but this is a great opportunity. The trip is with Wildside Nature Tours and is January 18-25, 2014. Full info can be found here.

Are you afraid you will be sleeping in mosquito nets? Roughing it without electricity? Eating canned food? Haha. Check out this short video from the Gamboa Rainforest Resort. Maybe you are afraid I will push you to build your bird list at a relentless pace? Relax. We will get to see tons of birds and enjoy them, too! And wowzers! Have you seen any of the fabulous butterflies in Panama? Check out a few of these pics! And don’t forget the fantastic flowers! Pretty awesome, eh?

Did you know you can use U.S. dollars in Panama? And we are only gonna stay in one spot–no need to pack up your bags and move around every couple days. The hikes will be relatively easy–so easy, in fact, that I can do it. :-) Here is a longer YouTube video (unofficial) of the lodge and surrounding grounds.

Ok. I’m done for the evening. Sweet dreams (it’s brisk tonight in Ohio as the temperature is slated to drop below freezing). Just imagine how cold it will be in January. Now replace that with a warm, tropical breeze and a comfy hammock.

North American Birding Macro Trends – November

Macro trends?  What??!!?  Haha.  I will get to that in a moment.  It’s been a month since I last posted here.  Sorry.  In that month I drove from Colorado to Virginia for the Eastern Shore Birding Festival.  I had a great time in Cape Charles, VA.  I drove home to Ohio and worked for a week and then headed back south to North Carolina’s Outer Banks for the Wings Over Water Festival.  It was a terrific week packed full of fun events and lots of birding.  I worked last week and my schedule finally caught up with me.  I was down a couple days with a cold.  Ok.  I still have a cold but I’m functional…sort of.  When I finish this week I will drive to Massachusetts for Athol Bird and Nature Club meeting and some New England winter birds.

Have I forgotten about Panama in January?  No.  I have not.  In fact, there are still several openings available.  You should consider coming along with me (and Wildside Nature Tours) to the Tropics during January!  More information can be found here: Panama Canal Zone and Pipeline Road Birding with Greg Miller, January 18-25, 2014.

North America Macro Trends - Nov 1-7 - eBird - 1900-2012 as of 2013-02-22

North America Macro Trends – Nov 1-7 – eBird – 1900-2012 as of 2013-02-22

Continue reading

2013 RMBO 25th Anniversary

Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory celebrated its 25th anniversary on October 5, 2013. A nice crowd showed up for the event. Above, folks gathered to hear some guy talk about being a bird consultant for a Hollywood movie, The Big Year, and his experiences meeting Jack Black, Steve Martin, and Owen Wilson.


We had a good turn out for a very chilly early morning bird walk. This is a phone-scoped picture of the morning sun beginning to light up a very distant Long's Peak. It was taken handheld with my iPhone through my Swarovski ATX 80 telescope at 25x.

An American Kestrel posed long enough for everyone to get a scope view and fortunately, long enough for me to capture a quick phone-scoped picture (same set up as above).

And as all my readers know by now, I love visiting local restaurants and trying out new dishes. This is a “regular” sized bowl of Pho (noodle soup) at a Vietnamese restaurant in Brighton, Colorado. It was gargantuan! I didn't even make a significant dent in this Goliath-sized bowl of soup. I think it must be half a gallon. Haha. Check out that quarter beside the glass of water for a size reference! The portion I ate was delicious, too.


Colorado October 2013

Wow! What is not to like about aspens in the fall? I am here in Colorado for Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory’s BBQ with the Birds tomorrow, October 5, 2013. Check out the RMBO website for more information. And of course, if you are in the area why not come and join me for the day’s festivities!

Continue reading

2013 MBS & OFO

MBS & OFO? What is that, you say? Midwest Birding Symposium and Ontario Field Ornithologists. MBS was a week ago already and OFO was this past weekend. I'm writing from a hotel in Lexington, Nebraska on my way to Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory in Brighton, Colorado.

I'm always thrilled to see young birders' enthusiasm. Nathan already has a keen eye (OFO at Pt. Pelee).

The banquet Saturday night at OFO. Over 240 participants!

We had a large group for a field trip to the tip at Pt. Pelee. That's me in jeans and a light shirt with the green Biggest Week in American Birding backpack about half way. (Photo by Steve Pike)

This is a Blackpoll Warbler at Magee Marsh during MBS. Note that it is showing off the pale soles of its feet…just to taunt birders with the difficult identification.

Golly. This looks delicious. (The berry silly–not the Ring-billed Gull)

Nom-Nom-Nom. Looks so good I think I'll swallow it whole.

Oofah. That was larger than I thought.

Ewww. Gonna have to walk this one off!

Funny sequence of a Ring-billed Gull with a large “snack” at East Harbor State Park during MBS.

Gotta run. Off to Colorado!


2014 Panama Target Birds 31-40

Greetings from Nebraska!  I’m en route to Brighton, CO for the Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory’s BBQ with the Birds on October 5, 2013.  I just had a great weekend at Pt. Pelee with the Ontario Field Ornithologists.  More on that in another blog.

Previously I posted 2014 Target Birds 1-10 & 11-20 & 21-30. Today we will look at 31-40. These represent the most commonly reported birds in Panama in late January in eBird. I am using what eBird refers to as Frequency of Checklists. This is a number that uses the total number of checklists that have a particular species checked divided by the total number of checklists submitted. It is the percent of checklists that have reported this species. eBird data was accessed on 8/26/2013 to retrieve this list. Late January? Yes. This is to coincide with Wildside Nature Tours trip Panama Canal Zone and Pipeline Road Birding with Greg Miller, January 18-25. Ready for those target birds? Here we go:

Most Frequently Reported Birds in Panama for late January #31-40

31. Streaked Flycatcher
32. Red-legged Honeycreeper
33. Cocoa Woodcreeper
34. House Wren
35. Gray-headed Chachalaca
36. Wattled Jacana
37. Western Slaty-Antshrike
38. Blue Dacnis
39. Gartered Trogon
40. Little Blue Heron