2016 Big Years Tours is in Louisiana

Yep. We’re in Louisiana right now! And we’re having a blast! I cannot wait to come back. Grand Isle is a WONDERFUL place to visit!

Check out my Big Year Blog for the latest updates and tally of species!

And if you wanna go on a tour with me, then take a look at what is still available at the Big Year Tours page.

All the tours are being run by Wildside Nature Tours. And for each person who signs up, a donation will be made the ABA (American Birding Association) Young Birders. Not only are you signing up for a fun tour with me, you’ll be supporting a very worthy group of aspiring young birders.

And thanks to Leica for the terrific optics I am using to do what I love this year…birding with passion and getting people hooked on it. You should see the really cool binoculars I am using this year–the newly released Leica Trinovid 10×42 HD binoculars! They are light weight. The view is crystal clear. They perform wonderfully in low light. And the close focus is so good you can even look at Chestnut-sided Warblers at Magee Marsh in Ohio during Biggest Week in American Birding. That is because these birds are ridiculously, reach-out-and-touch-them close. And now you can look at specs on an individual feather with these new binoculars.

An Interview with Greg Miller about his 2016 Big Year

Following is an interview between Greg Miller Birding (GMB) and Greg Miller (GM). Recorded on 11/2/2015 in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area.

Greg Miller planning on doing a Big Year in 2016. photo by Greg Miller

Greg Miller planning on doing a Big Year in 2016. photo by Greg Miller

[GMB] In 1998 you did a Big Year in North America and racked up 715 species. It was a crazy year and your story was part of the book written by Mark Obmascik that came out in 2004 and was later made into a Hollywood movie starring Jack Black, Steve Martin, and Owen Wilson. And Jack Black played your character. The movie was released in fall of 2011. Rumor has it that you are doing another Big Year in 2016. Is this true?
[GM] Guilty. Yes, it is true. I am doing another Big Year in 2016. Continue reading

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 Impatient Birder’s Mini-Almanac to North America!

Here is part 2 of a series I am working on for rolled up eBird data from all the States and Provinces for North America from 1900 through 2012.  A few days ago I introduced the 2013 Impatient Birder’s Cheat Sheet to North America.  It was a list of species counts by State and Province (with corresponding month & week).  I wanted to have something that gave me an idea of when the best time to go birding was for each State and Province.  Pretty cool stuff.  So cool I decided to share it with everybody…for free.  See my previous post for this brief, but information-filled table in PDF format.

Today, I am introducing the follow up report using the same data.  The previous one listed species counts by State and Province.  It is good for planning travel to those areas.  But what if you are an impatient birder like me?  And you have a very limited schedule so you might not be able to take off all those spring dates which happen to be most of the “best” times listed in the previous post.  Sigh.  Such is the time-crunched day and age in which we live.  Enter this new document, the 2013 Impatient Birder’s Mini-Almanac to North America.  This is a list of the top places to go birding by month & week of the year.

2013 Impatient Birders Mini-Almanac to North America Continue reading

2013 Impatient Birder’s Cheat Sheet to North America!

It is now ready!  What?  The 2013 Impatient Birder’s Cheat Sheet to North America!  Umm.  What is that?  And why should anyone be excited?  Well, on a cold day in February in Sugarcreek, Ohio, some guy got a hair-brained idea to download eBird data from every State in the Lower 48 States–and every Province in Canada–and Alaska.  Then he tinkered with the data for the next 6 months in his spare time with nearly 6 million checklists.  The result of all this?  Well.  The first information to really come out of this that may be useful to other birders is the 2013 Impatient Birder’s Cheat Sheet to North America.  It is a roll up of all this data at the State and Province level in a handy, little 3-page format.  Use it to plan where you want to go birding!  I will explain.

2013 Impatient Birders Cheat Sheet to North America

Checklists Submitted:

From January of 1900 through December of 2012, birders submitted 159,869 checklists
into the eBird database.

Total Species:

The total number of species recorded in eBird from January 1900 through December
of 2012.  Note that this number is filtered using the ABA Checklist v7.4 (from the American Birding Association http://aba.org).  For Ohio, a total of 402 species have been reported to eBird.

Total Species (>=2%):

The total number of species recorded in eBird from January 1900 through December
of 2012 that have a Frequency of Checklists value greater than or equal to 2%.  The
eBird Frequency of Checklists represents the number of checklists reporting a species divided by the total number of checklists.  Say, for a bobolink, it is the percent of the total number of checklists that reported a bobolink.  For Ohio, the number of species reported that have a percent of checklists value of 2% or more is 230.

Best Week for Total Species:

This column is a month_wk#.  EBird splits each month into 4 weeks.  So an eBird year
is only 48 weeks.  The 1st week represents days 1-7, 2nd week is 8-14, 3rd week is  15-21, and the last week is the 22nd through the end of the month.  So the peak weak
for total number of species recorded in Ohio (from 1900-2012) is April_wk4.  But, of course, you can’t come to Ohio and realistically expect to see over 300 species of birds.  But this does give you and idea of the trend of the number of species reported over time.

Species Count for Best Week:

This is the maximum number of species recorded for any week of the year in Ohio and corresponds with the previous column for month and week.  A total of 302 species have been recorded in the 4th week of April in Ohio.  That is about 75% of all the birds recorded in eBird for Ohio.  Again, one cannot expect to see 300 species of birds if they spend a  week in Ohio during the 4th week of April.  But what can be expected? (this is why there is
more data!)

Best Week for >=2% Species:

Remember the Frequency of Checklists described before?  This is the peak time when the number of species meeting the 2% or more of checklists criteria is recorded. This is May week 1 for Ohio.  This is a much better number for a one week trip to Ohio.  Why 2%?  It is completely arbitrary.  If you are a good birder or you have local information you number could be higher.  If you birding is more limited and you do not get out as much
your numbers may be lower.  According to eBird data, your best bet for a trip to Ohio should be May week 1.

Species Count for >=2% Best Week:

This is roughly the number of species an average birder on a week-long birding trip could see.  Again, your numbers may vary but this at least gives you an idea of what to expect.  The very best part of this is that the same measure is used for all the states and provinces.  Of course, you need to think about the size of the area–birding all of Alaska or
Texas or Ontario would be right out.  The area is just too large to cover in a week.  But, this is the best measure this amateur researcher could come up with in his spare time.  Enjoy!

It is completely free for download in PDF format.  I did the research for myself and figured there may be a few other birders (like maybe 5…or 12 folks, or so) who might be interested as well.  Here it is:

2013 Impatient Birders Cheat Sheet to North America


South Texas December 2012 Day 2

On December 5 more of our group arrived.  “Our group”?  Yes.  The very first informal meeting of the 700+ Club.  It’s that crazy group of birders who have done Big Years (trying to see as many species as possible in one calendar year) and have crossed the 700-species mark for North America in a single year.  To my knowledge, that is twelve people and ten of us are gathered here in the Lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas.

And to answer the first question that must be running through your head, “Are the guys in the book, The Big Year, all here?”–the answer is “Yes, we are all here.”  Wouldn’t you just love to be a fly on the wall to listen to all the conversations and stories?  Haha.  I thought so. Continue reading

Happy New Year (belated)

Happy New Year! (this is just my way of acknowledging those of you on a linear time-space continuum thingie).  Haha!  Whaaaaat??!?  Yes.  Well.  It is also my excuse for being, oh, say, 12 days late coming into the New Year.  What can I say?

First off [getting down to business—kind of] think back through your life, year-by-year. (and yes, it’s OK to use the venerable linear timescale we call a calendar).  Can you pick a year and say, “Hey!  That was the best year of my life!”  What year was that?  Why was it so special?  What did you do (or what happened to you) that made it so grand?  How much control over that year did you have?  Were you responsible [at least in part] for the best year of your life?

Now let’s get to the second step. (See?  We are moving quickly now!  Haha!  Look out 12 days gone by!)  Now that you have picked out the best year of your life, think on this:  What would it take to make 2012 better than that year?  Uh-oh.  I can hear some of you thinking loudly here—and you are already ahead of me—you see where I am going with this!

Yesssssssssssssss!  Step 3.  Here’s what I want: For all of you to have 2012 be the new best year of your life!  It can happen.  Many of you have probably already made some New Year’s resolutions.  Have you broken any yet?  How does that make you feel?  Are you seeing new successes or does 2012 feel like any other mediocre year?  Any good plan has to have a way to measure your success along the way for you to get from point A to point B.  If you cannot measure it, you will never succeed.  Why?  How can you tell when you’ve achieved your goal if you can’t measure it along the way?  How do you know you got there?

Four paragraphs, Greg, and you haven’t even mentioned birding once yet!  Hang on to your hats friends.  You’ve gotten this far.  Besides, it’s only been since…wait…when was my last blog on birding?  Yeah.  Some time before Thanksgiving last year.  In this day and age, that might as well be the Jurassic Period.  I have not been out birding much at all since that time.  I came back from New Mexico and got sick.  Both ears clogged up so badly I had a hard time hearing human conversation.  It was bad enough that I missed a Christmas party or two just because it was so embarrassing to not hear well enough to hold a conversation without having the other person repetitively repeating the same thing over and over again. (now there’s a piece of grammar!)  Ahhaa.  Thankfully, over the last couple days I’ve seen some improvement in the hearing.

Back to our blog…how did I get so sidetracked?  What birding goals do you have for the year?  I hope they are fun ones!  Are you going to a conference you’ve never gone to but have always wondered what it was like?  Are you going birding in a new area that you are curious about?  Are you going to log your sightings (shameless plug for ebird!)?  How about something to promote birding?  Are you taking out someone new to birding?  Are you going to mentor a birder?  Are you going to introduce someone completely new to birding?  Are you going to join/support a birding or conservation club or organization this year?  How long are you going to put off doing things you’ve always wanted to do?  Maybe this is your year! (it sure should be!)

And finally, my blog-reading friends, the DVD for the movie, The Big Year, is due out on January 31, 2012.  Netflix & Redbox—you’ll have to wait for the streaming version until February 28, 2012.  You should read Laura Erickson’s fine review of the DVD, too, on the American Birding Association’s blog here.