Thursday, June 20, 2013

More 2013 Big Year Commentary

The summer solstice is almost here, and with it generally comes the much slower half of any ABA area big year effort.  I say that because of the combination of the spring migration has finished, and because most big year birders go all out during the first 6 months of the year to find as many birds as possible in the most efficient way possible.  But now we are heading into the summer doldrums when finding new species really slows down if a big year birder has gotten off to a good start.  For example, in 2010 during my lower 48 big year, by June 20th I had seen 619 different species and only added another 85 birds by year end.

I wrote in my last post about how Jay Lehman and Neil Hayward were doing in their full ABA area big year efforts thru June 1.  And while it is only another 3 weeks since then, it seems worth updating how they have progressed. In reading Neil's blog I found out about Hans de Grys, a birder from Seattle who has just completed an unusual full ABA area big year because he began it on June 13, 2012, and finished up on June 12th 2013.  He did it this way because he is a teacher and was taking a year sabbatical to bird, and to visit other outstanding teachers that he knew or had read about.

His split calendar year provided some interesting data for me via his ebird posts.  He saw 460 different species in 2012 over 6.5 months with the last recorded species for the year being a barn owl.  In 2013 his ebird list totaled 542 different species seen in 5.5 months.  In his blog ( he said that the total number of different species seen over the full 12 months added up to 647.  Between the 2 year ebird totals, you can calculate that 355 of the total species he recorded in 2013 were repeats from 2012 (460 + 542 - 647 = 355).  In comparing the summer and fall half of his year to the winter and spring half, he saw almost twice as many non duplicate bird species in 2013 which is what you would expect given that we live in the northern hemisphere where the spring migration is much more important to big year birders than the fall migration.

Turning to Jay and Neil, Jay has not posted to his blog since June 11th when he briefly reported on his trip to Adak and Attu plus one day of birding in Anchorage.  He said he was returning to Ohio on June 16th, but he has not yet updated his blog so I do not know yet how the rest of his Alaska visit turned out for him.  I do know that he picked up over 50 more birds in AK as of June 11th (and is now over 800 life birds for the ABA area), so I am going to estimate that he returned to Ohio with about 520 different species on his year list.

Neil returned from a 2nd trip to Alaska where he got to bird with Hans de Grys.  He stopped in MI to see the Kirtland's warbler, and then has continued to bird in New England, and VA and NC.  He visited Howell Woods in NC which is about 90 minutes from Chapel Hill where as expected he saw both Swainson's and KY warblers.  As of June 19th his full ABA area year total is now at 645 species seen and/or heard.  This is a very, very strong start for any full ABA area big year. It matches where John Vanderpoel was during his almost record breaking effort in 2011.  And from reading his blog, he still has not birded in CA.  He also has only done one pelagic bird trip, so there are still more relatively easy to pick up species for him to pursue.  That said, Neil is going to realize very quickly how different the second half of a big year is compared to the first half--far, far fewer new birds to see, and lots more chasing to reach a plus 700 total for the year.

As for me, I have not birded in a few weeks, but instead have been working on the logistics of visiting the Pribilofs in AK from Sept. 15th to Oct. 4th.  I am going with 3 birding friends from Ohio--Dan Sanders, Doreene Linzell and Laura Keene.  In the mean time who knows where I might head off to.  I was all set to drive down to St. Augustine. FL to look for a variegated flycatcher that ended up being a 1 day wonder because of tropical storm Andrea.  Stay tuned!

1 comment:

  1. I think Neil has a very good chance of getting to 700. All it would take is getting the rest of the code 1 and 2 birds (California and Pelegics). If he does the right pelegics he should get a couple code 3 birds. He still needs Pink-footed Goose which will surely by found this fall in the northeast. If he goes all out he may get to 725 or more.

    But Jay Lehman does not seem to have much chance of getting to 700. Maybe but he still has many common birds that are spread out now and harder to get. I think he missed the Texas fallout. So he will have to race around the next few months getting the common birds.