Thursday, August 1, 2013

Big Year 2013--the Tortoise and the Hare

It is August first and time to do another update on this year's full ABA area big year efforts.   I have decided to call it the year of the tortoise and the hare.  The tortoise is Jay Lehman because of his very slow start, and the hare is Neil Hayward because of his record pace so far.

Jay has spent the last 3 weeks in the northeast, North Carolina, Texas and California beginning to pick up the vast number of code #1 and #2 birds he still has to find for his big year.  He seems to be very focused on this task because he has not chased any of the rarities that have shown up in the lower 48 states in July, not even the 1st recorded sighting in the U.S. of a rufous-necked wood-rail.  You can read all the details on his blog which is linked to mine as is Neil's.  I just exchanged emails with Jay who told me he will soon be updating his blog, and has finished July at 580 birds for the year.  He will be birding in CA and AZ next.

Neil has continued on a torrid pace, picking up many of the remaining code #1 and #2 birds he still needed, but has also managed thru a ridiculous travel schedule to see several code #3 and #4 birds as well.  Neil's past couple of weeks reminds me of the right time/right place good fortune John Vanderpoel had during his big year in 2011. For example, Neil was in FL for a pelagic trip in hopes of getting a white-tailed tropicbird which he did not see, but a fork-tailed flycatcher was found near Orlando that he was able to see.  It disappeared the day after he saw it.  John had the same experience in seeing a fork-tailed flycatcher in FL in 2011.

Neil then flew back to CA even though he had just been there, and was able to see a lesser sand plover in San Diego before it departed the area.  He immediately went to AZ and was fortunate to find the extremely rare slate-throated redstart before bear activity closed the canyon it was in in the Huachuca Mountains near Sierra Vista.  He also had time to find a black-capped gnatcatcher.

He then went back to CA for a pelagic trip out of Half Moon Bay where he had a chance to meet Jay and Sandy Komito, and picked up 3 more year birds.  Then he had the good fortune that a little stint was found in King County that he saw also before it left.  He wrapped up July with a return to Madera Canyon in AZ to spend all day staking out some feeders to be able to see the rare berylline hummer that had just started appearing at Madera Kubo.  As a result he finished July at 696 total birds for his year.  On his blog back on July 2 he outlined his birding plans for the rest of 2013 which undoubtedly will take him well beyond the 700 level.  He is still on a pace that is just a bit ahead of the one John Vanderpoel set in 2011 when he almost eclipsed Sandy Komito's full ABA area big year record of 748.

I spoke with Bob Ake this week who had reached 684 total birds by July 31st in 2010 during his full ABA area big year.  He finished 2010 with a total of 731 birds.  Bob told me there is a man from VA relatively new to birding named Ron Furnish that he has been advising who is also doing a big year.  Bob did not think Ron was doing a blog so no one is aware of his effort.  Bob said Ron has recently passed 600 birds so far for the year.

I added the photo of the Santa Cruz Island jay and the spotted dove because these are both birds that I saw about this time during my lower 48 big year in 2010.  I know that Neil recently saw both these birds, and I assume Jay will be adding them to his list very soon as well.  Stay tuned!

1 comment:

  1. The other big year birder that you mention is Ron Furnish. He has been "blogging" his birds on Whatbird, and his most recent post is at the link below (I don't think he would mind that I share it).

    I ran into Ron when we were both looking for a Red-Necked Stint in LA County. That was bird #600 for him on July 21.