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Big Year December 30, 2011

Posted by indigobunting in Uncategorized.

Tim and I were in Pennsylvania over the holidays, visiting with family and friends. On Christmas Eve, the two of us took a walk in a state park with Danny, Tim’s mother’s husband. We took our binoculars. We did not see a lot of birds, but we did see one of note: an immature bald eagle.

And Danny suggested that we attempt a combined Big Year in 2012.

Here is Wikipedia’s definition of a Big Year:

A Big Year is an informal competition among birders to see who can see or hear the largest number of species of birds within a single calendar year and within a specific geographical area. A Big Year may be done within a single U.S. state, a Canadian province, within the lower 48 continental U.S. states, or within the American Birding Association area (i.e., the 49 continental U.S. states [including Alaska], Canada, and the French islands St. Pierre and Miquelon, plus adjacent waters to a distance of 200 miles from land or half the distance to a neighboring country, whichever is less; excluded by these boundaries are Bermuda, the Bahamas, Hawaii, and Greenland).

As none of us has any money or any big trips planned, Danny’s suggestion of a combined Big Year is a good one. Given our lack of time and resources, I figure the three of us will be lucky to list maybe a third of the record number (748) of species.

All of us have read Mark Obmascik’s The Big Year: A Tale of Man, Nature, and Fowl Obsession, which is completely enjoyable, at least if you have an interest in birds. Tim and I went to see the movie adaptation this fall (starring Steve Martin, Owen Wilson, and Jack Black) and loved it. It did quite poorly at the box office. I’m guessing nonbirdnerds just didn’t get it. Danny hasn’t seen the movie, and I’m hoping it will be out on DVD in time for his birthday in a couple of months.

Of course, thinking about listing birds (I have never done this, for various reasons) makes me want to head to some places I’ve never been (Arizona’s Patagonia, Cape May during spring migration, Nebraska for the crane migration, Texas) and to some I haven’t seen in a long time (Assateague/Chincoteague, Florida).

But I spent a lot of money in 2011. I may just have to be supervigilant in Vermont. Have binoculars and field guides on me at all times. Keep the feeder full. Go outside more. Start playing my Peterson CDs in the car so I can remember what warbler that is calling in the treetops.

I am going to have to force myself to study sparrows and gulls. Beyond knowing a few species of each, I am admittedly lazy.

Our Big Year starts in thirty-nine hours.



1. laurie - December 30, 2011

cool. my brothers have done this.

indigo bunting - December 31, 2011

As individuals? As a group? How did they do? Was it great fun? (I didn’t know you had serious birders in your family…although you clearly know your birds!)

2. Eulalia Benejam Cobb - January 1, 2012

You can come over and look at our birds any time…in exchange for Birding 101 lessons for me!

3. Mali - January 1, 2012

Have fun. And take your camera. I want to see some of these birds.

4. Dona - January 2, 2012

Cool. If you do end up in Cape May or Chincoteague, give me a heads up. I love both places.

indigo bunting - January 4, 2012

Will do!

5. Helen - January 2, 2012

A gigantically happy Big Year Indigo! Perhaps you can get a corporate sponsor to fund some of your travels?

indigo bunting - January 4, 2012

This sounds like a plan. Maybe a favorite producer of gin?

6. Bridgett - January 4, 2012

I don’t know if they count, being a sad little transplant, but the Eurasian Tree Sparrow is only in St. Louis, you realize. Like a house sparrow with a brown head and black earmuffs.

indigo bunting - January 4, 2012

They count! They’re here now! (I mean, I counted a house sparrow!) Cool. I wonder if I can justify a trip to St. Louis? I bet I would have glanced at that bird and thought it was a house sparrow.

Bridgett - January 5, 2012

They’re nicer than house sparrows, therefore, they haven’t taken over North America….

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