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6BY4: An Aside December 31, 2017

Posted by indigobunting in Uncategorized.

For Christmas, my stepfather-in-law, with whom I keep the annual bird lists, sent me a book about a guy who broke the big-year record a few years ago. I had sent him this book last Christmas, and now that he’s read it, it’s my turn. “Please ignore the coffee stain on the cover,” he wrote.

To do a big year, one needs time and money. The book’s author had just quit his job, and clearly, he has money. At least it would appear so in the first couple of chapters, as he flies cross-country twice before March. At February’s end, he has a species count of 294, and he hasn’t yet decided to do a big year. (His final count was 749.)

The number 294 hits me especially hard because unless I venture out into the subzero wind-chill temperatures during the next fourteen hours or something amazing shows up at my feeder, my count for this year will remain exactly half that: 147. For the whole year.

Which shows, in part, that I’m not a serious birder, no matter how people around me perceive it. I sometimes wish I was more serious, but: time and money. Even my best year—the year we hired a guide in southeastern Arizona, where the author begins his journey in January—my count was just 173.*

And that’s OK. Still, I wish I had time, and I wish I had money, and I can guarantee you that with both, I would do a lot more destination birding.


*Will I ever break 200? It would take some planning, a lot more discipline, and a reordering of priorities.



1. Mali - January 1, 2018

This made me think. What is it about birders that the number is so important? Does quantity win out over quality? Why is there a pressure to get those high numbers?

I guess it’s the equivalent of people who collect countries. I have a friend who has been to over 100 countries. I have no desire to do that. But I want to go back to a number of favourite destinations, or explore further! (Even into deepest darkest Vermont.)

indigobunting - January 1, 2018

For lots of birders, the number isn’t important. For lots, it is. For me, it’s more the experience of seeing the species! The number is reflective of more of those experiences. But it can get to the point to which a person cares more about the number than the birds. If that were true for me, my number would be way higher!

2. Dona - January 2, 2018

I don’t keep lists anymore — I used to. I am just happy when I see some of my favorites like indigo buntings or cedar waxwings. I bought a heater for my bird bath the other day and when it arrives I fully expect it to attract something other than house finches and house sparrows.

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