Monday, December 31, 2012

The Big Year

2013 is going to be a bit of a detour from the original intent of this blog.  We have decided to make it "A Big Year".  In the world of birders a Big Year is when you pick a geographical area and make every effort to see as many species of birds as possible within the year.  Now we are not seriously going for the records (money and time will not allow it) but just trying to ramp up our numbers of "lifers" (a species seen for the first time). The inspiration is a movie from 2011 The Big Year starring Steve Martin, Jack Black and Owen Wilson and is based on the year 1998 when three men were all doing Big Years. Sandy Komito still holds the record of 745 birds seen in North America in 1998 with 3 more accepted by state committees for a total of 748.  Rumours suggest he spent $130,000 to do it.  In 2011 Jon Vanderpoel did a Big Year and ended with 744 birds with 1 provisional. (  To give you an idea of how crazy those numbers are - our lifetime bird count starting in 1984 is only 183 species - TOTAL for North America!  We are not what could be considered avid birders!
 In Ontario the record was broken this year by Josh Vandermeulen with 344 species ( beating the record of 338 set by Glenn Coady in 1996.  The coolest thing about this competition is that it is all based on the honour system.  If you are not 100% sure of a sighting - sadly you do not count it - scouts honour!  Jerry and I have always had that mandate with our lifer list. Both of us must verify a sighting in order for it to make it into the book. There have been a few arguments and probably a few missed birds over the years.
We both have new binoculars, far better than our older ones, we will be trying to get as many pics as possible to verify lifers and we are arming ourselves with an Ipod of bird calls to help with some identifications.  We also hope to have the help of fellow birders to help with identification in the field and maybe through pics posted on the blog.  We don't think we will do any actual "chasing" of birds (reports of rare sightings and you travel quickly to the location in the hopes of still seeing the bird) unless they are quite local to us.  We will be logging more miles on the car but still hope to do it in a somewhat environmental way.
We are lucky enough to live close to some of the best birding areas and migration routes in Ontario - Hamilton, Point Pelee, Long Point, the Grand River.  In the last 6 years living out here we have seen 72 species just in our backyard so with some effort we should be able to increase our numbers substantially.  We are planning to do a few road trips this year into the States and out to B.C. so this should also help our numbers.  We plan to have a list for North America as well as a list for Ontario.  We have spent the last week downloading birding hotspots, booking for spring migration at Point Pelee, studying our bird book and getting lists ready.  Now we just need to wait for the clock....
                                                  Happy New Year - let the counting begin....