aba events
Nikon Monarch 7

    Open Mic: Reflections on a Big Year

    At the Mic: Robert Ake

    Ake, of Norfolk, Virginia, saw 731 species of birds in the ABA-Area in 2010.  He wrote about his Big Year at his blog, Bob’s Birds and Things.

    –=====–

       There’s no doubt that listing is or can become an obsessive behavior.  Getting new birds for a trip, day, year, or life is exciting; it makes the juices flow.  Doing a big year is perhaps the most obsessive of all, particularly if it’s for a large area such as the ABA region.  It comes at a cost both in money and in time.  If you choose to go all out and chase every rarity, it can consume all of your time and a large chunk of your money.  I think most people understand these consequences.

    BY AK

    Of course some birders feel anyone with enough resources can amass a big list and that no skill is really involved.   At the end of each talk I’ve given about my big year, there’s always an audible gasp when I relate the financial cost.  I’m sure those in the audience are thinking of better ways that they could have spent that money. But then we all don’t choose to spend our money and time the same way.

    On the matter of skill, very few of us are birding gurus, able to differentiate two similar species at the drop of a feather.  During a big year most of the rarities are found by others, then chased and added to the year’s list if the chase is successful.  Few birders actually find ultra-rarities during their pursuit.  And when it happens, as it did with me at Gambell when I found a Blyth’s Reed Warbler which would have been a first North American record had the Alaska committee accepted it, a group effort was involved in taking photos, haggling over details, and writing the manuscript.

    All of this listing and chasing is just plain fun.  As I said many times during my big year, “If I’m not having fun, I shouldn’t be doing it.”  I certainly do encourage taking good notes and photographs, working on bird identification skills, and teaching others good field techniques.  But in the end birding is such a broadly based activity that there’s plenty of room in it for everyone.  It’s really not necessary to force every birder into the same mold.  So let’s each of us enjoy our own compulsive behavior and allow other birders the same opportunity.

    The following two tabs change content below.
    Nate Swick

    Nate Swick

    Nate Swick is the editor of the American Birding Association Blog. A long-time member of the bird blogosphere, Nate has been writing about birds and birding at The Drinking Bird since 2007, but can also be found writing regularly at 10,000 Birds. In the non-digital world, he's an environmental educator and interpretive naturalist. Nate lives in Greensboro, North Carolina, with his wife, Danielle, and two young children, who are not yet aware that they are being groomed to be birders.
    Nate Swick

    Latest posts by Nate Swick (see all)

    Birders know well that the healthiest, most dynamic choruses contain many different voices. The birding community encompasses a wide variety of interests, talents, and convictions. All are welcome.
    If you like birding, we want to hear from you.
    Read More »

    Recent Comments

    Categories

    Authors

    Archives

    Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    • Open Mic: My First Breeding Bird Survey August 12, 2014 8:22
      When I got asked to go on my first Breeding Bird Survey with one of our areas top birders, I jumped at the opportunity! I met Katie Koch, a US Fish and Wildlife Service bird biologist at 4:45am. That was the earliest time I've been birding by 15 minutes. […]
    • What to Do When You Feel Under the Weather at Bird Camp August 6, 2014 6:47
      Imagine you are at a bird camp. Camp Chiricahua, for instance. Maybe this year. Maybe even this week. You are having lots of fun making new friends, seeing lots of cool birds, and traveling to all sorts of awesome places. But with all this activity and excitement, you start wearing yourself down. […]
    • Young Birder Blog Birding #31 August 1, 2014 5:45
      July is often a difficult month for birders, but the month has come to an end. For many birds, breeding season is long gone and preparation for fall migration have begun. […]

    Follow ABA on Twitter

    Nature Blog Network