If you felt a disturbance in the bird force at around 10:30 ET yesterday, it was probably because birding history was being made. On a boat off the coast of North Carolina’s Outer Banks, a group of birders containing one Neil Hayward spotted a Great Skua, the 749th species of bird seen by Neil in 2013. This puts him provisionally one up on Sandy Komito’s epic 1998, during which he saw 748 species.
It’s a testament to Komito that his incredible year stood for so long as the record*, but one can’t deny the excitement of knocking it off, and, in particular, that so many birders were able to follow along with Neil on his blog, Accidental Big Year.
*And technically speaking, the record isn’t Neil’s just yet. Much of it depends on the status of three first ABA records pending decisions by those state’s records committees. Also, there’s the status of Aplomado Falcon, counted by Sandy in 1998, and seen by Neil in 2013 but not included in his current total. More on comparing the two years from Greg Neise.
I was fortunate enough to be on the record-breaking boat, and I wore a GoPro headband in an attempt to document the momentous occasion. Though I missed the initial excitement in the wake of the find (technology, ugh), I managed to have the camera running on the bird’s second pass. What follows, I hope, is a bit of a window into being there in the moment.
Congratulations, Neil! And thanks for bringing so many of us along for the ride!