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Neil Hayward Does It!

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.

Hayward boat

The lucky crew and witness to birding history (from l to r) Nate Swick, Lynn Miller, Bruce Richardson, Kate Sutherland, Jay Lehman (who ended the year at 732 species), Captain Brian Patteson, and Neil Hayward, aboard the appropriately named Skua

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.

Great Skua, the guest of honor, off Hatteras, NC - photo by Nate Swick

Great Skua, the guest of honor, off Hatteras, NC – photo by Nate Swick

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!

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Nate Swick

Nate Swick

Editor, Social Media Manager at American Birding Association
Nate Swick is the editor of the American Birding Association Blog, social media manager for the ABA, and the host of the American Birding Podcast. He lives in Greensboro, North Carolina, with his wife, Danielle, and two young children. He is the author of Birding for the Curious and The ABA Field Guide to Birds of the Carolinas.
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