The last couple weeks have seen biking Big Year birder Dorian Anderson crossing the state of Texas, from the migrant rich Upper Coast to El Paso, where he bears down on southeast Arizona. So far he’s endured foul weather, flat tires, questionable food and at times uncertain lodging. But he’s also racked up 366 species of birds in just under 6,000 miles, and he’s looking to crash through the 400 mark by the end of the month in Arizona. Spirits are high, body fat is low, and he’s still got 7 months to go.
It’s probably not hard to understand why someone would want to travel around the ABA Area looking for birds for a year, it’s the sort of pipe dream any number of us have undertaken after an exceptional day in the field. It’s what drives us to follow people like John Vanderpoel and Neil Hayward and Lynn Barber as they do this thing. But maybe lost in all of it is that fact that a Big Year is a truly grueling endeavor, even when your mode of transport is plane and car. Doing the whole thing under your own power requires an extra 30 or so degrees of difficulty. And while at times Dorian has expressed on his blog that he was worried about his mental well-being as he traveled solo cross-country, it’s nothing that some excellent birding can’t fix.
Barring catastrophe in my first 12 miles tomorrow, my first 900-mile crossing of Texas will be complete. It has taken just over 2 weeks of solid riding, and it feels incredibly good to have finally made it to El Paso. This stretch has been very challenging; The terrain, geography, and weather have all been very unforgiving. My legs are certainly tired, but am I in otherwise excellent physical and mental health. Tomorrow I will head north just 40 miles to Las Cruces, NM. From there, it’s west to Arizona in the following 2-3 days. I should arrive in the Chiricahuas on May 15. The birding will really heat up at that time! I should clear 400 species after a few days in Arizona.
Dorian is using this venture to raise money for The Conservation Fund and the ABA. If you can, throw him a few dollars to help him get down the road. And good luck in Arizona, Dorian!
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