When Dorian Anderson undertook his biking Big Year taking him across the ABA Area in search of as many birds as possible seen entirely under his own power, the thought of reaching the Pacific Ocean must have registered as something of a dream. It’s not like his route has been a straight shot. In the midst of the coldest winter in years, he took off from Massachusetts, traveling south to Florida before turning west across the southeast towards southeast Arizona, and then north through the Rockies before finally finding the sea in Washington.
The year is 3/4 of the way through and he’s traveled over 11,000 miles, seen more than 540 species of birds (currently 543 at the time of writing), and raised over $25,000 for bird conservation through the American Birding Association and The Conservation Fund. If he ended today, it would be a successful year. But he’s still got three months to go, the entire state of California to traverse, south Texas to pilfer, and 600 species looking ever more likely.
Dorian’s blog, which he admirably keeps updated despite the exhausting nature of his quest, is a fascinating take on the Big Year experience. Not only does Dorian need to maximize the number of species he sees, he needs to weigh every possible chase against the limits of the calender, his limits of his mode of transportation (most of the time, he gets one shot at a given bird), and the limits of his own body as he attempts the grueling marathon.
Sometimes it doesn’t pay off, and sometimes it does big time, as it recently did in Oregon:
Watching the abundant murres flying over the beach was really nice, and I did find a few other notable birds today. I had 2 Harlequin ducks on the rocks as the tide fell. These were followed soon thereafter by my first Black Oystercatcher of the year for bird #542. All had not been lost as I was able to add this really attractive west coast resident to my tally. It was now close to 8pm. My legs were completely exhausted at this stage, and my arms were also aching from the ride and the seemingly hundreds of scans through the constantly swirling murres. Wait….what was hell was that? What appeared to be an all dark alcid just made a sundown pass of the rock. As it turned wheeled into profile, my suspicion was confirmed. The huge beak gave away this Tufted Puffin unsuccessfully attempting to reach the rock without my detection! The bird was at least 100 yards out, but it made another 2 large loops before it ducked onto the back side of the rock not to surface again. Thinking quickly, I flipped the camera into manual mode cracked off a few shots as the bird disappeared behind the rock for good.
The month of September in California, maybe the best place in the ABA Area to spend fall, should be exciting. Be sure to keep up with Dorian’s exploits at Biking for Birds, and toss in a few bucks for bird conservation while you’re at it. I know he would appreciate it.
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