Today, I begin 365 days of intense birding: In 2015, I hope to see 5,000 species of birds around the world. After celebrating this New Year in Antarctica, I will make my way up through South America, then across North America, Europe, Africa, and Asia, and end in Australia next December. If I survive, by the end of this year I’ll have birded my way through 35 countries!
The logistics of this trip have taken months to plan. Everywhere I go, I will connect with local birders who have generously agreed to host me and show me their home territories. Strategically, a worldwide big year is complex: How long do you spend in one place before it is more productive to move on? What are the target species?
To see 5,000 birds in a year (about half the birds on Earth) will require averaging 14 new species every day—or a new bird every daylight hour. On that level, my strategy is big-picture stuff: I will be birding habitats this year instead of searching for one bird at a time. One thing I like about this planetary approach is that, unlike big years on any other scale, it doesn’t reward chasing vagrants. Instead, I’ll look for birds in the places they’re most common.
Officially, to set a world record, I will have to see at least 4,342 species; a British couple, Ruth Miller and Alan Davies, saw 4,341 in 2008 (as recounted in their book, The Biggest Twitch). Even more than that, I’m looking forward to meeting some incredible people this year, reflecting on the international nature of birding today, and sharing lots of good stories along the way.
It’s sure to be a grand adventure! You can read more about the project, and follow along on my daily blog this year, on the Audubon website (bookmark this link!):
Happy New Year from Antarctica!