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ABA Area Big Years In Progress: May 2016 Update

We’re about 6 weeks shy of the halfway point of 2016, and three birders are making significant efforts towards putting together an ABA Area Big Year that could topple Neil Hayward’s record of 749, set in 2013. All three birders have no doubt been buoyed by an impressive year in which a great number of ABA Area rarities have not only been discovered, but have stuck around for long periods. With migration mostly in the rear-view mirror, the stage is set for the chasing portion of the year. We’ll keep tabs on these three birders on a monthly basis.

Screen Shot 2016-05-16 at 3.37.30 PMOlaf Danielson leads the pack in mid-May, having set a blistering pace through the first five months. He currently sits at 662, the latest a Yellow Rail.

His plans put him in Minnesota this week, making the decision not to spend late spring hunting Asian vagrants in western Alaska as has been the typical Big Year strategy. Instead he’ll take the more flexible approach, maximizing his time in North Carolina, Arizona, and cleaning up spring migrants in the Lower 48, with the hopes to backload Alaska in the fall. It’s a risk for sure, as who knows what one could miss in the Aleutians following an El Niño year, but Olaf certainly has given himself a little bit of room to play with after his impressive start to the year.

You can follow Olaf at his blog, The Bad Weather Birder.

r1111921_13524267But Olaf is not the only birder making an effort this year. John Weigel, an American ex-pat living in Australia, just made his ABA Area Big Year effort public, and he sits not far behind Danielson at 641. Weigel is no stranger to a Big Year effort, as he set the record for Australia in 2014 with 770.

Weigel’s last addition to his list, Aleutian Tern, came earlier this week from Adak Island, Alaska, where he sits preparing to head to Attu for two weeks. As with Danielson, it’s a wager of a different sort. The potential for something (or somethings) extraordinary is high on the farthest of the farthest Aleutian Island, but potential logistical concerns are greater, and it pulls you out of the rest of the continent for at least two weeks. We’ll look forward to hearing what the Zugunruhe trip to Attu finds this year.

You can follow John at Birding for Devils.

11831634_10204987732635202_6117041861238778234_nAnd last, but certainly not least, Christian Hagenlocher is not seeking to break any records, but as he’s just crossed the 600 species threshold in May, he may still. According to eBird, he’s currently sitting at 606, his latest is Blue-winged Warbler. Though Christian is also on Adak Island preparing to head to Attu along with Weigel, so that total is almost certainly short a few birds.

Like Danielson and Weigel, Hagenlocher’s is also writing about his year. Unlike the others, his approach is more about meeting birders and getting their stories as much as it is about the birds he sees, though if he reaches 700 he will be the youngest to reach that plateau in a year by a significant margin.

You can read Christian’s blog at The Birding Project.

Best of luck to the three birders. We look forward to following you as the year rolls on!

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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.
Nate Swick

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  • James Muller

    The “Birding for Devils” hyperlink takes you to Olaf’s site!

    • Whoops. The copy/paste didn’t take. It’s fixed now.

  • Chris Feeney

    Mr. Weigel seems to have quite the schedule. Don’t know how you find a Little Egret when nobody else gets it and then get Bahama Mockingbird on the same day. Long way from Lake Mattamuskeet to Ft. Lauderdale. His cross-country jaunts must be epic too.

  • Chris Feeney

    Guess Mr. Weigel had the date wrong on his list according to another birder. Still, doing a Big Year requires good documentation of all the birds so as not to raise questions. Coast to coast birding with birds on both days is a bit much. Yellow-legged Gull has not yet been approved by MA.committee. Should at least be noted as provisional untll approved.

  • berjm

    Following the ABA Big Years as a spectator will be fun this year. Christian re-found the Brownfield, TX Common Crane the day i was there earlier in 2016 and seemed like a very interesting guy. Hopefully John Weigel will post more of his birds along the way as he has started to and Olaf Danielson will keep posting. The worst outcome will be secrecy followed by suspicion and a big controversy and disagreement on who actually has the record. I really think one (if not both) of these two guys will hit 750

  • Kent Teller

    Since this is not something I usually do I’m not sure where to put it so I’ll just start in. For the last several years here in northern Missouri I’ve noticed fewer wrens each year. Last year a male sang off and on till August with nobody answering him. This year it’s the middle of May and I’ve only heard one way down on the creek. Has anyone else noticed the marked decline.

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