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ABA Area Big Year Update: September, and Everyone Goes to Alaska

For a Big Year birder, 9 months in means that most all of the regularly occurring ABA Area breeding birds have been tallied. September is the beginning of rarity season, which means that any birder with the hopes of a sizeable Big Year list needs to put themselves in position to sweep up as many vagrants as possible. And that means Alaska, and in particular two places in Alaska – Gambell on St. Lawrence Island and St. Paul Island in the Pribilofs. So it’s no surprise that our Big Year birders are all taking Johnny Horton‘s advice and heading North.

ABA Big Year birders (l-r) Olaf, Danielson, John Weigel, Christian Hagenlocher, Laura Keene

ABA Big Year birders (l-r) Olaf Danielson, John Weigel, Christian Hagenlocher, Laura Keene

John Weigel still continues to lead the foursome, though he has yet to strike gold in Alaska despite camping out on Gambell for a week now. He sits at 758 (+2), having not added a new bird to his list since late last month and only two since our last check-in, a Berylline Hummingbird in Arizona and a Craveri’s Murrelet from a Debbie Shearwater pelagic out of Half Moon Bay, California. The only notable Asian strays on Gambell so far this fall have been a pair of Siberian Accentors, but those happen to be a bird that Weigel chased, and ticked, in British Columbia very early on in the year. Fingers crossed for a more substantial fallout of Old World birds in the coming weeks. Weigel will be spending the immediate future in St. Paul.

You can follow John at Birding for Devils.

Weigel’s sluggish August has allowed Olaf Danielson to pull ever closer, including Berylline Hummingbird in Arizona and Flesh-footed Shearwater in California, plus a St. Paul sojourn netted him 3 more, Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, Marsh Sandpiper, and Siberian Rubythroat. The total puts him at 757 (+1), with potentially more in Alaska in store as he also heads to St. Paul.

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

While adding additional birds to an already stuffed list is getting harder for Weigel and Danielson, our other two Big Year birders have been enjoying cleaning up various rarities in bunches. Laura Keene is the 3rd Big Year birder to find herself on the way to St. Paul this week, having just left Gambell and Nome. Her most recent additions include Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, Red-throated Pipit and Common Ringed Plover on Gambell. Those species plus an Arctic Loon in Nome sees her rise to 727 (+2), an increase of 16 birds since we last checked in!

Christian Hagenlocher augmented his August with a late summer trip to the Gulf Stream in North Carolina which nabbed him the typical fare. He’s now camped out on Gambell for as long as he can manage. His latest, a Steller’s Eider, raises him to 725 (+2).

Who knows what else is in store for our Big Year birders this fall. But with everyone hanging out in the Bering Sea this month, it seems like they will be adding birds more or less together for the foreseeable future.

UPDATE: In the interim between writing this post and publishing it, Olaf, John, and Laura all saw Jack Snipe on St. Paul, increasing all totals noted in this post by one.

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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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