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ABA Big Year Update: Three Past the Record

The end of 2016 is only 5 weeks away and the Big Year birders are not slowing down at all. The last few weeks have seen a handful of noteworthy rarities in the ABA Area that have left the four bust as they travel around the US and Canada. The biggest news of the month is undoubtedly the promotion of Laura Keene to “record-breaker” status, as she becomes the third birder this year to pass Neil Hayward’s 2013 total of 749.

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

Since we last checked in with John Weigel at the beginning of this month, he has been on a bit of a tear. In addition to vagrant Amazon Kingfisher (TX) and Common Scoter (OR), Weigel has added McKay’s Bunting and Gray-headed Chickadee in Alaska, the latter a seriously hard bird to come by and one that necessitated two trips into the Brooks Range. John also picked up Harris’s Sparrow in Kansas, undoubtedly one of the last resident birds left for him this year. He currently sits at an incredible 774 (+2).

You can follow John at Birding for Devils.

Olaf Danielson has been busy this month as well. He also added Amazon Kingfisher and Common Scoter to his list along with Ruddy Ground-Dove (AZ) and Red-footed Booby (FL). He now finds himself at 771 (+1), still just barely behind Weigel. Danielson did, however, take a flyer earlier this month and spent a week in Hawaii, after the state was added to the ABA Area at the end of October. It is worth noting that the species Olaf saw there cannot be added to his ABA Area Big Year total for 2016, nor for any other year if my reading of the Recording Standards and Ethics rules is correct. Any Big Year attempt uses the checklist for that year. Birds seen in Hawaii cannot be retroactively applied to a Big Year total for the same reason that subspecies cannot be banked to count once they are split. But what Danielson has done is set a new standard for a USA Big Year, which is pretty notable, too.

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

Congratulations are due to Laura Keene, who becomes the third birder in 2016 to break the ABA Area Big Year record. The milestone bird was the Oregon Common Scoter, not counting the two provisional species she has banked. Since we last checked in, Laura has been mining the southeast, adding species like Florida Scrub-Jay, Bachman’s Sparrow, and Yellow Rail.  She has now reached an impressive 750 (+2).

As for Christian Hagenlocher, he’s nearing his target of 750 as well. He describes himself as being in clean-up mode as he heads out in his car towards Lousiana with stops in Arizona, Texas, and Missouri. Like the rest, Hagenlocher saw Common Scoter and Amazon Kingfisher, along with Fork-tailed Flycatcher, Ruddy Ground-Dove and Mountain Plover. With a month left to go, he seems poised to top 750 and sits now at 742 (+2).

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

And an addendum, I have not been tracking the attempt by Dutch birder Arjan Dwarshuis to break Noah Strycker’s World Big Year record, set last year. But it’s worth noting here that Arjan also topped that record this past month in Panama, with a Tody Motmot as bird number 6042. He shows no signs of stopping, and his travels northward through Central America and the Caribbean see him sitting at a stunning 6336 at the moment. Arjan is heading to the US next month to pad his already incredible list. Keep up with Arjan on twitter or at his website.

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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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