American Birding Podcast



Thumb Twiddling vs Continued Obsessive Bird-Hunting

One of the things that is different about doing a big year in a relatively small state such as South Dakota, as compared to doing one in Texas or in the ABA area, is that by the end of June I have already seen most of the likely birds. There are fewer different habitats to visit and fewer miles to travel to get to them.

Between now and the end of December, I suppose that if I were to be both diligent and lucky, I could add 6-10 species, or possibly a few more, to my year list. That’s something like 1-2 new birds per MONTH as compared to as many as 86 new year-birds in May! I’m having difficulty adjusting my expectations when I go out birding, and realizing that most days I will not see anything new. It’s also hard to get overly motivated to bird at the pace that I’ve been at for the first half of the year (birding all or part of 3-6 days each week), because I’m so unlikely to find something new. In fact, primarily because of my newness to the state, I mostly have difficulty figuring out where would be good places to look for the birds that I’m still missing for the year. Even if am able to keep going, the reward in terms of the number of new species seen per hour birding is going to be way lower than it has been.

I know of course that quite a few of my missing species are not even present right now in South Dakota, so I will need to wait until their return migration to expect to find them. It is tempting to sit back and take off a week, or a month, or more. But it won’t be long until shorebirds come back from the far north so I dare not get too complacent.

I also am becoming increasingly aware that if/when I do cut back on my birding because it seems so pointless, I may suffer withdrawal symptoms.

All of the above thoughts, however, are based on the theory that one only does a big year for THE LIST. I realize as I contemplate what to do now that one of the great things about having birded like mad for 6 months and having another 6 months left in the year, is that I should actually have time to “just go birding”, to step back at least a little from the frantic pace. I can spend more time enjoying the birds and the birding experience. And, unlike during the chasing throes of the first six months, I may actually be able to take some time to participate in other non-birding activities and maybe even get a little sleep.

But first, I need to go out and do three Breeding Bird Surveys before the month is out. A birder’s work is never done. Thank goodness!