American Birding Podcast



The Rise of Greenbirding

By Scott Smithson

Scott's post is a companion piece to his article in the July 2012 issue of Birding, The Green Big Days. 


BGY 1Thirty teams from 3 countries participated in the first international Green Big Day in 2011, and detailed reports of each effort can be found at

After the event, I asked these intrepid birders about their experiences through a short survey.  I was interested to learn about what motivates birders to compete, as well as investigate any impacts the event may have on their future birding habits.

Left:  Nick Moran & Chris Mills set the new UK record (144 spp) during the Green Big Day 2011.

Survey respondents were allowed to select as many choices as applicable. The most popular reason given for participation was to reduce one’s personal carbon footprint while birding.

GBY chart 1

The first Green Big Day event succeeded in encouraging local patch birding and carpooling for trips. I was especially delighted that 10% of birders who took the survey actually discovered a new birding spot near their homes! Nearly a third set new greenbirding records for their areas.

  GBY chart 2In 2012, the 2nd annual Green Big Day event was held from April 14 – May 31, with teams submitting records from the US, Australia, UK, Canada and Sri Lanka. There were 12 teams hiking or biking this year, and 90% of returning teams beat their own scores from 2011.

Based on some of last year’s feedback, I downplayed the competitive element this time around, but that didn’t stop some fierce competition from playing out in the counties of coastal California!

GBY 2Robert Furrow birded by bike in Santa Clara County, tallying 159 species on his best of two days in the field. This would have been enough for the highest score in 2011, but Josiah Clark and Steve Phillips answered back by logging an amazing 161 species by bike in Marin County, a new California record!

Right: Josiah Clark & Andy Kleinhesselink, 2008

For inland US states, the highest biking total was tallied by Andy Kleinhesselink, with 129 species in Cache County, Utah. By the way, Andy and Josiah did a Big Green Big Year, aka “BIGBY” in 2008, and their biking birding exploits are recorded at

Alex Rinkert and I surpassed the Santa Cruz County, CA biking record by recording 150 species, and a shaky video of our efforts can be seen here:


See below for all of the Green Big Day results from 2012, including a comparison of 2011/12 scores.


  • Canberra - Peter Christian: 62/68 spp walking
  • Palerang – Martin Butterfield: 43/44 spp biking


  • Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue, Quebec – Baillie Birdathon Green Team: –/89 spp walking

 Sri Lanka

  • Colombo – Martin Butterfield: –/51 spp walking

 United Kingdom

  • East Lothian – Jim Nichols: 93/87 spp walking

United States


  • Marin – Josiah Clark & Steve Phillips: 145/161 spp biking
  • San Mateo – Mark Kudrav: 113/126 spp biking
  • Santa Barbara – Wim Van Dam & Jared Dawson: 112/123 spp biking
  • Santa Clara – Rob Furrow: 143/159 spp biking
  • Santa Cruz – Alex Rinkert & Scott Smithson: 130/150 spp biking


  • Washington – Paul Smithson: 44/57 spp walking


  • Florence – Kay & Bob Kavanaugh: 97/102 spp biking


  • Cache – Andrew Kleinhesselink: –/127 spp biking