American Birding Podcast



ABA Area Big Years: June Update

We’re just about halfway through 2016 now, and the three birders we featured last time are still pushing onward towards their goal of 700, and in the case of a couple, to beat Neil Hayward’s record of 749, set in 2013. The impressive year continues as rarities continue to turn up around the ABA Area in impressive numbers this year. This is the 2nd monthly update for these three birders. If you know of anyone else doing an ABA Big Year this year, please let me know.

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(l to r) Olaf Danielson, John Weigel, and Christian Hagenlocher are all in the midst of a ABA Big Year this year.

Olaf Danielson continues to lead the way following a very strong end of May and June. He did not make the effort to go to Attu as the other birders, did, but spent his month picking up remaining ABA Area breeders, Gulf Stream specialties, and the Arizona rarities before hitting Gambell and Nome for a relatively brief trip. These peregrinations have seen him reach, as of yesterday, 738, a mere 12 species shy of Hayward’s 2013 total, and with the rest of the year to close that gap. It seems less a matter of if he breaks the record and more of when. For context, Hayward did not crack 700 until August, though his year was more back-loaded.

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

John Weigel also crossed the 700 threshold this month, with a surprisingly unremarkable Eastern Towhee in Minnesota, which suggests that he has a lot of low-hanging fruit left to close the gap with Danielson. Having nabbed 26 species in the Aleutians, Weigel picked up some Gulf Stream birds before returning to Alaska and finding an additional 18 in Gambell and Nome. His latest update sees him adding a number of northern Great Plains and boreal forest breeders in Minnesota and the Dakotas. Both Danielson and Weigel made the trip to get the likely ABA 1st Pine Flycatcher in Arizona as well as the Garganey in New York, so for a couple weeks their schedules were more or less identical. Wiegel now sits at an impressive 713, behind Danielson but ahead of the pace of both Hayward’s and John Vanderpoel’s near miss in 2009. That may not be up to the minute accurate, however, as at last account he was in Texas picking up the time-sensitive breeding birds like Black-capped Vireo and Golden-cheeked Warbler, and he may have those in the bag at time of publication.

You can follow John at Birding for Devils.

Christian Hagenlocher is making good progress on his attempt at 700, where he would be the youngest birder ever to reach that goal in one year. Following travels through Alaska and down to Arizona (for the Pine Flycatcher, of course), he sits at 670 (including the provisionals Pine Flycatcher and Cuban Vireo). Hagenlocher is currently in the northeast, having found Bicknell’s Thrush. His next step sees him spending a few days on Hog Island, Maine, offering birding workshops to the teen camp there, which makes clear that his year is about more than just racking up the birds.

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

Best of luck to the three as the year reaches its half-way point.