With only about 8 weeks left on the calendar, our four birders are nearing the end of the 2016 Big Year chase, a fact no doubt appreciated by friends, family, and significant others. But in the first 10 months of this year, all four have put up some incredible numbers, and undoubtedly made a lot of wonderful memories in this once in a lifetime (or twice in the case of Sandy Komito) attempt to see as many species as possible in one year.
ABA Big Year birders (l-r) Olaf, Danielson, John Weigel, Christian Hagenlocher, Laura Keene
Since we last checked in with John Weigel, has has added four species in three states. A Ross’s Gull in Barrow was followed by Flesh-footed Shearwater and Least Storm-Petrel offshore California, and a Great Skua in Massachusetts waters from a ferry crossing to Nova Scotia. This currently puts him at an incredible 769 (+2), effectively crossing the 770 mark where he ended his Australia Big Year in 2014. With two months left is 780 possible?
You can follow John at Birding for Devils.
Olaf Danielson also had a productive October, adding three species to his total. Ross’s Gull in Alaska, Blue-footed Booby, and a Yellow-legged Gull in Newfoundland bring him to 767 (+1), 3 back of John Weigel in the full-out chasing part of the year. It will be difficult for Danielson to overtake Weigel now that birders have left the Bering Sea, most migratory birds are south of the ABA Area, and both of them will likely be chasing the same individuals across the continent. All it takes is a couple instances of luck though, or a one-day wonder and a bad airline connection, and the two could be evened up once more.
You can follow Olaf at his blog, The Bad Weather Big Year.
At the time this post is being written, Laura Keene is on her way to south Texas to look for the Amazon Kingfisher, but a remarkable 6 new species in October sees her currently at 739 (+2), and maybe 740 by the time this publishes. West coast pelagics, a couple California exotics, and Hermit Warbler made up the difference. A pure Yellow-legged Gull in Newfoundland is a safety tick to replace the one found in Massachusetts earlier this year, that is looking like it might not be accepted by the Massachusetts BRC on the suspicion of being a hybrid.
Christian Hagenlocher has been traveling with John and Laura for much of the last month, so the birds he is adding to his list are much the same as those they have seen. He sits at 737 (+2) after Least Storm-Petrel, Yellow-legged Gull, and others. Hagenlocher has posted his needs list on his blog, including the 6 remaining Code 2 species he does not yet have for the year. If you know of any, you can help him.
You can read Christian’s blog at The Birding Project.
Best of luck to all Big Year birders in the homestretch!
Join the American Birding Association at www.aba.org!