Well to start with, “The Big Year” is a wonderful book written by Mark Obmascik that was turned into a movie this year. I liked the movie and loved the book. The book and the movie are based on 3 bird watchers who all decide to see as many birds as they can in one year in North America. So that’s it. See as many birds as you can in one year and you’ve done a big year.
In any given year only a couple of individuals attempt to do a National Big Year. Not many can afford to take an entire year off and even more/most don’t have the financial resources to attempt such a feat. Another reason holding many back is the fact that few spouses would tolerate spending a year away from their significant other.
So, what can the rest of us do.
We can just choose smaller areas or shorter periods of time … we can see how many birds we can see in our favorite local park or our local county or state. Others have limited their years counting to just the lower 48 states. Some do big photography years, seeing how many different birds they can get pictures of. It’s really an open-ended pursuit … whatever makes you happy.
Why do a Big Year? It’s kind of like a New Years resolution. If you tell people about it then you are more motivated to do it. You really don’t even need to tell anyone. Just keep track of what you see each time out and see what you come up with at the end of the year.
What about me ……….. I’m going to do a Palm Beach County Photographic Big Year and like John Vanderpool (who did a Big Year last year) I’ll keep track of a lot of other stuff too.
I’ve only been seriously birding since 2006 and have never really been that much of a lister. About 2 years ago I met Sandy Komito at Green Cay Wetlands. Sandy holds the record for Big Years and I was shocked that he still keeps a day list every time he goes out.
The longer you bird the more people will ask you what’s your “Life List”. All that they want to know is the total number of birds you’ve ever seen. Many people keep many “Life Lists”. Many will have yard lists or County and State lists. I’ve heard of people who list birds they seen from their car or even birds they’ve seen while watching TV.
I never took listing very seriously because I’ve always thought that anyone can say they saw anything and no one would know if you saw them or not. I’ve birded with people who have “large” life lists who have a difficult time identifying even common birds. When I started birding seriously my goal was to KNOW what I was looking at and I’ve spent a good amount of time learning the birds. While I’m no expert, I’m fairly comfortable saying that I could re-identify almost every bird on my life list. I might struggle with some of the Pelagic Birds I’ve seen because I only saw them once but I’m equally confident that with enough pelagic trips I’ll learn these to.
I’ve figured a way that I can be comfortable with my lists … I only count the birds I’ve taken identifiable pictures of. While I do count a couple of heard only birds ie: Antillian Nighthawk and a couple of Owls I pretty much have a pic of everything I count. The fun with doing it this way is that if there ever is doubt about a seeing a bird all you have to do is break out the pictures. I also have found that I’m always trying to upgrade my pics and I’ve started making list for everywhere I bird regularly.
2012 will find me doing much more purposeful birding with the goal of breaking the Palm Beach County “Big Year “ record which is a paltry 132 by David Simpson in 2010. He doesn’t even live in the county so I’ll be trying to represent too!!!