This year has been exceptional for Big Year birders. Not only have two birders broken the previous ABA Area Big Year record set by Neil Hayward in 2013, but this year also marks the first in which four birders have cracked 700 in the ABA Area. By all objective standards, 2016 has been a very very big year.
In another relevant piece of news, the Florida Ornithological Records Committee has recently voted to accept as valid the Cuban Vireo discovered in Key West in April of this year and seen by all four birders. The ABA Checklist Committee will now take up the record which, depending on that decision, could be officially added to the ABA list before the end of the year.
We’ll start off with the current pole position holder John Weigel who, after a Blue-footed Booby on the Farallon Islands this week, comes in at 758. Since we last checked in, Weigel has added four species in four states: Nevada, Nebraska, Minnesota, and the booby in California. It hasn’t all been easy, however, Weigel notes on his blog that Craveri’s Murrelet eluded him on four consecutive pelagic trips out of San Diego at the end of July. With few, if any, remaining ABA Area breeding species left for him, whether or not he reaches the heretofore unthinkable total of 770 depends on how many vagrants turn up in the ABA Area this fall.
You can follow John at Birding for Devils.
After a hot start, Olaf Danielson has cooled down this summer, though he still sits at 752, also having passed Hayward’s mark after some time on St. Paul Island. Danielson broke the record with Wood Sandpiper and added a handful of other Bering Sea species, the last of which was Gray-tailed Tattler. A Big Year is a huge logistical effort and Olaf had some frustrations to that end at the ed of July, dealing with airline difficulties that led to him missing some west coast pelagics. Like Weigel, Olaf looks to be keeping a lower profile in the beginning of August, sitting tight during this period of relative calm before the rush of fall.
You can follow Olaf at his blog, The Bad Weather Birder.
We briefly mentioned Laura Keene in the last update, but she has made a significant push past 700 in the last month, currently sitting at 713 after some time in California both on and offshore. Laura reports that she hopes to pick up Himalayan Snowcock in Nevada in the coming days (in fact, by the time of publication she may have already added it). Laura becomes the second woman to pass 700 in one year, after Lynn Barber’s 723 in 2008. She looks certain to eclipse that mark and has an outside shot at cracking Hayward’s record as well.
Christian Hagenlocher also topped 700 at the end of July, with a Great Gray Owl in northwest Wyoming. This makes him the youngest ever to break 700 in one year. He is currently sitting at 710 (including Cuban Vireo and Pine Flycatcher) and looking for ways to add to that total this year in Alaska and North Carolina. As we’ve mentioned before, his Big Year is as much about his project of interviewing birders as much as it is about seeing lots of birds. He’s raising funds via GoFundMe and you can contribute to him if you’re so inclined.
You can read Christian’s blog at The Birding Project.
Best of luck to all Big Year birders. It’s been a fascinating year to watch.