Like many birders, I always look forward to the dropping of the ball at Times Square. Not only does it represent the flipping of the calendar year, but in the birding world, it is also the great equalizer. At the stroke of midnight, every birder's list of birds seen during the current year rolls back to zero. It is a new beginning. Like New Year's resolutions, many birders set birding goals for the upcoming year. In 2013, my birding goal was to submit over a thousand complete bird observation lists to eBird, which I did. And in 2014, I focused on local birding by pursuing a BIGBY, which is an acronym for Big Green Big Year. Unlike the conventional Big Year that involves seeing or hearing as many species of birds as possible within a defined geographic area, a birder doing a BIGBY can only count birds that are seen or heard without having to burn any fossil fuels. Basically, it means that you have to be prepared to do a lot of walking and biking. Although four days still remain in 2014, I will likely end the year at my current 149 species.
Lately I have been contemplating my birding goal for 2015. After much consideration, I have actually decided not to pursue a particular birding goal during the new year. Instead, I will be doing an All Taxa Big Year, or ATBY! In essence, an ATBY is a Big Year challenge that involves locating and identifying as many flora, fauna and fungus species as possible regardless of taxonomy. Everything counts from birds to trees to snakes to even single-celled organisms. The geographic area for my ATBY is the 71 acre Dorsey's Knob Park where I both work and live.
Aside from the temporal and geographic limitations of my All Taxa Big Year, there is another very real limiting factor against which I must contend. It is the limit of my own personal knowledge of natural history. Although I feel very comfortable in locating and identifying birds, moths, trees and most mammals, I admittedly know very little about fungi, most orders of insects, almost all arthropods, lichens, mosses and a whole host of other life forms. Doing this Big Year is guaranteed to be a learning experience. And really, that's what this is all about. By the end of 2015, I hope to be much more knowledgeable of the biodiversity and ecology of this part of the world that I call home.