In 2014 I undertook a Green Birding Big Year. What follows is the list of 157 species of birds that I either saw or heard without burning any fossil fuels. I only wish that I knew how many miles I walked in the process! Some of my highlights included seeing Rufous Hummingbird, Black-crowned Night-Heron, White-winged Scoter, Surf Scoter and Red-throated Loon.
American Black Duck
Great Blue Heron
Great Horned Owl
Great Crested Flycatcher
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Cape May Warbler
Black-throated Blue Warbler
Black-throated Green Warbler
Every game is governed by a set of rules to play by and Big Years are no exception. What then are the ground rules to my Dorsey's Knob All Taxa Big Year? Since nobody likes complicated rules, I'll keep these brief.
1) The goal of this game is to locate and identify 1,000 species within a single calendar year starting at midnight on January 1st 2015.
2) Only species level identifications count toward reaching the goal of 1,000. In other words, something identified only to family or genus level does not count.
3) In an All Taxa Big Year, every living thing is countable regardless of whether it is plant, animal, fungi or something microscopic.
4) The "playing field" is the 71 acre Dorsey's Knob Park. If a bird is seen flying directly above the park, it counts. On the other hand, a bird flying outside of the park, but seen from a vantage within the park does not count.
5) Animals can be counted if they are either seen, heard, photographed via game camera, identified with a bat detector or documented through some other conclusive form of evidence. Dead animals, or parts thereof, are also countable provided that they had died within the park during the calendar year.
6) Getting help with a challenging identification is allowed.
7) Non-native species are only countable if they have become naturalized. Intentionally planted ornamental trees, shrubs and flowers do not count.
8) Have fun and learn something about biodiversity!
This Gray Fox spent some time in front of my game camera late last night. Note the black tip of the tail, which distinguishes it from Red Foxes with their white tips. This is a new mammal species for my Dorsey's Knob Park inventory.
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.