For the past week I have been
trying to recover from the previous year.
Late in 2013 I set a goal for myself to observe 400 species of birds in
Arizona during the 2014 calendar year.
My goal was personal, could I do it?
I believed this would be a good incentive for me to explore and learn
about new birding locations around the state.
I knew that I had no planned trips outside of Arizona except for a week
in Colorado. And most important, my
wonderful wife agreed that this was the year to go for it! I was not competing
with anyone and I was not trying to set a new record. I learned of the previous record only a day
or two before starting while discussing my plans with another birder that
happened to be the previous record holder.
I believe he said something to the affect that it was time for a new
record. A new record has been set.
Though I did not advertise that
I was doing a big year, I did not hide it either. From the onset three other birders knew I was
making my attempt. Early on, several folks noticed my eBird total for the year
skyrocketing and asked. As the year progressed I felt that it was kind of
common knowledge among the state’s birding community. I was however surprised to find that I was mentioned
and congratulated in a posting to the ABA Facebook page.
I was out birding 305 days in
2014. Eighty-nine of those days were
dedicated to Big Year Birding. Most of
the remaining days I was birding for another purpose, guiding, scouting, or
volunteering and I saw many of the year birds in this way. For guiding &
volunteering activities I put 14400 miles on my truck and 12150 miles
specifically dedicated to the Big Year.
Data from eBird indicates that 444 species of birds were recorded in
Arizona during 2014. Of those, ten (10) are not countable by ABA standards and
I did not see any of them. That leaves twenty-one (21) species I did not see
during the year. I made attempts but
failed to see five of the 21; Slate-throated Redstart, California Quail, Common
Grackle, Lapland Longspur, and Least Flycatcher. For various reasons, I chose not to chase or
could not chase the remaining sixteen (16) birds that I did not see. [The Sharp-tailed Sandpiper stands out amongst
this crowd; the report that it was no longer present arrived the day before I
freed up and had planned to go.]
Interesting side note: The
California Condor at the beginning of the year was not countable by ABA
Standards. Before the end of the year
the committee that determines such things, voted such that the California
Condor is now countable. Their decisions
led to a trip to the Grand Canyon where not only did I see the Condor, I also
saw a Pine Grosbeak.
Another side note: I anticipated
that the AOU Checklist Committee would vote to split the Curve-billed
Thrasher. I saw and photographed both
forms of Curve-billed Thrashers during the year. The split didn’t happen.
No one single species stands out
above the others as the best bird of the year.
I saw seventeen new state birds during the year:
W County 9th St
Nos Pos Wash
Havasu City--N Pittsburgh Pt
Sinaloa Wren, Tubac (2013-2014)
Canyon NP--Bright Angel Lodge
Canyon NP--Yavapai Point
And I saw 370 new country birds: Apache 49, Cochise 15, Coconino 22, Gila 35,
La Paz 35, Maricopa 65, Mohave 40, Navajo 4, Pima 11, Pinal 26, Santa Cruz 8,
Yavapai 37, Yuma 23, [did not visit Graham & Greenlee].
I was asked the other day, “What’s
next?”. My quick response was “a year of Zen birding”. I really haven’t decided
what that means yet; I guess I’ll let that philosophy gel in my mindfulness for
a while. I do want to learn bird distribution
in Pima County better. Since becoming
the Pima County eBird editor, I have learned how much more there is to learn
about Pima County birds and birders.
I now declare my 2014 Arizona
Big Year complete. While the birding
ended on December 31, I felt that I needed to tie up some loose ends before
declaring that I’m done. I have a few
other loose threads to pull on, like determining how many species I
photographed and cataloging all the year’s photographs. I'll take care of those if I feel like it and have the time. It’s been a blast and now it’s time to move
The hat that has been with me all year has been hung in (semi) retirement.