Monday, January 3, 2011
Joyce and I ended the year last Friday by hosting the compilation for the Little Creek CBC on New Year's Eve. On Saturday we began the new year by going to the VA Eastern Shore with Audrey to see the Mountain Bluebird, state bird #404 for me (photo). Yesterday I participated in the Nansemond River CBC for which I am the compiler. Our enthusiastic group tallied a few over 120 species and everyone thoroughly enjoyed the compilation and food at David Matson's house in Suffolk. Today seemed like a good time for a little reflection on the year past.
Am I happy with the Big Year? Overwhelmingly so! How could I not be, having passed numerical goal after goal once the original goal of 650 was reached. Everyone should understand that the birding strategy morphed through the year. In the beginning I set up an itinerary and expected to follow it religiously pocketing the rarities along the way that happened to be where I was. Little if any chasing. The reasoning? Using that approach would keep the cost at a reasonable level. That plan held for about the first half of the year. That approach brought John and me to the point in March where we had all the birds and were waiting for the migration to bring us more. It was that approach that gave us the 650 by July 1. That firm foundation gave a clear track to the chasing which came later rather than having to clean up a bunch of missed species during the last third of the year.
Finding the Blyth's Reed-Warbler at Gambell in September has to be the highlight of the year. I never imagined in my wildest dreams that a new North American record would be part of the Big Year, much less dream of being the one who found it. Others of course helped in securing the identity of the bird. But standing there in the boneyard by myself looking at this bird created an exhilaration that is difficult to match.
I also derived a great deal of pleasure and a large sense of accomplishment when I missed a bird, but came back to get it. There were quite a few of those like La Sagra's Flycatcher, Moscovy Duck, Black-capped Gnatcatcher, Brown Shrike, Himalayan Snowcock, and Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl just to name a few. After missing the Black-tailed Gull three days in California, I got it in Newfoundland, a reward I'm claiming for my earlier effort.
No Big Year is accomplished without help. There are countless people who gave me and John their time, advice, support, housing, food, and general good will throughout the year. First and foremost on my list has to be Joyce, my wife who never wavered in her support and good words from before the year began right up to that very last day. This next year is her year to decide where we will go. Well, maybe I'll still sneak off to a Cardinal's game. Chief among the commentators on my blog were Renee and Ned who kept up my spirit and offered advice when some of the going got tough. The other supporters and helpers were justly important but I won't attempt a complete list at this point. You all have my most heartfelt gratitude. I hope you know that this year would not have met the success it did without your help.
Where do I go from here? This year 2011 will be a Virginia year, more or less. I'll do the birding things I usually do like the weekly walks in the Great Dismal Swamp, the bird surveys at Back Bay NWR, and VSO and CVWO field trips. But in and around the edges I will be pulling together the details of the Big Year for inclusion in a book I'm planning to write. I'm open to any suggestions from you, best delivered via email to firstname.lastname@example.org. The blog won't go dead, but a little of the electricity will be gone.