To join Greg on one of these tours visit BigYearTours.com or call 888-875-9453

In 1998, Greg zig-zagged 130,000 miles across the USA, while trying to hold down a full-time job, aspiring to reach at least 700 species of birds in one calendar year. "The Big Year," a novel by Mark Obmascik detailed his travails alongside two competitors. The book was later turned into a movie of the same title that starred Jack Black, Steve Martin and Owen Wilson!

IBG Spotlight – Where To Go in January: Santa Clara County, California

IBG Spotlight – Where To Go in January: Santa Clara County, California

Chicago Marsh, Alviso
Chicago Marsh, Alviso – photo by Greg Miller

 

IBG is my creation–Impatient Birder’s Guide. Latest data in my database is from the 299 most-eBirded counties in the United States from 2006-2016. I am highlighting Santa Clara County, California today. Why? January is the “best time to go” to Santa Clara County for the greatest number of anticipated species seen in one week by an average birder. To a local Californian who knows all the nooks and crannies in this birdie county you may end up with a substantially higher number.

Santa Clara County is a fabulous place to bird. This county lies at the south end of San Francisco Bay. In the west are coastal mountains. In the east are the large grasslands of central California. On the northern edge is the southern part of San Francisco Bay with fabulous marshes and mudflats. The birding can be pretty spectacular all year. You can look at a map here.

How many species can you expect to see in a week? Well, according to my data, 128 species. You can see some good birds in the mountains and some in the grasslands. But to me, the marshes and mudflats of the southern Bay Area are some of the finest. The shorebirding here is simply amazing. And there are tons of waterfowl, too. The sheer number of birds can be dazzling.

Some of the best places to bird in the county include: Palo Alto Baylands, Sunnyvale Baylands Park, Shoreline Park, and Los Gatos Creek County Park. There are many other great spots, too. You can check out the best eBird hotspots in the county here.

An illustrated checklist of birds can be found here. And an overview of county birding in eBird can be found here. As of the writing of this blog, 386 species have been reported in the county. A total of 269 species have been recorded in January alone. Check out this bar chart of species reported in Santa Clara County, California in January here.

If you want to visit Santa Clara County on a guided trip, why not join Wildside Nature Tours on the Big Year Tour that spends a week in the Bay Area. It’s called CALIFORNIA: Northern Mountains and Coast.

-Greg Miller

Big Year Tours Spotlight: Florida – Reddish Egret

Big Year Tours Spotlight: Florida – Reddish Egret

Reddish Egret with cool reflection at J. N. Ding Darling NWR, FL
Reddish Egret with cool reflection at J. N. Ding Darling NWR, FL – photo by Greg Miller

 

Back in 2015 I was sitting with Kevin Loughlin, owner of Wildside Nature Tours, in his house near Philadelphia. We were brainstorming about an idea I had to do a few “Big Year” style tours. Together we came up with 11 one-week tours. These 11 tours were crafted around Wildside’s busy birding festival schedule and filling in gaps where the existing Wildside schedule could afford to be stretched. I had my homemade database with eBird data so we could find the most efficient places to go birding in the time slots we had available. And this is how Wildside’s Big Year Birding Tours schedule was born.

Since January of 2016, Wildside Nature Tours has been running Big Year Tours. These tours are designed to get the highest number of *unique* species for each one-week trip so that if a birder took all 11 trips they should end up with over 500 species of birds in the United States. That’s half of all the species in North America in just 11 weeks. These tours will give a birder a little taste of what it’s like to do a Big Year but in an easier-to-handle one-week-at-a-time commitment.

The name of this particular trip is FLORIDA: Central Specialties Birding. But “Central” Florida includes Ocala National Forest in the Northern part of the State, out to Merritt Island NWR on the East Coast and south to Ft. Lauderdale, and west to Ft. Myers and up the West Coast up through Tampa, and back to Orlando. So this really covers a large portion of the State of Florida.

Florida is a wonderful place to start your year. Not only will you get many Florida specialty species, but also a large number of wintering species that spend their summers further north. You can find a list of species we saw on our inaugural tour in 2016 here: 2016 Central Florida species list.

There are still spots open on this upcoming tour. Information can be found here: FLORIDA: Central Specialties Birding.

And while you’re there, take a look at all the other cool Wildside Nature Tours Big Year Birding Tours.

I sincerely hope you have a chance to join us on these adventures for a taste of Big Year Birding!

-Greg Miller

IBG Spotlight: Cape May Warbler

IBG Spotlight: Cape May Warbler

Cape May Warbler
Cape May Warbler – digital art from photo by Greg Miller

What is IBG? It’s the Impatient Birder’s Guide. It’s my own creation from eBird data at eBird.org. The latest iteration is from data collected from 2006-2016 as of September, 2016. I have data from the 299 most eBirded counties in the United States representing all 50 States. Nearly half of all the checklists for the U.S. come from these 299 counties.

Ever want to see a certain species but didn’t know where to look? Yes, you checked the range maps for your target species. But that doesn’t tell you where the best place to go. Often the bird ranges cover very large areas. Maybe you even used eBird and looked at the little purple blocks to find areas of highest concentration. Here is a Species Map for Cape May Warbler from eBird. But you may have found quite a few blocks with the same color and intensity. Which block is best?

Ah. That’s where IBG can help. It can give you a list of the top 10 counties and weeks of the year in which a birder will have the very best probability of adding this species to their checklists. In eBird there are 4 weeks for every month (first three weeks are each 7 days and the last week of the month is the remaining days of the month). So eBird has 48 months in a year (4 weeks per month x 12 months). Each of the 299 counties has 48 weeks of data. This means that to find the best location (county) and week of the year for nearly 1,000 species, one would have to evaluate all 14,352 possibilities for each and every species. And that is what IBG represents.

A Top 10 Listing for Cape May Warbler tells you which county to visit and what week of the year is best for the best 10 places and times out of all 14,352 possibilities.

Ready? Let’s get to the point. Where and when can I find today’s target species, the Cape May Warbler? Here are the 10 best possibilities in the United States:

10. Lucas County, in Northwest Ohio from September 15-21 (see Lucas County overview in eBird)

9. Monroe County, in Southern Florida from April 15-21 (see Monroe County overview in eBird)

8. Cobb County, in Northern Georgia from May 1-7 (see Cobb County overview in eBird)

7. Lucas County, in Northwest Ohio from May 15-21 (see Lucas County overview in eBird)

6. Monroe County, in Southern Florida from May 1-7 (see Monroe County overview in eBird)

5. Marion County, Indianapolis area in Indiana from September 15-21 (see Marion County overview in eBird)

4. Clarke County, in East Central Georgia from April 22-30 (see Clarke County overview in eBird)

3. Monroe County, in Southern Florida from April 22-30 (see Monroe County overview in eBird)

2. Cobb County, in Northern Georgia from April 22-30 (see Cobb County overview in eBird)

1. Lucas County, in Northwest Ohio from May 8-14 (see Lucas County overview in eBird)

 

Where The Wood Warblers Are – 2018

Where The Wood Warblers Are – 2018

Cape May Warbler
Cape May Warbler – digital art by Greg Miller

Do you want to know where your favorite warblers are right now? Check out these links to eBird for up-to-date maps of the most recent sightings of 55 species of wood warblers for 2018!

Wood Warbler Species (click on species name to view a map):

Ovenbird
Worm-eating Warbler
Louisiana Waterthrush
Northern Waterthrush
Golden-winged Warbler
Blue-winged Warbler
Black-and-white Warbler
Prothonotary Warbler
Swainson’s Warbler
Crescent-chested Warbler
Tennessee Warbler
Orange-crowned Warbler
Colima Warbler
Lucy’s Warbler
Nashville Warbler
Virginia’s Warbler
Connecticut Warbler
Gray-crowned Yellowthroat
MacGillivray’s Warbler
Mourning Warbler
Kentucky Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
Hooded Warbler
American Redstart
Kirtland’s Warbler
Cape May Warbler
Cerulean Warbler
Northern Parula
Tropical Parula
Magnolia Warbler
Bay-breasted Warbler
Blackburnian Warbler
Yellow Warbler
Chestnut-sided Warbler
Blackpoll Warbler
Black-throated Blue Warbler
Palm Warbler
Pine Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Yellow-throated Warbler
Prairie Warbler
Grace’s Warbler
Black-throated Gray Warbler
Townsend’s Warbler
Hermit Warbler
Golden-cheeked Warbler
Black-throated Green Warbler
Fan-tailed Warbler
Rufous-capped Warbler
Golden-crowned Warbler
Canada Warbler
Wilson’s Warbler
Red-faced Warbler
Painted Redstart
Slate-throated Redstart

DIY Big Year: Breaking It Down By Strategy By Trip By Priority

DIY Big Year: Breaking It Down By Strategy By Trip By Priority

Below sea level at the Salton Sea in Southern California.
Below sea level at the Salton Sea in Southern California. – photo by Greg Miller

In the first section I discussed with you several strategies for doing a working person’s Big Year using 4 weeks (or 20 days) of vacation. The four strategies are:

  1. Four one-week trips for 400+ species without Alaska & Hawaii
  2. Four one-week trips for 400+ species with Alaska & Hawaii
  3. 10 Long Weekends without Alaska & Hawaii
  4. 10 Long Weekends with Alaska & Hawaiii

Previously I gave you the overview of each strategy and a master list of all the species by trip. And each of those was broken down into priority buckets. The priorities went generally like this:

  1. These birds can only be reasonably expected on this trip. Thou shalt not miss priority 1 birds!
  2. This trip represents your best opportunity to see these birds. You will have a chance again on one more other trips. But since this is your best shot get it now.
  3. Other trips in this strategy will give you better chances of seeing these birds. Take them when you can get them. But don’t waste extra time here on this trip.
  4. These are bonus birds. None of these are targets. These birds are possible but far less likely on your trip. But, if you were to look for them, this would be your best opportunity on this plan/strategy.

This section will be a little more aggressive for me to complete by the end of the year. Here’s what I hope to accomplish. I want to go trip-by-trip within each Big Year strategy and list all the priority 1’s and 2’s with my own personal notes to help you find these species.

I hope to have an eBook with all of these posts put together into one place. I am hoping that the eBook format will be an easy way to print off any lists you want and any other pertinent information. And I am hoping that I will be able to offer this for free from the Wildside Nature Tours website.

DIY Big Year: 10 Long Weekends Species Master List (with Alaska & Hawaii)

DIY Big Year: 10 Long Weekends Species Master List (with Alaska & Hawaii)

Here is a big list of all 553 “possible” species listed in eBird format. By possible I mean any species that has been submitted to eBird, an online database of checklists, between 2006 and 2016 as of mid September 2016. I have further filtered the data so that what is listed are all at least… Continue Reading

DIY Big Year: 10 Long Weekends Species Master List

DIY Big Year: 10 Long Weekends Species Master List

  Here is a big list of all 509 “possible” species listed in eBird format. By possible I mean any species that has been submitted to eBird, an online database of checklists, between 2006 and 2016 as of mid September 2016. I have further filtered the data so that what is listed are all at… Continue Reading

DIY Big Year: 4 Weeks 400 Species Master List (with Alaska & Hawaii)

  Here is a big list of all 443 “possible” species listed in eBird format. By possible I mean any species that has been submitted to eBird, an online database of checklists, between 2006 and 2016 as of mid September 2016. I have further filtered the data so that what is listed are all at… Continue Reading

DIY Big Year: Resources

DIY Big Year: Resources

  The Basics Binoculars The best binoculars are the ones you are going to carry with you. Everywhere if you are doing a Big Year. Maybe you don’t feel comfortable carrying a pair of high end binoculars everywhere you go. Or maybe you are just scared of carrying a priceless gem for which you have… Continue Reading

DIY Big Year: 4 Weeks 400 Species Master List

DIY Big Year: 4 Weeks 400 Species Master List

Here is a big list of all 435 “possible” species listed in eBird format. By possible I mean any species that has been submitted to eBird, an online database of checklists, between 2006 and 2016 as of mid September 2016. I have further filtered the data so that what is listed are all possible. But… Continue Reading

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