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We’ve been rockin’ and rollin’ with our Big Year data and how best to use up to 4 individual weeks of vacation time. But what if you looked at your time as 20 days of vacation instead of single weeks? And what if you planned to take just 2 vacation days per long weekend giving you 4 days for a long weekend birding trip? That way you would have Thursday to travel to your destination and Sunday to return home. You would have two full days of birding on Friday and Saturday. But the benefit in this is that you travel to more (10 weekends) destinations and have a potential for an overall bigger year with the same number of vacation days and doing the traditional one-week birding trips. And yes, this is going to be more expensive in airfare.
But now a birder is down to just 2 full days of birding instead of 5 full days of birding for a traditional one-week trip. Here again, eBird can help give us better probabilities for what we can expect over the accuracy of pure guess work. Remember the Frequency of Checklists number used by eBird? It was the number of positive checklists on which a certain species occurred. I used 3% for the 5-day trips and I will use 7% for the 2-day trips. It’s a little less than half of what you would expect for a full week of birding.
So without further adieu, here are the top 10 times and places to go to get the highest number of the most common species possible. As I did with the 4 full weeks, I am presenting the 10 best long weekends for the Lower 48 States, without Alaska and Hawaii. The date range is the period of time in which to do your long weekend.
The Working Person’s Big Year Plan: The 10 Best Long Weekends
- Cameron County, Louisiana / December 15-21 / 149 new species / total 149
- Hidalgo County, Texas / May 1-7 / 76 new species / total 225
- Cochise County, Arizona / June 1-7 / 55 new species / total 280
- Clallam County, Washington / December 1-7 / 45 new species / total 325
- Yakima County, Washington / May 22-31 / 28 new species / total 353
- Galveston County, Texas / April 22-30 / 25 new species / total 378
- Monterey County, California / September 15-21 / 17 new species / total 395
- Atlantic County, New Jersey / September 1-7 / 15 new species / total 410
- Monroe County, Florida / September 8-14 / 12 new species / total 422
- Davis County, Utah / May 8-14 / 12 new species / total 434
In the last few posts we were lucky enough to have the best weeks be in calendar order. But I have found that I can eek out about 10% more species by choosing the best numbers from the best weeks of the year first. Unfortunately, this is not in the order one would execute a Big Year. But if you are going to do these one-at-a-time, the the above list would make sense in terms of priority.
Now for those of you wanting to do these by date, what would the numbers look like? As you can imagine, this took a bit of effort to go back through these to recalculate one’s expected numbers. So here we go:
The Working Person’s Big Year Plan: The 10 Best Long Weekends By Date
- Galveston County, Texas / April 22-30 / 126 new species / total 126
- Hidalgo County, Texas / May 1-7 / 52 new species / total 178
- Davis County, Utah / May 8-14 / 64 new species / total 242
- Yakima County, Washington / May 22-31 / 33 new species / total 275
- Cochise County, Arizona / June 1-7 / 43 new species / total 318
- Atlantic County, New Jersey / September 1-7 / 27 new species / total 345
- Monroe County, Florida / September 8-14 / 14 new species / total 359
- Monterey County, California / September 15-21 / 23 new species / total 382
- Clallam County, Washington / December 1-7 / 34 new species / total 416
- Cameron County, Louisiana / December 15-21 / 18 new species / total 434
So now all the long weekends are ordered by date. But did you notice that the number of new species for each trip changed? Why is that so? It is because some species are fairly common and widespread. They can be encountered on multiple trips. So when the order changes, these species are listed when they are first encountered.
In a future post I will address this by using a measure of priority for your target species for each trip. This will make your efforts and efficiency work together to make you a bird listing machine. Haha. Just kidding. But truly will make you better at what to expect and what birds are the most important targets for each trip.