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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!

DIY Big Year: 4 Weeks 400 Species with Alaska and Hawaii

Birders in the mist near Newport Beach, CA – photo by Greg Miller – Leica V-LUX (typ 114)

In my last post I laid out a plan to see over 400 species in 4 weeks. But it was only for the Lower 48 States. This is because it was the least expensive option to get to 400 species. Now I am going to include both Alaska and Hawaii. Ready?

Here are the results from the data.

The Working Person’s Big Year Plan: 4 Weeks 400 Species with Alaska & Hawaii

  1. Cameron County, Texas / April 22-30 / 193 new species / total 193
  2. Clallam County, Washington / May 1-7 / 103 new species / total 296
  3. Cochise County, Arizona / May 8-14 / 64 new species / total 360
  4. Kauai County, Hawaii / September 8-14 / 47 new species / total 407

Whoa! Do you remember the last post? Trips #1, #2, and #3 are EXACTLY the same! Only trip #4 has changed. It includes Kauai County, Hawaii. And how many more birds do you get by going to Hawaii instead of Louisiana? Two. Yes, 2. You didn’t read it wrongly. This list uses the same requirements as the last one. So the measures of effort and probability are the same. Or course, you have a chance to see some birds that do not even occur in the rest of North America.

So why isn’t Alaska on the list for these four weeks? Well, there are several reasons. First of all, only the most eBirded counties are included. The counties in Alaska that got included into the research were Anchorage County, Juneau County, and Kenai Peninsula County. So Nome and Gambell (both in Nome County), Attu Island and the Pribolofs (both in Aleutians West County), and Pt. Barrow (North Slope County) are not included even those these are all great places to find very unique species. Secondly, Alaska is farther north. And the further you get from the equator the less diversity of species you have. So in just four weeks the numbers are not high enough to merit being in the most efficient way to add the most species. But in the longer run, a birder HAS to go to Alaska in a Big Year. Just not one that is only 4 weeks long.

Finally, as a reminder the taxonomy used for these lists is eBird taxonomy as of mid September 2016. As I write this blog I still do not have an official ABA (American Birding Association) list for Hawaii as a newly added area for the ABA Area. That information will come later.

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