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!

Author Archives: Greg Miller

DIY Big Year: 4 Weeks 400 Species Master List

DIY Big Year: 4 Weeks 400 Species Master List

Dawn on the Rio Grande River at Salineño, TX
Dawn on the Rio Grande River at Salineño, TX – photo by Greg Miller

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 not all species are likely. Some are far less common than others. All target species have an eBird Frequency of Checklists that is greater than or equal to 3% on at least one of the trips. Here is list of priorities I am going to use for the master list:

1 – Species is a year target. This is not only the best location to find this species. It is the only location where one can expect to see this bird on this tour schedule.

2 – Species is a year target. This is the best location to find this species. But it can also be found on other trips.

3 – Species is a year target. But some other location has a better probability of adding this bird to your year list.

4 – Bonus birds. This uncommon species is not a year target. But this is the best location on this year’s trip schedule to see this species.

 

Species April 22-30 Cameron County, TX May 1-7 Clallam County, WA May 8-14 Cochise County, AZ December 15-21 Cameron County, LA
Black-bellied Whistling-Duck 2 3
Fulvous Whistling-Duck 1
Greater White-fronted Goose 1
Snow Goose 1
Ross’s Goose 1
Brant 1
Cackling Goose 3 2
Canada Goose 1
Wood Duck 3 2
Gadwall 3 2
American Wigeon 3 2
Mallard 3 3 2
Mottled Duck 3 2
Blue-winged Teal 3 2
Cinnamon Teal 2 3
Northern Shoveler 3 3 3 2
Northern Pintail 3 2
Green-winged Teal 3 2
Canvasback 1
Redhead 3 2
Ring-necked Duck 1
Greater Scaup 2 3
Lesser Scaup 1
Harlequin Duck 1
Surf Scoter 1
White-winged Scoter 1
Black Scoter 4
Long-tailed Duck 1
Bufflehead 2 3
Common Goldeneye 1
Hooded Merganser 3 2
Common Merganser 1
Red-breasted Merganser 3 3 2
Ruddy Duck 3 3 2
Plain Chachalaca 1
Scaled Quail 1
California Quail 1
Gambel’s Quail 1
Northern Bobwhite 1
Montezuma Quail 4
Sooty Grouse 1
Wild Turkey 1
Red-throated Loon 1
Pacific Loon 1
Common Loon 2 3
Yellow-billed Loon 1
Least Grebe 1
Pied-billed Grebe 3 2
Horned Grebe 1
Red-necked Grebe 1
Eared Grebe 1
Western Grebe 1
Black-footed Albatross 1
Pink-footed Shearwater 1
Sooty Shearwater 1
Brandt’s Cormorant 1
Pelagic Cormorant 1
Neotropic Cormorant 3 2
Double-crested Cormorant 3 3 2
Anhinga 1
American White Pelican 1
Brown Pelican 3 2
American Bittern 1
Least Bittern 1
Great Blue Heron 3 3 3 2
Great Egret 3 2
Snowy Egret 3 2
Little Blue Heron 3 2
Tricolored Heron 3 2
Reddish Egret 1
Cattle Egret 2 3
Green Heron 2 3
Black-crowned Night-Heron 3 2
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron 1
White Ibis 3 2
Glossy Ibis 1
White-faced Ibis 3 3 2
Roseate Spoonbill 3 2
Black Vulture 3 2
Turkey Vulture 3 3 3 2
Osprey 2 3 3
White-tailed Kite 3 2
Golden Eagle 4
Northern Harrier 3 2
Sharp-shinned Hawk 3 2
Cooper’s Hawk 3 3 2
Bald Eagle 2 3
Harris’s Hawk 1
White-tailed Hawk 1
Gray Hawk 1
Red-shouldered Hawk 1
Broad-winged Hawk 1
Swainson’s Hawk 3 2
Zone-tailed Hawk 1
Red-tailed Hawk 3 3 2
King Rail 1
Clapper Rail 3 2
Virginia Rail 1
Sora 3 2
Common Gallinule 3 2
American Coot 3 3 2
Sandhill Crane 4
Black-necked Stilt 3 3 2
American Avocet 3 3 2
American Oystercatcher 2 3
Black Oystercatcher 1
Black-bellied Plover 3 3 2
American Golden-Plover 4
Snowy Plover 1
Wilson’s Plover 1
Semipalmated Plover 3 3 2
Piping Plover 1
Killdeer 3 3 3 2
Whimbrel 2 3 3
Long-billed Curlew 3 2
Marbled Godwit 3 3 2
Ruddy Turnstone 2 3
Stilt Sandpiper 3 2
Sanderling 3 3 2
Dunlin 3 3 2
Least Sandpiper 3 3 2
Pectoral Sandpiper 1
Semipalmated Sandpiper 1
Western Sandpiper 3 2
Short-billed Dowitcher 2 3 3
Long-billed Dowitcher 3 3 2
Wilson’s Snipe 1
American Woodcock 1
Wilson’s Phalarope 1
Red-necked Phalarope 4
Spotted Sandpiper 2 3 3 3
Solitary Sandpiper 1
Greater Yellowlegs 3 3 2
Willet 3 2
Lesser Yellowlegs 3 2
Common Murre 1
Pigeon Guillemot 1
Marbled Murrelet 1
Ancient Murrelet 4
Cassin’s Auklet 4
Rhinoceros Auklet 1
Tufted Puffin 1
Sabine’s Gull 1
Bonaparte’s Gull 3 2
Laughing Gull 2 3
Franklin’s Gull 1
Mew Gull 1
Ring-billed Gull 3 2
Western Gull 1
California Gull 1
Herring Gull 3 3 2
Thayer’s Gull 1
Glaucous-winged Gull 1
Least Tern 1
Gull-billed Tern 2 3
Caspian Tern 3 3 2
Common Tern 1
Forster’s Tern 3 2
Royal Tern 3 2
Sandwich Tern 1
Black Skimmer 2 3
Rock Pigeon 2 3 3
Band-tailed Pigeon 2 3
Eurasian Collared-Dove 2 3 3 3
Inca Dove 2 3 3
Common Ground-Dove 2 3
White-tipped Dove 1
White-winged Dove 3 2 3
Mourning Dove 3 3 3 2
Groove-billed Ani 4
Greater Roadrunner 3 2
Yellow-billed Cuckoo 1
Barn Owl 1
Western Screech-Owl 4
Eastern Screech-Owl 1
Whiskered Screech-Owl 4
Great Horned Owl 3 2
Northern Pygmy-Owl 4
Elf Owl 1
Spotted Owl 4
Short-eared Owl 4
Lesser Nighthawk 2 3
Common Nighthawk 1
Common Poorwill 1
Chuck-will’s-widow 4
Mexican Whip-poor-will 1
Chimney Swift 1
Vaux’s Swift 1
White-throated Swift 1
Magnificent Hummingbird 1
Blue-throated Hummingbird 1
Ruby-throated Hummingbird 1
Black-chinned Hummingbird 1
Anna’s Hummingbird 2 3
Broad-tailed Hummingbird 1
Rufous Hummingbird 1
Broad-billed Hummingbird 1
Buff-bellied Hummingbird 1
White-eared Hummingbird 4
Elegant Trogon 1
Ringed Kingfisher 4
Belted Kingfisher 3 3 2
Green Kingfisher 1
Acorn Woodpecker 1
Gila Woodpecker 1
Golden-fronted Woodpecker 1
Red-bellied Woodpecker 1
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker 1
Red-breasted Sapsucker 1
Ladder-backed Woodpecker 3 2
Downy Woodpecker 3 2
Hairy Woodpecker 3 3 2
Arizona Woodpecker 1
Northern Flicker 3 3 2
Pileated Woodpecker 1
Crested Caracara 3 2
American Kestrel 3 3 2
Merlin 3 2
Aplomado Falcon 1
Peregrine Falcon 3 3 2
Red-crowned Parrot 1
Green Parakeet 4
Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet 4
Olive-sided Flycatcher 3 2
Greater Pewee 1
Western Wood-Pewee 1
Eastern Wood-Pewee 1
Acadian Flycatcher 1
Least Flycatcher 1
Hammond’s Flycatcher 3 2
Gray Flycatcher 1
Dusky Flycatcher 1
Pacific-slope Flycatcher 1
Cordilleran Flycatcher 1
Buff-breasted Flycatcher 1
Black Phoebe 1
Eastern Phoebe 1
Say’s Phoebe 1
Vermilion Flycatcher 2 3
Dusky-capped Flycatcher 1
Ash-throated Flycatcher 1
Great Crested Flycatcher 1
Brown-crested Flycatcher 3 2
Great Kiskadee 1
Tropical Kingbird 1
Couch’s Kingbird 1
Cassin’s Kingbird 1
Western Kingbird 3 2
Eastern Kingbird 1
Scissor-tailed Flycatcher 1
Loggerhead Shrike 3 3 2
White-eyed Vireo 3 2
Bell’s Vireo 1
Hutton’s Vireo 3 2
Cassin’s Vireo 1
Blue-headed Vireo 3 2
Plumbeous Vireo 1
Philadelphia Vireo 1
Warbling Vireo 2 3 3
Red-eyed Vireo 1
Gray Jay 4
Green Jay 1
Steller’s Jay 2 3
Blue Jay 1
Woodhouse’s Scrub-Jay 1
Mexican Jay 1
American Crow 1
Northwestern Crow 1
Chihuahuan Raven 3 2
Common Raven 2 3
Horned Lark 3 2
Northern Rough-winged Swallow 3 2 3
Purple Martin 2 3
Tree Swallow 3 3 2
Violet-green Swallow 2 3
Bank Swallow 2 3
Barn Swallow 3 2 3
Cliff Swallow 3 2
Cave Swallow 1
Carolina Chickadee 1
Black-capped Chickadee 1
Mexican Chickadee 4
Chestnut-backed Chickadee 1
Bridled Titmouse 1
Tufted Titmouse 1
Black-crested Titmouse 1
Verdin 1
Bushtit 3 2
Red-breasted Nuthatch 2 3
White-breasted Nuthatch 1
Pygmy Nuthatch 4
Brown Creeper 2 3 3
Rock Wren 1
Canyon Wren 1
House Wren 3 3 2
Pacific Wren 1
Winter Wren 1
Sedge Wren 1
Marsh Wren 3 3 2
Carolina Wren 3 2
Bewick’s Wren 3 2
Cactus Wren 1
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 3 2
American Dipper 1
Golden-crowned Kinglet 3 2
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 3 3 2
Eastern Bluebird 1
Townsend’s Solitaire 1
Veery 1
Gray-cheeked Thrush 1
Swainson’s Thrush 2 3
Hermit Thrush 3 2
Wood Thrush 1
Clay-colored Thrush 4
American Robin 2 3 3
Varied Thrush 1
Gray Catbird 2 3
Curve-billed Thrasher 3 2
Brown Thrasher 1
Long-billed Thrasher 1
Northern Mockingbird 3 3 2
European Starling 3 3 3 2
American Pipit 3 2
Cedar Waxwing 3 2
Phainopepla 1
Olive Warbler 4
Ovenbird 1
Worm-eating Warbler 1
Northern Waterthrush 1
Golden-winged Warbler 1
Blue-winged Warbler 1
Black-and-white Warbler 1
Prothonotary Warbler 1
Swainson’s Warbler 1
Tennessee Warbler 1
Orange-crowned Warbler 3 3 2
Lucy’s Warbler 1
Nashville Warbler 1
Virginia’s Warbler 4
MacGillivray’s Warbler 1
Mourning Warbler 4
Kentucky Warbler 1
Common Yellowthroat 3 3 3 2
Hooded Warbler 1
American Redstart 1
Cape May Warbler 1
Cerulean Warbler 1
Northern Parula 1
Magnolia Warbler 1
Bay-breasted Warbler 1
Blackburnian Warbler 1
Yellow Warbler 2 3
Chestnut-sided Warbler 1
Blackpoll Warbler 1
Palm Warbler 1
Pine Warbler 1
Yellow-rumped Warbler 3 3 3 2
Grace’s Warbler 1
Black-throated Gray Warbler 3 2
Townsend’s Warbler 3 2
Hermit Warbler 1
Black-throated Green Warbler 1
Canada Warbler 1
Wilson’s Warbler 3 2 3 3
Red-faced Warbler 1
Painted Redstart 1
Yellow-breasted Chat 3 2
Botteri’s Sparrow 4
Cassin’s Sparrow 1
Le Conte’s Sparrow 1
Nelson’s Sparrow 1
Seaside Sparrow 1
Olive Sparrow 1
Chipping Sparrow 3 3 2
Clay-colored Sparrow 4
Field Sparrow 1
Black-throated Sparrow 1
Lark Sparrow 3 2
Fox Sparrow 1
Dark-eyed Junco 2 3
Yellow-eyed Junco 1
White-crowned Sparrow 2 3 3
Golden-crowned Sparrow 1
Harris’s Sparrow 1
White-throated Sparrow 1
Vesper Sparrow 1
Savannah Sparrow 3 3 2
Song Sparrow 3 3 2
Lincoln’s Sparrow 2 3 3 3
Swamp Sparrow 1
Canyon Towhee 1
Abert’s Towhee 1
Rufous-crowned Sparrow 1
Green-tailed Towhee 1
Spotted Towhee 3 2
Eastern Towhee 1
Hepatic Tanager 1
Summer Tanager 2 3
Scarlet Tanager 1
Western Tanager 3 3 2
Northern Cardinal 3 3 2
Pyrrhuloxia 1
Rose-breasted Grosbeak 1
Black-headed Grosbeak 3 2
Blue Grosbeak 2 3
Lazuli Bunting 1
Indigo Bunting 1
Painted Bunting 1
Dickcissel 1
Bobolink 4
Red-winged Blackbird 3 3 3 2
Eastern Meadowlark 3 3 2
Yellow-headed Blackbird 1
Rusty Blackbird 1
Brewer’s Blackbird 2 3
Common Grackle 1
Boat-tailed Grackle 1
Great-tailed Grackle 2 3 3
Bronzed Cowbird 1
Brown-headed Cowbird 3 3 3 2
Orchard Oriole 1
Hooded Oriole 2 3
Bullock’s Oriole 1
Altamira Oriole 1
Baltimore Oriole 1
Scott’s Oriole 1
House Finch 3 2
Purple Finch 1
Red Crossbill 1
Pine Siskin 2 3
Lesser Goldfinch 3 2
American Goldfinch 3 2
Evening Grosbeak 1
House Sparrow 2 3 3 3

DIY Big Year: Increasing Your Efficiency

Clapper Rail feeding
Clapper Rail feeding – photo by Greg Miller

If you have ever done a Big Year you will probably have experienced spending an inordinate amount of time on one species in a specific area or a particular time of year only to find out later that this same species is much easier and/or quicker to find in another area or at a different season of the year. Or maybe you have listened to your friend’s advice and gone to a place and only added a handful of new species but you saw many of the species that you have already seen. Or maybe you just went to a place because it had a good reputation as a great birding spot. But you came away less than dazzled.

These are a few of the things folks face when building a big list, whether it’s a life list or a year list. You’ve probably spent some inefficient time and maybe a pretty large sum of money and you ended up with more disappointment than you did new species for the year (or your life).

Actually executing a perfect year is nearly as impossible as winning a State lottery. You cannot control weather conditions (well, at least not yet), or traffic, or what a specific species decides to do, or not do. This is a game of probability. To be the most efficient as possible, one must put themselves in a position to maximize the probability of adding the most species of birds, in the shortest amount of time, and at the least cost. This is no small task.

I have enough experience of doing things the hard way to help keep you from making the same mistakes. The lists of places and times I have provided for you in previous posts should help you get a higher number of species in a shorter amount of time. But now it is time to fine tune our efforts.

To do a successful Big Year you are going to want a list of target species for every location you visit. You should know what species to expect before you travel. And when you are brushing up on your identification skills, you should have a list of species that you spend the most time on before you ever leave. And when you have multiple trips, you should know what species are more likely on each individual trip.

I’ll explain with a fairly common and widespread bird across much of North America—the American Avocet. I am going to reference the first 10 Long Weekend post that does not include Alaska or Hawaii. Here is that itinerary:

Working Person’s Big Year Plan: 10 Long Weekends (without AK or HI)
eBird data for American Avocet 2006-2016 as of mid September 2016

Galveston County, Texas / April 22-30 / 11%
Hidalgo County, Texas / May 1-7 / 12%
Davis County, Utah / May 8-14 / 41%
Yakima County, Washington / May 22-31 / <1%
Cochise County, Arizona / June 1-7 / 7%
Atlantic County, New Jersey / September 1-7 / 11%
Monroe County, Florida / September 8-14 / 2%
Monterey County, California / September 15-21 / 6%
Clallam County, Washington / December 1-7 / 0%
Cameron County, Louisiana / December 15-21 / 26%

You’ll notice that a birder has at least a slim chance of seeing an American Avocet on 9 of these 10 trips. Only trip #9 to Clallam County, Washington, during the first week of December has no records of American Avocet in eBird between 2006 and 2016. The first trip where American Avocet can be expected will be trip #1 to Galveston County, Texas. Your odds of randomly seeing one on that trip will be about 11% or roughly 1 out of every 9 locations you go birding. Even though 11% is above the 7% threshold I used, this first trip is not the most likely trip of the year to add this bird. This species is a year target. It is expected on trip #1. But it should get a lower priority. I will give it a target priority of 3. Why? Because the best trip to see American Avocet on this itinerary is trip #3 to Davis County, Utah during the second week of May. The chance of randomly seeing an American Avocet on that trip is a whopping 41%. It is very easy to see on this trip. So it would get a higher priority on trip #3 than on trip #1, although it is expected on both trips. So for Davis County, American Avocet will get a priority of 2. This represents the very best location to find this species on this itinerary.

Why doesn’t it get a target priority of 1? Because there is another level of complexity for that ranking. American Avocet can be expected on multiple trips. But what if you only have one shot at seeing a particular species? It can be expected on one and only one trip.

Let’s use Altamira Oriole as an example. It has only been recorded on trip #2 in Hidalgo County, Texas during the first week of May between 2006 and 2016. It have never been recorded on any of the other 9 trips on this itinerary. A birder using this itinerary of 10 trips only has one chance to see this species. It has an eBird Frequency of Checklists of about 23%. Your chances are roughly 1 in 5 from any random location with Hidalgo County during the first week of May.

Did you notice I keep mentioning random? Because that 23% Frequency of Checklists is for the entire county. If you know what habitat the Altamira Oriole prefers you chances of success are greatly enhanced! And if you can recognize it’s call, it will help you track down this beautiful bird.

In summary, you will become far more efficient if you know what birds to expect with each trip. And you will further fine tune your efficiency by giving your best effort to locations where a species can most easily be found. And the more you know about its habitat and song, well, the faster you can find your target. Put it altogether and you will be a birding machine. Ok. Maybe just a bit more efficient. But I know this will help you have more fun finding good birds.

Here is a recap of the target priorities and their definitions:

  • Priority 1 – The species is a year target and it meets the threshold number and this is the only trip on which this species is expected
  • Priority 2 – The species is a year target and it meets the threshold number. This is not the only trip on which this species is expected, but this location is the best chance you will have all year
  • Priority 3 – The species is a year target and it meets the threshold number, but this is not the best location to see this bird, nor is it the only trip on which this species can be seen

See? This Big Year stuff is sounding easier if someone already gave you a list of trips, where and when to go, and soon to be revealed: some target species.

You. Are. Going. To. Love. This.

DIY Big Year: 10 Long Weekends with Alaska and Hawaii

Lucifer Hummingbird hovering
Lucifer Hummingbird hovering – Arizona – August 2016 – photo by Greg Miller

And now we are going to do the same thing we did in the last post. Only this time we are going to throw Alaska and Hawaii into the mix. I’ll get right into it.

The Working Person’s Big Year Plan: 10 Long Weekends with Alaska and Hawaii

  1. Cameron County, Louisiana / December 15-21 / new species 149 / total 149
  2. Hidalgo County, Texas / May 1-7 / new species 76 / total 225
  3. Cochise County, Arizona / June 1-7 / new species 55 / total 280
  4. Clallam County, Washington / December 1-7 / new species 45 / total 325
  5. Kauai County, Hawaii / September 1-7 / new species 35 / total 360
  6. Flathead County, Montana / June 8-14 / new species 27 / total 387
  7. Galveston County, Texas / April 22-30 / new species 24 / total 411
  8. Monterey County, California / September 8-14 / new species 18 / total 429
  9. Albany County, Wyoming / July 15-21 / new species 15 / total 444
  10. Barnstable County, Massachusetts / August 8-14 / new species 14 / total 458

Cool. A total of 458 species? Awesome. A total of 660 species have been reported to eBird in these locations during these weeks. So with this itinerary I am hoping you are going to be able to see nearly 70% of all the species seen over the last 10 years in eBird. And only with 2 full days of birding per long weekend!

Remember, these week trips were chosen by the highest number of easy species possible by location and calendar date. I found that choosing them by highest number of species possible first will net about 10% more total species than by choosing them in calendar sequence. But in real life you are not gonna do your big year in this order. You live by calendar sequence. So here are the same trips above by date.

The Working Person’s Big Year Plan: 10 Long Weekends with Alaska and Hawaii by Date

  1. Galveston County, Texas / April 22-30 / 126 new species / total 126
  2. Hidalgo County, Texas / May 1-7 / new species 52 / total 178
  3. Cochise County, Arizona / June 1-7 / new species 62 / total 240
  4. Flathead County, Montana / June 8-14 / new species 51 / total 291
  5. Albany County, Wyoming / July 15-21 / new species 24 / total 315
  6. Barnstable County, Massachusetts / August 8-14 / new species 19 / total 334
  7. Kauai County, Hawaii / September 1-7 / new species 34 / total 368
  8. Monterey County, California / September 8-14 / new species 28 total 396
  9. Clallam County, Washington / December 1-7 / new species 34 / total 430
  10. Cameron County, Louisiana / December 15-21 / new species 28 /total 458

Notice once again that the new species totals are different between the first list and the second. That is because a bird is listed as “seen” the first time it meets the 7% criteria on the itinerary. I call it a first encounter. Some common birds will be seen on multiple trips. During a Big Year these birds found on multiple trips give a birder multiple chances. But once you see one, you don’t need another. You don’t need to see it again.

But, after this master list of trips is formed, wouldn’t it best to take a target species and assign it to the trip that has the best probability compared to all the other trips? Yes. It would be. In the next post I will deal with issues of duplication of effort and Big Year efficiency. In short, I want to make you as efficient as possible when you execute this plan.

DIY Big Year: 10 Long Weekends

Insanely beautiful drive up Hawk Mountain - 10/24/2016
Insanely beautiful drive up Hawk Mountain – 10/24/2016 – photo by Greg Miller

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

  1. Cameron County, Louisiana / December 15-21 / 149 new species / total 149
  2. Hidalgo County, Texas / May 1-7 / 76 new species / total 225
  3. Cochise County, Arizona / June 1-7 / 55 new species / total 280
  4. Clallam County, Washington / December 1-7 / 45 new species / total 325
  5. Yakima County, Washington / May 22-31 / 28 new species / total 353
  6. Galveston County, Texas / April 22-30 / 25 new species / total 378
  7. Monterey County, California / September 15-21 / 17 new species / total 395
  8. Atlantic County, New Jersey / September 1-7 / 15 new species / total 410
  9. Monroe County, Florida / September 8-14 / 12 new species / total 422
  10. 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

  1. Galveston County, Texas / April 22-30 / 126 new species / total 126
  2. Hidalgo County, Texas / May 1-7 / 52 new species / total 178
  3. Davis County, Utah / May 8-14 / 64 new species / total 242
  4. Yakima County, Washington / May 22-31 / 33 new species / total 275
  5. Cochise County, Arizona / June 1-7 / 43 new species / total 318
  6. Atlantic County, New Jersey / September 1-7 / 27 new species / total 345
  7. Monroe County, Florida / September 8-14 / 14 new species / total 359
  8. Monterey County, California / September 15-21 / 23 new species / total 382
  9. Clallam County, Washington / December 1-7 / 34 new species / total 416
  10. 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.

DIY Big Year: Best 4 Consecutive Weeks

Upland Sandpiper
Upland Sandpiper – photo by Greg Miller

In the last couple posts I wrote about plans for how to use 4 individual weeks out of a year to your best advantage. One post was for the Lower 48 States. The next one was the U.S. including Alaska and Hawaii. Today’s post addresses another possibility—the best 4 consecutive weeks. This is primarily for those who are visiting from outside the U.S. and they have 4 weeks but only want to make one trip to the U.S.

This project posed a little more thought in solving. But in hindsight I found it to be more simple than I imagined. The results are remarkably similar to the previous two plans. Here you go.

The Working Person’s Big Year Plan: The Best 4 Consecutive Weeks

  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. Worcester County, Maryland / May 15-21 / 29 new species / total 389

Well. It came as no surprise that those first 3 weeks stayed in place. But it was a fun problem to solve since the best 4 consecutive weeks was a big sliding window. And each of the 4 weeks could be to any one of the 299 counties in my database.

For trip #4, I must give a nod to my former home State of Maryland. Birders there will know what a great place to bird Worcester County is. Although the total number of species doesn’t quite reach 400, I think this is a pretty amazing block of birding time in the U.S.

In the working world where I was not too long ago, one learns to be rather adept at using their weeks of vacation time. For instance, 4 weeks of vacation time is really 20 days. If one would add two days to each weekend, you could swing 10 4-day weekends (2 days vacation plus 2-day weekend). It’s just a different way of using your time. But a day of travel to a destination and a day of travel in returning home leaves only 2 full days of birding time. That is less than half of the 5 full days of birding for a full week off.

So how many birds could one see in 10 long, 4-day weekends? Ah. That will be in the next post.

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

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… Continue Reading

DIY Big Year: 4 Weeks 400 Species

In the previous posts I laid out a process of how I answered the questions “Where should I go?” And “When should I go?” Both of these questions are in light of the limitations of time, money, and health. Besides I have really felt like the working people are sort of left hanging with few… Continue Reading

DIY Big Year: Finding Hidden Treasure In Your Data

In my last post I introduced you to some different ways to look at the data that I have collected from eBird between 2006 and 2016 as of September 2016. Here it is a year later and I’m just writing about my findings. The data collected comes from 299 Counties in the U.S. having the… Continue Reading

DIY Big Year: A Geeky Look At Data

If you know me then you know I like numbers. A lot. Actually. I love data. It can be so powerful. But it can also be misleading and confusing. In an early DIY Big Year post I told you about some eBird data that I have been wrangling with for over a year now. In… Continue Reading

DIY Big Year: Assessing Your Limits

  Last week I presented you with an idea about doing a personal Big Year. Few of us can take a year off. Few of us can spend a whole year traveling. And not all of us have the energy or motivation to make that much of doing a Big Year. I am writing this… Continue Reading

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