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!

Category Archives: IBG Spotlight

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

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)

 

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