Friday, January 18, 2013

Big Year Coming Up

Birders are nuts. You already know that because you read this blog and/or you are a nutty birder.  Us birders can be loosely labeled as "Listers", "Birdwatchers", "Photographers", a combination, or none of the above.  For a long time, I referred to myself as a "birdwatcher" since I would go out birding but also look at other things and not obsessively chase after stuff.  I would refer to myself as a "photographer" since I usually carry the camera and try to photo document our sightings.  I would consider myself a casual "lister" since I enter my sightings into eBird and I like to keep a tally of the total number of birds that I have seen (732, by the way). 

This year, I am taking it to a whole new level - "Nut Job".  This year, I am doing a "Big Year" by taking part in the DVOC Billings Big Year contest.  To win the contest, you need to see more birds than anyone else in the contest.  You can only count birds seen in the DVOC area which is basically the Delaware Valley.  All birds must be seen in 2013.  The prize is a whopping $200, but it also gives the winner bragging rights.  I do not foresee winning the contest but I think it will be fun to see if I can stay in the ballpark with the other contestants.  To give you an idea of the challenge, the 2011 winner was Mike Fritz (super birder) with 363 species. 2012's winner has not been announced yet. 

I had a total of 245 last year which included Arizona and California.  I have a long way to go for sure but I already have 84 species in January which includes the Northern Shrike that I posted last time and the 3 Northern Lapwings which I got to see yesterday in a muddy cow pasture in Jersey. 

Northern Lapwings are rare birds that are usually found in Europe. When they do show up in the U.S. they are almost always found north of Massachusetts which makes it even rarer that they would be in Jersey.  In addition to that, finding 3 together is unheard of!  Here is a photo of the nasty cow field taken with my iPhone.  The birds are in the photo but they are waaaay in the back. 

Cow Pasture with Lapwings
Here is a terrible photo of 2 Lapwings taken with my iPhone through Marty's scope.  Thank goodness Marty from the DVOC showed up with his scope or I would not have gotten to see the birds very well.

Northern Lapwings

I could kick myself for not shooting video of Roxy and her cow friend. The cow practically sprinted over to the fence when it saw Roxy and then stuck his head through the barbed wire to sniff her. It was pretty adorable. I also didn't have my camera with me since I dashed out of work early to get there. 

Anyway, I'll be counting on some of you to help me organize my craziness this year and go after birds that I need for my Big Year List.  I'll be counting on others for encouragement. But most of all, I hope that we can all have fun with it.  I'm off in search of weird geese and winter finches this weekend. Wish me luck.
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