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A Big Year for a Big State

December 18, 2007

I’ve been inspired. Tales of 10000birds‘ Corey and his quest for 300 birds in NY, of the same site’s Charlie and his round the globe birding of 2008 have got me thinking. What if I tried the same thing? Not in New York of course and certainly not globe-hopping, but in my adopted home state of North Carolina. A Big Year, an attempt to crack the state record for birds seen in one year. Take a look below. Looks possible, doesn’t it? We’ve got mountains out west where boreal finches and grouse sneak down south. We’ve got that looooong coast line on the east with tons of opportunities for shorebirds, pelagics, and ducks. Not to mention those special southeast Pine Barrens birds.

From Murphy to Manteo, that’s what folks say around here when they refer to the breadth of the state. And I’m right in the middle, no more than a four hour drive from furthest points west and a shade further to Cape Hatteras, the furthest point east. It could be done right? Could I do it?

The current Big Year record for North Carolina was set in 2005 by erstwhile rarity chaser Ricky Davis. He destroyed the previous record with a rather remarkable 348. He was helped along the way by a crazy good year for vagrants in the state, particularly an influx of western flycatchers. Plus he’s a member of the state rarity committee so he was privy to all the reports coming from far flung areas. In his own words though, there were at least 17 rarities in the state that year that he was not able to get, so 350 or even 360 is a possibility. Crazy to think about.

Do I have a shot at 348? Well, obviously a lot of things would have to go in my favor. The birds for starters, time for another, money for thirds. But I suppose on the outside realm of possibility lies 350 for North Carolina. Someone will likely get it at some point, will it be me?

There’s an x-factor too. My wife, though she only rarely rolls her eyes when I start talking about birding, may not take entirely kindly to the undertaking. When I breached the possibility of a NC Big Year to her she gave me the Are you serious? look that so many of us with non-birding partners are only too familiar with. She puts up with alot, and at least accepts my eccentricities. To whit, at a recent office holiday party she was privy to a boorish lady going on and on about her book club reading The Big Year and wondering how on earth people could actually be birdwatchers. My wife kindly bit her tongue (when this story was recounted to me I followed with, “you know dear, speaking of Big Years…).

So I don’t know if I have the means to take a real crack at 348, the Everest of NC birding perhaps. But I bet I could beat 320, and that would be a worthy accomplishment putting me in the top five and wouldn’t require much more serious birding that I do now, just smarter birding to take advantages of the areas where birds are present at any given time. After spring migration I can reweigh the circumstances, see where I am, and decide whether I should go on as seriously as before. At the very least the attempt will be an opportunity to see this state in a way I haven’t done yet. My first real Big Year haul will be the NWRs out east on MLK weekend if I can swing it. It will likely put me well over 100 before the end of the month, which is just under a third of the way home.

From there it’s Murphy to Manteo for me.

  1. John permalink
    December 18, 2007 10:34 am

    Good luck.

  2. Corey permalink
    December 18, 2007 11:24 pm

    Go for it! And, if I might make a suggestion, convince your wifr to enroll in law school. She will be so busy studying that she won’t notice you’re out birding. It sounds crazy, but it has worked for me this year.

  3. December 19, 2007 7:58 am


    I know, I should have done this last year when she was working on her dissertation. Missed opportunities. : )

  4. Greg permalink
    December 19, 2007 8:19 pm

    I’m thinking you didn’t miss many opportunities this year! Let’s see…… south Texas, the Florida keys, NC pelagics, Michigan, Costa Rica…, just how many species have you seen this year?

  5. December 19, 2007 8:22 pm

    Florida Keys was in 06, and most of those weren’t in NC. This is just in the state I’m planning.

  6. Charlie permalink
    December 21, 2007 3:59 pm

    If you get the chance you should go for it – best way to ever cure yourself of wanting to do another for at least 15 years!!
    Good luck and happy holidays

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