There’s an upcoming birding event in New Jersey modestly named by its promoters as “The World Series of Birding.” It is a Big Day big deal.
The object is to see as many bird species as possible in a designated period within a particular geographic area. Big Days — 24-hour efforts — are very common.
The competitive World Series event — on May 12 this year — covers the state of New Jersey. It involves serious planning and secret routes. The winning total last year was 212 species.
You, though, could have a Big Day in your yard that lasts, say, 60 minutes. That would be a Big Hour. Less planning would be needed.
You could do your listing in your favorite park, your county, the state, North America, or the world for a day or month or year.
Among recent well publicized Big Year efforts, an Oregon man, Noah Strycker, wrote a book about his 2015 worldwide quest, in which he saw 6,042 species of birds.
The next year a Dutch birder pushed that number to 6,833. Fame is fleeting. The Dutchman saw about 70 percent of the world’s known bird species.
Dead birds don’t count. Identification, by eye or ear, must be certain. There are no referees. Birding is an honor sport.
You can do this by foot, bicycle or car. You can do it from a chair. In that case, you’re doing a Big Sit. I’ve done Big Sits.
I did my 24-hour Big Sit at Crex Meadows in Wisconsin. It was solo. My count was 53 species. It could have been higher but I fell asleep after 10 hours.
I have done Big Days with friends in Hennepin and Carver counties and in Wisconsin’s Burnett County. We had fun.
You can specialize, counting for instance only species you’ve seen sitting on wires. (There are such lists.) Count only bird species seen while playing golf. Or on weekends.
Any iteration of Big will sharpen your awareness of birds. You will see birds you would otherwise miss. Your identification skills will grow. You might get outdoors more. You might go new places. You might want to do it again.
Minnesota has a long list of birding lists. Many birders are serious about numbers. Some counts are timed by calendar, some by life span, others by happenstance.
Records are submitted to and posted by the Minnesota Ornithologists’ Union (MOU), the state bird club. (moumn.org)
Some of our state records, as submitted to the MOU:
Annual list: 327 species, Anthony Hertzel, 1999.
Hennepin County Big Day — 150 species, Paul Budde, Doug Kieser, Mark Ochs and Howard Towle in 2008.
Big Month: 204 statewide, May 2004, Hertzel and Peder Svingen.
Minnesota life list: 410, Hertzel, Kim Eckert.
Yard list: Paul Egeland, Bloomington, 235 (in or from the yard).
Bird species photographed in Minnesota: 368, David Cahlander.
A few other lists: Bird species photographed in a yard (no flyovers) 81. Gustavus Adolphus College campus, 174. Green birding year (no petroleum fuel), 222. While cross-country skiing within 10 miles of Virginia, Minn. 67. Species to freely land on the observer, 6.
There are few competitors in that last category. It is wide open.
Read Jim Williams’ birding blog at startribune.com/wingnut.