John Weigel’s blog about his Big Year adventure is long but lively. Find it at 


Lively also is Olaf Danielson’s blog ( He says he holds the world record for bird species seen while naked. His count for that novelty in 2013 was 594. He would not be hard to recognize, wearing only binoculars and perhaps shoes. He also is the author of a book the title of which employs several words found in bird names: “One Man’s Perspective: Boobies, Peckers, and Tits.” 




Weigel, who was cold and unhappy in his multiple visits to Duluth, seeking the Ivory Gull, wrote in his blog about Minnesotans: “The landscape and people are truly not far removed from the characterizations of ‘Fargo,’ the movie, which was shot in the region, and meant to depict it. Most folks seem almost over-the-top nice, (and) sure enough do say “Shuuuuure,”, “ohhh yeah,” and “youbetcha” in at least a third of their sentences.” Freezing cold was the least we could offer in return.




Seven-hundred is a magic birding number. A life list of 700 North American species separates girls from women and men from boys. That many birds in a lifetime of birding is a mark of pride. That many birds in one year is a mark of honor and endurance.


Big Year birders are looking for as many as possible of the 914 bird species officially recognized as having been seen in North America. That includes 716+ species that regularly breed here. 


It’s the non-breeding species, 198 at latest count, that these folks covet. Those birds come once a year or once in 10 years or once in a lifetime. They stay hours or months. Buy a ticket, spin the wheel.


Non-breeders — visitors, strays, wanderers — must occur “naturally,” meaning they got here by themselves: no cage-bird releases, no birds that rode ships to our shores. 


Birds never before seen in North America, reported on a Big Year, count if accepted by state and national records committees. Review and confirmation of sightings can take months, — and shorten fingernails.




There is another Big Year birder, although less intense than the others. He is Christian Hagenlocher, a high school biology teacher in Ohio. On his web site — — he says he is not chasing the record. His goal is 700 species, and interviews with as many birders as possible. He says he is focused on understanding the evolving role technology plays in birding. That’s a pretty big project nowadays. Hagenlocher saw 704 bird species in 2010, birding the 48 contiguous states. That was a new record.





Updates on the current Big Year birders is hard to come by at the moment. They are on St. Lawrence Island, two hours off the coast of Nome (small plane) in the Bering Sea. Internet service varies from slow to zip.