Monday, December 8, 2008

End of the Bigby?

With 32 degree precipitation today on what was supposed to be the nicest day remaining this week, I think my Bigby year is over (barring a big surprise at the feeders).  I totaled 227 birds without using gasoline, 123 of them required the bike while the remaining 104 were seen around my house.  Given that I went a little over 1000 miles this year, that's a new bird every 8 miles or so.  Since I averaged about 10 miles an hour on the bike, the math gets pretty ugly quickly in terms of the ratio of time spent birding vs spent on the bike.  From a weather stand point I picked a lousy year to try this given that some parts of Berrien had record snowfall last winter and we had a top-5 all time amount of snow in November (including a single day record).  Considering that 2 years ago it was 40 degrees and snow-free on Christmas and that this year it was a white Thanksgiving, a person could certainly have 4-6 more weeks to really work at it in a year with luckier weather.  I made a total of 54 trips, therefore averaging a little less than 20 miles per trip.  The farthest I went was 66 miles to get down to the south county to pick up southern warblers.  I also made a 52 mile chase early in the year after a staked-out saw-whet owl.  On about half of the trips (22) I saw birds I would only see once, highlighted by my (long-awaited) Michigan lifer piping plover and 4 hurricane blown brown pelicans (also obviously Michigan lifers).

What could be possible?  I've totaled 246 birds this year in Berrien without focusing on year listing when not on the bike.  Therefore there were 19 that I've seen on various big days, chases, and at other random times.  Four of them (evening grosbeak, spotted towhee, northern shrike, and snow goose) were only seen when snow prohibited biking so wouldn't really be possible.  A handful of them (Thayer's gull, Iceland gull, black tern, white-rumped sandpiper, Brewer's blackbird) were found only in the extreme southern part of the county that would have required 50-60 mile trips to find.  I missed some of them by not having time to chase after them with my work schedule or not being able to attempt it until after they were gone (marbled godwit, long-billed dowitcher, worm-eating warbler).  A couple were rather inexplicable/inexcuseable that I missed them (orange-crowned warbler, lesser black-backed gull, and rusty blackbird).  For a few of the birds I just didn't have enough time in the early breeding season to get them while they were most vocal, going after easier birds cost me (virginia rail, least bittern, black-billed cuckoo).  And a couple were just simply transient birds that I saw while not on the bike and would not get another shot at (glaucous-winged gull, magnificent frigatebird, and golden eagle).  It would probably take another 500 miles to tally most of those, or to make up for some of the impossibilities with other birds that would also be possible. SO, I rather doubt I'm going to attempt this again.  A person who lived closer to the lake or specifically a great passerine spot on the lake (like Warren Dunes) would be able to attain these numbers with far less effort.  That being said, as far as I can tell from various reports on the internet, this is one of the higher numbers tallied by someone who works full time and probably the highest for this latitude away from an ocean (though an inland sea doesn't hurt).

Pics today were from the New Buffalo harbor.

1 comment:

Jerry Jourdan said...

Congratulations, Matt! Impressive numbers.