The Big Year is finished. Soon I’ll slip back into relative anonymity. But while I still have your attention, I would like to reflect on this very special year. It’s been one huge wild, crazy ride. Day one provided a hint of how special this year would be when at 4:15 PM, a Black-headed Gull graced us with a defining look as it descended onto Carter Reservoir. Of course I’ve enjoyed the satisfaction of successfully planning and strategizing the year and Its been lots of fun to execute the plan, but that all pales in comparison with the adventures I’ve had and the people I’ve met along this year-long journey.
So many images are now vividly etched in my mind.
Watching and listening in utter amazement as Davis and my two brothers stood outside the car on a lonely, snowy road in Northern Minnesota howling at the top of their lungs in an effort to call in wolves.
The sense of accomplishment I felt when after three hours of searching I re-found the Fork-tailed Flycatcher in Ft. Lauderdale and then called in local birders so they could also see this rarity.
The personal triumph I felt after the twelve-mile climb to the top of Boot Canyon then photographing the Colima Warbler.
The mixture of excitement and apprehension while driving the road to French Joe Canyon where no Subaru dares go -by myself, not a soul within miles and finding two Black-chinned Sparrows.
Having Linda by my side when the mystical John Drury pointed up to announce the arrival of the Red-billed Tropicbird at Seal Island in Maine.
Alaska provided a rollercoaster of emotions. The thrill of racing over the stones of Gambell at 40 MPH to overtake a fleeing Ivory Gull, all the time screaming “Let’s get him, Baby!”. Five days later I was utterly frustrated by the cold Northeast winds from the Bering Sea. On St. Paul I sensed that we would soon be part of something special during the fallout. The humble feeling of privilege while watching two hundred Ross’s Gulls feed in the surf at the top of the world. The sense of despair of being stuck on Adak, which was lifted when the morning sunlight filtered over the snow packed mountains providing a picture reminiscent of the photographer John Fielder
My senses came alive in 2011. Truthfully every new year-bird I saw brought excitement throughout the Big Year. When was the last time I’d been stoked by finding a Steller’s Jay? On Jan. 26th in Hurafano County, CO I clutched my fists in triumph and said to myself “Yes…got you.” The gnawing feeling in my stomach when I’d missed the Curlew Sandpiper by minutes, then the joy of a phone call from Barbara Carlson two hours later letting me know it had returned. There are 100’s of examples like this.
I’ve met so many interesting people along the way, some, that will hopefully remain friends for a lifetime.
Meeting “the Musketeers “ on Brian Patteson’s boat, which culminated in the all night run to Cony Island. The visually intoxicating blend of New York City -Puerto Rican woman, shirtless old guys, Nathan’s Famous Hotdog Stand and the Gray-hooded Gull- will remain with me forever. Only in the Big Apple.
Laughing while listening to Todd McGrath recount his strategy for quieting poor Curtis Marantz on pelagic trips..
I’ve enjoyed talking with and listening to the stories of the “Heavy Hitters”.
Birding with Rock Dove Tours….”Half the price…..but half the birds”
I’ve had the privilege of birding with some of the best in the world. How often does one have Guy McCaskie present his telescope for me to look at my life Curlew Sandpiper?
All four of my brothers participated in one adventure or another. It was a treat to actually tick a Big-Year bird with both my Uncle Bob and my son Scott.
The blog has been an unexpected bonus. I’m truly humbled by the relationship that developed with all of you blog readers. As the year progressed, I slowly came to realize that this was no longer just about me. It had metamorphosed into a group thing. You blog readers lifted my spirits when I was down and inspired me to fight through my disappointments and failures. I wish to say one last time thank you for tuning in.
Thank You and Acknowledgments
(I’m sure I’ll forget some of you that deserve thanks but here’s a big thank you)
First and most of all, thank you Linda for allowing me to live my dream for an entire year. I owe you for this one.
Thanks to Scott for believing in me and keeping his mom calm!
Thanks to Bill Vanderpoel who was a companion on almost twenty of my trips. (Plus he found the Eurasian Bullfinch on St. Paul). Bill ended up with a year-list of 588 species himself.
Thanks to my brothers Tom, Jim and Mark for sharing some of my adventures with me.
Thanks to Jon Dunn for his wise consul (except in the matters of politics) and for keeping my list “squeaky clean”.
Thanks to Paul Lehman for sharing his knowledge of distribution and vagrancy patterns with me. It was of great value in the decisions I made.
Thanks to Mary Gustafson for continually updating me on Texas rarities, for showing me the Hook-billed Kite and suggesting the June strategy.
Thanks to Larry Manfredi for all the help in Florida. It was a pleasure birding with you and discussing strategies via the phone.
Thanks to Susan Billetdeaux of NARBA. You were always so helpful and quick to respond.
Thanks to Doug Goshfeld, Stuart Healy and Derrick Lovitch.
Thanks to Bill Kaempfer and Peter Gent for sharing their ideas with me along the way and for joinging me on trips.
Thanks to Gary Matthews for joining me on the Northern California trip and the quest for the Himalaya Snowcock in Nevada.
Thanks to Todd Deininger for the frequent updates on rarities.
Thanks to Charles Melton for helping me see the Plain-capped Starthroat
Thanks to Doug Koch, Ken Petersen, Liz Southworth and Chris Hitt for joining me on multiple adventures and chase trips. It was a whole lot of fun.
Thanks to Don Desjardin for all his help in Southern California. Don we still need to try for that Giant Kangaroo Rat.
Thanks to John Puschock for the timely updates on rarities.
Thanks to Rick Dorazil, Gene Wilson. Tom Wilberding and all the rest of you that made a contribution to Citizens For Conservation on my behalf.
Thanks to Colleen and Stephen Hook of McAllen, TX for opening your home to me.
Thanks to Carolyn Ohl for opening her wildlife preserve for me in the Christmas Mountains.
Thanks to Susan Foster for arranging to take me into Lala Ranch.
Thanks to Judith and Whitekeys, Aleta Pillick and Isaac & Crystal Helmericks for your kind hospitality and helpfulness. Isaac congratulations on your first North American Record –Asian Rosy-Finch. Why couldn’t you have found the darn bird while I was there?
Thanks to the Canadian contingency – Dave Brown, Ann Nightingale, Rick Schortinghuis, David Currie, Leah den Besten & Ron Pittaway and Jean Iron . It was delightful to share all your company.
Thanks to Ron Martin for the hospitality and birding support.