Day 365

I suppose it was meant to end this way.  One last chase accompanied by my brother Bill.  Bill was with me on the first chase of the year and now was along my side here in Arizona for the last chase.

John & Bill Vanderpoel at the Bill Williams Delta (Photo by John Lelay)

We arrived at Planet Ranch Road in the Bill Williams Delta just after 8:00 AM. A birder from Ontario, John Lemay, was already on the scene We heard the Nutting’s Flycatcher as soon as we reached the three Sagurao cactus, but it took another hour to properly see and photograph it.

Nutting's Flycatcher (Photo by John Vanderpoel)

And I certainly wanted a decent photo of my last year bird of 2011.  Number 744 for the year.  Coincidently my last bird of the year was Sandy Komito’s first bird of his 1998 Big Year.

So this evening and tomorrow will be relaxation time.  I do plan to post a “final” blog on Monday, Jan.2.

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50 Responses to Day 365

  1. Gary Matthews says:

    Congrats John. What an exciting time. Thanks for sharing it with us so eloquently.

  2. Vincent Lucas says:

    Awesome accomplishment John. Congratulations on a job well done!

  3. Jim McCarty says:

    John: Following your adventures was the highlight of the year for me. What a great ride! I’m proud to be your friend. Jim

  4. I’m glad you got the flycatcher! Congratulations on a fantastic year of birding. It’s been a pleasure following your blog. Thanks for sharing it with everyone. I’ve learned a lot about finding birds in the U.S.

  5. Mike Kilburn says:

    Delighted to hear you nailed the flycatcher on day 365 for a wonderful final score.

    Thank you for bringing us with you on terrific journey through North America’s birds, birders and some marvellous locations with the thrill of the chase to add a hint of adrenaline to logging on each morning.

    I live in Hong Kong (where my year total is no 2 of all time, but HK is only 400 square miles!) and have dreamed for a while of going for 1,000 birds in China in a year. It’s not likely to happen anytime soon, but your story serves as an inspiration that one day my commitments may allow and the magnificent lunacy of a big year could still prevail.


  6. Loch Kilpatrick says:

    Congrations John, What a year for you. Many thanks to you for sharing your adventures with all of us. Looking forward to birding with you in 2012.
    Loch Kilpatrick

  7. Marilyn Rhodes says:

    I must of checked this site a dozen times today, John…dying of anticipation. Thanks for posting your final results. I can bring in the New Year without annoying everyone by checking your site every half hour!

    Congratulations on a Fabulous Big Year! I hope you’re as proud of what you’ve accomplished as your followers are. Thank you soooo much for sharing your year with us, too. It’s been a great, great, great ride!

    Happy New Year!

  8. I caught into your blog late in the game (that is to say during Christmas), but I have throughly enjoyed your blog. You now deserve a break, and start birding tomorrow.

  9. Neil Whiting says:

    Congratulations for a wonderful year – a great accomplishment.
    Thank you so much for inviting us along to share the joy, the excitement and the frustrations.
    I think the above total also needs a ‘near miss’ category – all birders have birds that were seen earlier in day or week etc. and are gone when they arrive.
    And thank you for the bird lists with your targets.
    Sandy Komito did two big years, although I do not know how anyone could have the stamina. ……
    I would love to see the blog continue.

    Best wishes, Neil Whiting

  10. tony g says:

    congrats on a great year, and from this end, especially, thanks for a lot of vicarious entertainment . . .


  11. John Schwarz says:

    John, I enjoyed meeting you this year and following your adventure. Now I’m looking forward to the book and the movie!

    John Schwarz

  12. Alex Bowes says:

    John, it’s been absolutely fantastic following you this year. There cannot be a ‘second place’ considering your astounding accomplishment. Excellent, excellent stuff. Magnificent birds and magnificent adventures told in tantalising tales. Very well done, you’re an inspiration to all birders everywhere.

    From here in London, UK – it’s been a great ride buddy, nice one ;)

    PS. Any thoughts on another in 2013? ;)

  13. Oh John, what a year! I’m so glad you got to end with the flycatcher today. What a wonderful last bird. Thank you for keeping this amazing blog, it has truly been a pleasure to follow your amazing progress. You should be proud of your wonderful accomplishment.


  14. Karl Stecher says:

    John, thanks for keeping us entertained, and a part of your “very big” year. Lots of tough birds added to your life list, including the Nutting’s.

    Karl Stecher

  15. Serge De Montigny says:

    Congratulations for that big year !
    You should be proud of what you have accomplished , a big Bravo from Quebec


  16. Jamie says:

    Congratulations on a fabulous run! And thank you so much for sharing it with us. Cheers! and Happy New Year!

  17. Terry Ryan says:

    It was a great ride and I was thrilled to be along for it.

  18. John Groves says:

    Congratulations! A fine wrap up to the Big Year. It has been fantastic following your exploits, and this blog has been one of my daily highlights. We were all living your Big Year vicariously. I wish that Smew would have stuck around for you, but hey, that’s chasing.
    It was delightful meeting you in the field a couple of times! Hope to see you out there again.

    What a run, man! I hope you had the time of your life!


  19. Lamarr Eddings says:

    John Thanks again for taking us all along on this fantastic adventure. It was a pleasure to meet you and I hope you take real pride in the WAY you did this. I’ll bet there’s nobody who has crossed paths with you who you left thinking, “What an ass!” and this isn’t always the way these adventures go.

  20. Michael says:

    Congratulations on a great Big Year! Thanks for keeping your blog readers updated. It was a lot of fun tagging along with you on your adventures through cyberspace.

    Happy New Year!

  21. Tom Wilberding says:

    Hail! to the victor valiant
    Hail! to the conqu’ring hero
    Hail! Hail! to Vanderpoel,
    The champion of the West!

    Big congrats to John (and Linda!)

  22. Jason Cade says:

    Thanks so much for sharing your amazing year with us. No Attu visits, no El Niño, & no sitting by a radio waiting while others did the work to go find a bird. You went out & bushwhacked Alaska & other locations time after time finding your birds the right way. I consider you the REAL record holder. Congrats on such an awesome year!

  23. Tom Eshelman says:

    It’s a fascinating world you live in. Thanks for sharing. Sorry the birds didn’t cooperate a bit more in Alaska and on the pelagics, but you sure gave it your all. Congrats.

  24. Sherry Hagen says:

    Congratulations John. We were at Salineno right after you were there for the Brown Jay. My husband & I are doing a Washington Big Year in competition with another couple as a Fund Raiser for Vancouver Audubon (Washington). We start tomorrow.

  25. Deanna Campbell says:

    Here’s a big New Year’s toast to 744! Amazing ride. Now what am I going to do every time I turn on the computer? Enjoy your rest – well earned. CHEERS!
    Deanna (as I wait at the hospital hoping to deliver Calgary’s New Year’s baby! Could be close! Your turn to wish me luck!)
    Happy New Year!

  26. Tina Jones says:

    Congratulations John on your big year. What an incredible accomplishment, especially since you did not go to Attu. This may be a record number of birds seen in a year, without going to Attu. I rejoice totally for you and with you. What a nice New Year’s Eve present. I litterally got addicted to reading your blog. Thanks so much for sharing your experiences with the birding world. I learned so much, thanks to your blog. And, congrats Linda! Happy new Year!!

  27. Dennis W says:

    Congratulations, John. I think it’s extra cool that you had such modest expectations at first, and now here you are, up with the best. What a great adventure. Thanks for bringing us along.

  28. Matt Stenger says:

    Happy New Year John. An Impressive total indeed. Nice Work!

  29. Renée Haip says:

    Congratulations John! It was fun following your adventures this year!

  30. Terry says:

    Congratulations on a fantastic big year, although you came up short you have proved that 750 without Attu is possible! With a little more luck you could’ve had Streak-backed Oriole (landowner tired of birders), Great-winged Petrel (wrong boat) and better luck on your final trip up to Adak (Whooper Swan, Dusky Thrush en route), while you missed birds such as Smew and Fan-tailed Warbler by a day or two.Thanks for giving me such good times; I learned a lot from your blog.

  31. Jay Stormer says:

    A great accomplishment. I’ll never be able to do anything like a big year, but I have certainly enjoyed the chase vicariously through your blog. Thanks, and good (more relaxed) birding in the New Year -

  32. Dave Hardin says:

    Congratulations on a fantastic Big Year and accomplishment, Mr. Vanderpoel! I first learned about your year in September and read every entry in this blog from January through late September in about two days. It was fascinating reading then and remains so through today.

    It almost seems as if slow west coast pelagic trips protected Mr. Komito’s overall record, which is definitely ironic :). But you proved the record can be topped, as well as what any of us can accomplish with time, planning, skill and determination. I’m a disabled birder, confined to a motorized scooter. I’m hoping to build a life list with a big number…for someone who has never walked on two legs. :) At 468, I feel I’m on my way. Thanks for the extra inspiration I gleaned from your experience!

    I wish you a happy and healthy 2012 and hope you enjoy time off the road and back full time with the family.

    Dave Hardin
    Newton, NC

  33. Mark Korducki says:

    Congratulations John. I loved your blog and like others have said, would love a book on your Big Year if so are so inclined. One bit of humor. While Sandy Komito did tally a Nutting’s Flycatcher on January 1st, it was not his first bird of the year. That distinction goes to the “damn pigeon” that he saw while eating breakfast in Denny’s. Heck of good effort by you though. If Alaska was a little more cooperative…..

  34. Mike Hendrickson says:

    There is a sports movie called “61” which is about Roger Marais of the New York Yankees. The movie was all about Roger and what he went through and how he achieved to hit 61 homers in one year. It showed how Mrs Ruth reacted after Roger passed Babe Ruth one year homer record and then at the end of the movie it showed the emotions of the Marais family as Mark McGwire hits number 62 over the fence. I met Sandy Komito several times and just recently we birded together in Sax-Zim Bog last June. We had many conversations about birding, the book, the movie and his year when he achieved 748. John I enjoyed reading about your adventures, I enjoyed meeting you and your brothers at the festival but part of me is happy that Sandy’s record is still intact as the record to beat. Congratulations on your first attempt and maybe down the road you will try this again or not but this past year I am sure will be a year you will not forget. Don’t dwell to much on the “should ofs” or “could ofs” when you look back on 2011 because I think you did a great job!! Congrats again John!

  35. Scott Vanderpoel says:

    Congrats, dad. What an amazing year you had. I’m incredibly proud of your accomplishment. Time to relax and try to not go through bird withdrawal.

    Scott and Anna

  36. Tom Vanderpoel says:

    Congradutions John on a great run. All your family is proud. Also thanks to all the generous birdwatchers who encouraged you and helped right to the end.

  37. Jesus says:


    Thanks for letting us join you on your trip. It was a great inspiration for a beginning birder to follow your adventures!


  38. Mike Blatchley says:

    John, congratulations on a well planned and executed Big Year. Thanks for taking the time to update your blog and give all of us the play-by-play details on your exploits. I must admit that I started feeling like a reality-tv junky, anxiously checking your blog for updates each and every morning.

    Now you can enjoy some time off with Linda and the rest of the family. Hope to see you around Colorado in the year to come.

    Happy New Year,

  39. Alison Quinn says:

    Heh, Heh! Happy New Years! You did an awesome job, and I loved sharing part of it on our trips to Minnesota, Alaska and Iowa. Well, we have to start thinking about our next trip…

    Jim (on Alison’s computer)

  40. Skyler Bol says:

    Great job getting such a high number, I am also trying to do a big year except I’m 12. I am also from Colorado to except I’m from Ft. Collins. My blog is
    Once again great job at getting 744 that is unimagenable even life list for me.

  41. Alison Quinn says:

    Congrats John! I’d like to echo everyone else in saying that I, too, will miss the regular updates- a real life action story unfolding before us. So, that we don’t go cold turkey maybe you can end the year with the words that you are used to as a long suffering Cubs fan: “Wait until next year!” A possible ending to a gripping book?

  42. Pingback: 2nd Biggest ABA Big Year Ever

  43. Dr. Lloyd McCarthy says:

    Congratulations, John.
    I had the privilege of wating 5 Vanderpoels grow up and as I did I came to expect great things. I felt your excitement as you tallied each species and felt your disappointment for each that “got away”, especially as you crossed the continent in the last month.
    It was obvious that not returning to Gambell was not a choice, but ?twice.
    Mary and I will miss the anticipation of seeing your blog each day. It was great to see your pictue with Jim on the last day for #244.
    Lloyd McCarthy


  44. Nathaniel Gonzalez says:

    Thanks for sharing your wonderful journey with all of us.

  45. Rueben Lebeef says:

    Congrats John, you’ve inspired many people that you will never meet. Thanks for your incredible birding and blogging.

  46. Brian says:

    As a newer birder I’m in awe of your accomplishment. I can only imagine the determination it took and will use it to push myself harder this year.

  47. John Vanderpoel says:

    Thanks Brian, The compliment is greatly appreciated.


  48. Pingback: Blog Birding #63 « ABA Blog

  49. Shirley Ruhe says:

    I’m writing an article on our trip to Texas. We encountered a sign welcoming John to Qunita Mazalan where he would looking for the Golden-crowned warbler the next day on his Big Year. We didn’t see Mr. Vanderpoole BUT we did see the warbler. My question is what was the record you were trying to break and how close did you come? Thanks.

  50. John Vanderpoel says:

    Shirley. The record was 748 and I got 744

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