This post will be a tale of two birders and their quest for a “record” Big Year. I’ve already told you about Mark Kudrav’s record big year in a previous post. Mark is still going strong as of today even though he’s already smashed the Green Big Year record of 318.
Mark’s bio taken from the San Mateo Outdoor Education website, “Mark is a graduate of the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University with a B.A. in Environmental Resource Management/Forestry. He has completed courses in the Art of Mentoring and Kamana I and ll naturalist training. He has worked as a forestry technician assisting graduate research in the field and in greenhouses. He developed and gave extended presentations about forest fire ecology to students throughout Virginia. He has also worked as a literacy tutor who helped tutor children in reading at three elementary schools. For several years, he led a program called Nature Awareness and Tracking Stuff where he used games, stories, songs, and nature hikes to teach environmental education to children of all ages. He worked for four summers as a camp counselor in Durango, Colorado, helping lead 8 to 12 year-olds on backpacking trips and establishing an organic garden. Additionally, he served for a season as a Park Ranger on Isle Royale National Park. He enjoys playing the guitar, writing songs, gardening, birding and tracking. He is returning to San Mateo Outdoor Education for his eleventh year. Mark’s nature name at outdoor education is “Redstart.” Mark’s blog is here. Mark’s way of getting around during his big year is his bike, Modus. Mark has used no fossil fuel during his big year.
The other big year birder has also set a record…well maybe. Some of his birds still have to be approved. His name is Neil Hayward. Neil is the Founder of Cambridge Blue Consulting-Greater Boston Area-Biotechnology. His summery on LinkedIn is, “Senior business executive with experience leading and developing teams globally. I have a degree from Oxford (BA – biochemistry) and a PhD from Cambridge (in developmental neurobiology) together with global research experience. I have over a decade of experience in the eCommerce and biotech industry – including business development, setting up global offices, matrix and regional management, IPO and M&A. I have experience at the board level, managing a company and developing a management team.
I am passionate about growth, both corporate and human – I’m interested in providing a progressive and stimulating environment which breeds and encourages personal success and development.
Neil is doing an ABA area big year. His way of getting around is…anything that flies, drives or floats using fossil fuels. Neil’s blog is here. Both Mark’s and Neil’s blog have lot’s of birding information in them and are fun to read. Both seem like nice guys. In reading both blogs there are references to other birders doing the same types of big years.
What are the current numbers? Mark has currently seen as of this post 326 birds and biked 5096 miles. Neil has seen 746 birds plus 3 provisionals (i.e. Birds that have to approved by a committee), flown 193,758 miles, driven 51,758 miles and boated 147 hours (15 days. I guess it hard to gage miles in a boat). Mark’s carbon footprint for his birding is zero. Neil’s carbon footprint is…Jesus I don’t know. Would someone please calculate it for me? I think that we can all agree that it’s a whoooole lot more than Mark’s
How about the difficulty of the two big years. If you read Mark’s blog you will find him biking Highway 395 up and down steep mountain roads or dodging traffic on Highway 1. Neil’s difficulties seem to be having to sleep in airports and finding a good cup of coffee or a good meal. He probably had a hard time dodging traffic on the way to the airport. The last comment was out of line but I’ll keep it in the blog because you know what my feelings on this issue are. As this ABA blog states, all you need is, “…a laptop computer, cell phone and the necessary contacts, time, resources and desire…” I think the definition for resources is mostly money.
The American Birding Association (ABA) is treating Neil as a celebrity. There have been 3 or 4 (or more) posts on their blog. If you Google Neil you will find him on bird forums, blogs and newspaper stories. If you Google Mark you might find a local newspaper story and his place of work. I found one post for Mark on the ABA site here. It’s more like a footnote and not from any of the big names at ABA. Neil had the ABA Blog manager, Nate Swick, on the boat with him when he found his last bird, a Great Skua. He was on a John Puschock bird tour in Adak, Alaska. John reports ABA rare bird alerts and manages #ABArare for the American Birding Association. He had Greg Neise taking pictures of him while birding St. Paul Island, Alaska. Greg Neise is a web developer for the ABA. I would bet that Mark didn’t have any ABA people following him around and no celebration pictures taken when he smashed the “green” record.
How do you evaluate these big years? Do you base it on just brut numbers? It appears that many birders do. I evaluate based on the amount of carbon going into the air and the proven effects that carbon has on the environment and birds. Mark wins in my opinion.
In his book called, “Kingbird Highway” Kenn Kaufman claimed the record for “birds per buck”. In 1973 Kenn did a big year. He found 666 birds basically hitch hiking around the country. He did the year on less than $1000. I don’t think Neil came very close to that. Kenn Kaufman is a big name in birding. He’s written several field guides and is a board member of the ABA. My questions are…Why aren’t birders trying to break that record? Will any ABA members try to break Mark’s record?