This week, two birders (one of whom we’ve featured on the blog before, and the other who we should have), Noah Strycker and Tim Boucher, wrote some thoughts on birding and life lists that had much in common, partially because I suspect Boucher’s post on The Nature Conservancy’s blog was inspired by Strycker’s summary of his 2015 Big Year, even though he made no explicit mention of the new world record (6,042 species of bird seen or heard in a calendar year).
Boucher, who saw his 5000th bird at the very end of 2015 (and those 5000 birds are ones he’s actually seen, not only heard), reflects on thirty-four years of birding to achieve his goal. Strycker, on the other hand, summarizes 365 days of straight birding to end up with the biggest big year ever recorded.
Both birders emphasize that it was not only the 5000+ birds seen that have been memorable, but also the landscapes and nature experienced alongside it. Not surprising, when you visit over forty countries. Strycker, however, makes sure to mention the people he’s met while birding, including all the local guides who helped him achieve his goal.
The issue of heard-only birds – birds that are never actually seen but are still identified based on their vocalizations – is addressed by both Boucher and Strycker, though the former doesn’t dwell on the subject because it is too painful for him. Strycker, on the other hand, states without emotion that 5.5% of the birds on his Big Year List were heard-only. Doesn’t sound like a huge deal until you realize that’s over three hundred species that he only heard and didn’t see. Frustrating indeed. There’s a bird here at Xandari, the Striped Cuckoo, which I’ve heard several times but still never gotten even a glimpse at.