After watching the movie The Big Year starring Steve Martin, Jack Black and Owen Wilson, I (Peter) have decreed that 2015 will be my first attempt at a Big Year. For those of you who are unaware what a Big Year is, it is an American tradition that is rumoured to have stemmed from an annual event where hunters would go out and try and shoot as many different bird species as possible, presumably to prove how macho they were. Whether this is true or not, since the 1930s, people have been using binoculars, scopes and cameras in an informal competition to see which birder is able to see the most number of bird species in a given geographic area (normally the entire country) in a single calendar year (you can read more about the American Big Year tradition here).
If you have seen the movie, or will be seeing it, I am more of a Jack Black sort of guy; full time job, limited money, keen birdwatcher and a bit odd. I have the bird calls of all of the Australian bird species on my iTunes account on my phone, and I play them through the radio in my car (much to my kids embarrassment and occasional amusement). Unfortunately, I don’t have Jack Black’s character’s ability to identify every bird by its call, nor do I have the time to go birding whenever I want (Jack Black’s character is not married and has no children; I have a wonderfully understanding and supportive wife and three great children). In light of all of that, I will be doing a (Little) Big Year, which means that I will be having minimal time off work to go birding, and I will not be putting my birding in front of my normal family activities (unlike Owen Wilson’s character). There may be the odd trip here and there, but nothing of any great magnitude.
Big Year Target
My goal is to try and see 400 species in the 2015 calendar year, including 50 new species, and to get good quality photographs of as many of these as possible. Considering that I am not not really planning to travel outside of New South Wales, and probably not more than a few hundred kilometres from home, this is going to be a big challenge. How will I go – I will let you know at the end of each month.
I should point out that my current life list of Australian bird species (and we are only including birds that are alive, given that I worked in the Australian Museum Bird Department and have seen preserved specimens of every Australian bird species!), stands at 429 species; although I swear that I have seen more than that, but can’t find any record.
So, wish me luck!