Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Non Motorized Transportation Big Year Update

Since 2009,
I have been primarily birding by bicycle. It seemed to me the height of hypocrisy to be continually complaining about biodiversity loss, at the same time I was driving an internal combustion vehicle all over the place chasing birds. So sometime near the end of 2008, I decided to keep the car parked as much as possible, and use the bike and my hiking boots to go search for birds. Being a typical birder, I thought I might as well add a listing component, so I started what I called, a Non-Motorized Big Year, or NMT Big Year, for short. Essentially, I would try and see how many species of birds I could find without using a motorized vehicle. In 2009 I saw 215 species, and went on some very long rides to Victoria and Port Alberni, amongst other insane hair brained schemes. I ended up birding 289 kilometres by foot, and 2371 kilometres by bike that year. In 2010, I decided to just bird within the Parksville-Qualicum Checklist Area, and I ended up with 193 species, covering 120 kilometres by foot, and 2672 by bike. Interestingly, after announcing my plan on a local bird chat group, others joined in. By 2010, the idea had spread to the mainland, the southern interior, and as far east as Manitoba. There are now dozens of birders across Canada doing their own versions of an NMT Big Year. And many of them are doing far better at it than I am. A birder in Victoria last year rode over 10,000 kilometers and saw well over 200 species. Incredible! Others have crossed the coast range, tallying large numbers of birds by seeing both coastal and interior birds in the process.

So far this year, I just haven't had the time to put into it like I did in previous years. The unusually poor weather hasn't helped, nor has my work schedule. But I am planning to ramp it up a notch here in the next few weeks. I love birding from my bike, and I can't imagine going back to driving all over the country chasing birds again. Yuck.

Today Donna and I did a 19 km ride down to the Englishman River Estuary and back. Although it was blowing a gale and bitterly cold (headache and burning lungs type cold) I did manage to see a new species for the year. While we were standing on the banks of the Englishman admiring the river, a pair of Barred Owls started calling in the forest just behind us. These birds have been in this forest for years now, and although I generally don't have much problem finding this species ;locally, this was the first sighting for me in 2011. They were both up in a cedar about 10 metres apart, trying to sit perfectly still, but every now and then peeking around a branch to see what we were up to.

Totalling up my list when I got home, I see that I have now seen 90 species for the year, and walked 18 kilometres and ridden 176 kilometres in the process. Hopefully, with the improving weather, the coming herring extravaganza, and northbound migrants moving in, I should start seeing some more new species. I can't wait.

Species: Recorded in 2011 So Far:

Canada Goose
Trumpeter Swan
Eurasian Wigeon
American Wigeon
Northern Shoveler
Northern Pintail
Green-winged Teal
Ring-necked Duck
Greater Scaup
Lesser Scaup
Harlequin Duck
Surf Scoter
White-winged Scoter
Black Scoter
Long-tailed Duck
Common Goldeneye
Hooded Merganser
Common Merganser
Red-breasted Merganser
Ring-necked Pheasant
California Quail
Pacific Loon
Common Loon
Yellow-billed Loon
Horned Grebe
Red-necked Grebe
Brandt's Cormorant
Double-crested Cormorant
Pelagic Cormorant
Great Blue Heron
Bald Eagle
Sharp-shinned Hawk
Cooper's Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
American Kestrel
Peregrine Falcon
Black-bellied Plover
Black Oystercatcher
Black Turnstone
Mew Gull
California Gull
Thayer's Gull
Glaucous-winged Gull
Glaucous Gull
Common Murre
Ancient Murrelet
Rock Pigeon
Eurasian Collared-Dove (Not counted)
Barred Owl
Anna's Humminbird
Belted Kingfisher
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Pileated Woodpecker
Northern Shrike
Steller's Jay
Northwestern Crow
Common Raven
Chestnut-backed Chickadee
Red-breasted Nuthatch
Brown Creeper
Bewick's Wren
Winter Wren
Marsh Wren
American Dipper
Golden-crowned Kinglet
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
American Robin
Varied Thrush
European Starling
Spotted Towhee
Fox Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Golden-crowned Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Red-winged Blackbird
Brewer's Blackbird
House Finch
Pine Siskin
American Goldfinch
Evening Grosbeak
House Sparrow


nathan said...

Saw a spruce grouse on the block at Hallet Lake today!

nathan said...

Max was timber cruising with us and treed it, also Black capped chickadees and crossbills.

Dave Ingram said...

Great blog Guy - really enjoying reading your posts! Love the NMT Big Year but I guess with 2 kids under 4 it's enough if I can get out and do any birding without changing a diaper, let alone on bicycle!

Are you interested in submitting this/a post to the next edition of I and the Bird? It's a bi-weekly round-up of bird related blogging posts that was originated by the folks at http://10000birds.com - let me know, I'm hosting the next edition on March 3.



Abu Anka said...

Glad to hear it Nate. Are you getting Black-caps out in the conifers, or in a mixed coniferous/decidous area?

Abu Anka said...

Thanks Dave,

Yes, kids change the dynamics quite a bit. When the grandkids started coming, that was pretty much the end of my really serious 24/7 bird chasing. You will be good to go again in another couple of years.

Sure, I can do probably do that. Just let me know what to do.

Dave Ingram said...

Just send me an email if you want a specific post featured - or I'll just choose one at random : )

Abu Anka said...

Random works for me.