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a blog by and for Utah Birders

A Big Year Revisited

posted by Tim Avery at
on Friday, February 4, 2011 

Back in 2007 I set out to break the Utah Big Year Record. It was an impressive 332 species, and it had been set in 2004 by Dennis Shirley. The previous high was 327 in 2001. I figured the 3 year pattern could only help my odds even though that really was just something to add to the fun. When the year started I had high hopes, but no idea how far the year would actually go. By the end of April I quit my full time job and took a seasonal position with DNR to conduct riparian breeding bird surveys in southern Utah. It was a strategic decision that I knew would help my big year. It would put me at a number of natural migrant traps during the height and tail of spring songbird migration. And it did help. When the summer came to an end, I had enough money saved up to spend the rest of the year birding pretty much full time. By mid-September my big year turned into an attempt to set my own high mark after I saw my 333rd species.

Birding for at least 2 hours a day more than 20 days a month the last 4 months saw a number of great species, including a couple of first state records. By the time the end of December rolled around I was ready for the year to end as I ticked off my 355th species. I won't get into more details, but if you have some free time check out the big year list I added to my website with pictures and/or video of 332 of the species I saw:

The page will take some time to load all the images, so be patient when you get there, it may take a few seconds to fully come together. And if you are on a dial-up I probably wouldn't bother.

Since my big year I have fallen out of big listing, and spent more time just taking pictures and trying to find new birds for my Utah list. If I never see 300 species of bird in Utah a year I will be okay with that. I have no plans of putting together a Utah big year ever again--but if you ever have the chance, I highly recommend giving it a go--as it can be a lot of fun.

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