Big Year? I’m going for a Big Month

This is how an obsession starts. A few weeks back I watched “The Big Year,” a comedy about the crazed antics of hyper-competitive birders. Then I bought the book of the same title on which the movie is based, and I’m halfway through reading it.

I’m neither wealthy nor a man of leisure, so a “big year” of traveling the U.S, Canada and Mexico spotting as many birds as possible over a stretch of 365 days is out of the question.

But what about a “big month?”

That I can do, and I started my pursuit on, yes, April Fool’s Day.

This fool’s errand for these 30 days is to bird daily and accumulate sightings of as many species as possible. I have trips planned into New York City and Texas in the coming days, so odds are strong I can expand my totals beyond the usual suspects here in central New Jersey.

It was rainy and blustery after dawn this morning, and I decided that rather than head outdoors, I’d take my chances counting the birds that I’d observe from home.

I got off to a surprisingly strong start, spotting 15 species in our front and back yards and extending another acre or so on the golf course adjoining our property. The usual crowd arrived before my breakfast: house sparrows, house finches, robins and blue jays, and a single song sparrow. Dark-eyed juncos, not yet departed for more northerly climes, put in an appearance, too.

This chipping sparrow arrived around 8:115 a.m. on April 1,2022.

The surprises were a white-throated sparrow pecking below the front-yard feeders and, even more delightful, my first-of-the-year chipping sparrow that came ’round back. The chipper appeared during a brief burst of sunshine and parked long enough at the feeder for me to get a couple of nice photos.

The morning total was 42 birds across 15 species.

Any hesitation about doing a second count on my return from work ended before I got to the front door. As I strolled up the driveway, I heard the sweet “chick-a-dee-dee-dee” song of a chickadee. It was perched on our weeping cherry tree.

But black-capped or Carolina? Standing still, I whipped out my iPhone and triggered the Merlin sound app in time to hear another ditty from the chickadee. The app pegged it as black-capped, and that’s how I logged it on e-Bird. Of late, I usually mark them as Carolina/black-capped because we live in a crossover zone. But for my big month, I’m logging as per the app.

My late afternoon observations included 11 species and 70 individuals, with a big number of robins and starlings driving up the latter number. The afternoon count added the chickadee and some brown-headed cowbirds to my day’s species total, bringing it to 17. In all, I spent just shy of an hour actively observing.

I plan to get out to the Pole Farm in the morning and hope to pick up a few more species there. I’m banking on a trip to Central Park in New York and especially a weeklong visit to Texas to add substantially to the total.

Do I have goals? I’d like to add at least five birds to my life list, and I have this crazy notion that I could hit 60 species. That’s highly unlikely, but maybe I’ll pick up a few tips from the “Big Year” book. It calls to me now.

Published by Dan

University media executive by day, blogger by night, I am a well-traveled resident of New Jersey

2 thoughts on “Big Year? I’m going for a Big Month

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: