In 2012, I birded a Big Year in Washington and Oregon states. A Big Year is a personal challenge to see as many separate species of birds as you can identify. I limited myself to my two local states (I live on the border of the two).
The year had opened with excitement and tentative expectations. I saw 43 easy pickings in the first two days and nabbed a Lifer on January 2nd. It was the Snow Bunting
, a little arctic bird who’d been nibbling at stones (and I presume seeds) at the PDX firehouse off Marine Drive in Portland. I sat in my warm car watching the little white dot bob around on a cold January day, totally delighted that I had just twitched
and got a Lifer.
I work a full time job and have many hobbies, so I didn’t jump out of the starting blocks like a Thoroughbred biting at the bit. It took me until late March to get up to 100 birds. And those were easy. Most of them. I did gather up two more Lifers, a Tufted Duck
and a Harris’s Sparrow
. I discovered new places to bird, including Whitaker Ponds Nature Park and realized the wonderland that is Ocean Shores, WA.
On March 8th I made the Trek of my year… the trip to see the Snowy Owl at Damon Point (Ocean Shores). I still remember that day fondly, though I’d been frozen and soaked to the bone. The rain was dumping in bucket-loads and had turned to little daggars of ice. My pants were soaked through and my binos were useless in the thick rain. Having given up, eyes downcast to avoid the icy shards from their continued abrasion, I stumbled, literally, on a Snowy Owl, hunkered down in his own way to avoid the terrible weather.
I was delighted. Soaked, but delighted. I had to drive home pantless that day.
On my birthday I gathered up two more Lifers (Red-throated
and Yellow-billed Loons
) and had a three loon day.
I went to the coast more than any other year and joined bird walks and other groups to see more and more birds. In mid-April I twitched for a Clay-colored Sparrow, which I did not find, but I met T, my new guy. We bumped into each other on Mt. Tabor in early May, then we were both randomly at Malheur NWR on the next weekend. Now, we bird all the time together.
May was the month of glory: 84 year birds for the month and 12 Lifers. I went to Spokane, Malheur NWR, southern Oregon, and Westport, WA. T took me under his wing and helped me find birds in the local area. We ran around WA/OR together to collect more and more birds.
I learned new bird songs, including the Black Phoebe’s, which was my nemesis bird. I’d chased after this bird more than any other, and once I finally found it in November, I couldn’t stop finding it! It was like the Guild of Phoebe’s gave up hiding once I’d finally spotted one.
All in all, in WA/OR I got 279 birds with 46 Lifers.
I don’t plan on another Big Year this year, though I do have a new goal to see as many birds in my home county.
I also want to know my local birds better. Instinctively know it’s a certain bird, know where they like to hang out, what foods they like, their songs, their actions. I think that will make me a better birder than to have a large number of birds I’ve seen and ticked off on a list.( And here it is, the List of 279 seen in WA/OR, sorted by TimelineCollapse )