Human powered Big Year

On January 1st of 2022 I start on a year long endeavour to set the benchmark species count for a fully human powered big year in the Province of Ontario. 

I will be updating this page regularly throughout the year with my progress and will be writing about my year here

What is a Big Year?

Some birders set a challenge for themselves to try to count as many species of birds as they can in a single year aka a big year. Interestingly it is all on an honour system and you don't technically have to see the bird to count it you can also count bird species you identify by ear. Typically people will set a geographical boundary for themselves to limit the scope and cost of a big year. Those are usually regional (state/province), national or global. Another type of "big" birding even is a big day which is exactly like it sounds as many species in a single day as possible. 

These are all conducted using standard transportation. Record attempts will result in a huge number of kilometres travelled. The current Ontario record holder is reported to have covered 90,000km during their year. I am not judging anyone for this approach but it isn't for me. 

What is a human powered big year?

A human powered big year is done using only ones own power. Hike, biking, skiing, skating, sailing whatever you desire as long as it's done under your own power. 

Traditional big years haven't been that appealing to a subset of birders for a long time as there are lots of people doing alternative big years. A few years ago I first heard of people doing Big Green Years. These are big years utilizing human power, car pooling and green/mass transit. 


Why?

I like a challenge. 😜 A HPBY also seemed like a good way to be more connected with the experience. Driving for hundreds of kilometres to try to find a bird, while I have done it in the past, just doesn't bring me that much joy. Being out on the bike does.

I also want to connect with you and share your stories about what birds, and more broadly nature, means to you. I am hoping to have people join me through out the whole year and share those stories/adventures.

As of January 10, 2022

Achievements 

Big year stats updated every week

52

Species Count

188

Images Captured

54:07

Minutes of Video Captured

573.8

Kilometers traveled


2

Parks Visited

3

Successful Twitches

Golden-crowned Sparrow
Rock Pigeon
Pileated Woodpecker
House Sparrow
Eastern Screech-Owl
Trumpeter Swan
Long-tailed Duck
Common Merganser
Long-eared Owl
Northern Saw-whet Owl
Northern Mockingbird
Wild Turkey
Great Blue Heron
Field Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Common Goldeneye

White-breasted Nuthatch
Dark-eyed Junco
Eastern Bluebird
Mountain Bluebird
American Robin
Cedar Waxwing
American Goldfinch
American Tree Sparrow
Downy Woodpecker
American Crow
Mallard
Sharp-shinned Hawk
Snowy Owl
Snow Bunting
American Black Duck
Herring Gull
Golden-crowned Kinglet

Red-tailed Hawk
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Blue Jay
Great Horned Owl
Common Raven
Northern Cardinal
Canada Goose
Mourning Dove
Black-capped Chickadee
Red-breasted Nuthatch
Bald Eagle
Hairy Woodpecker
Purple Finch
Belted Kingfisher
Winter Wren
Swamp Sparrow
Northern Shrike

rare birds in bold

The Plan

I wish I could tell you that I have every minute of everyday planned out but that would be a big fat lie. There is only one place that "has" to happen and that is Point Pelee National Park in early May. Everything else on the map is likely to happen but a question mark as to when. 

The biggest unknown at the moment though is Rainy River. Close to the border of Manitoba it is a good spot to see western species and a few shorebirds that would be difficult to get in the south. This is an extreme ride consisting of 8 to 10 days of cycling 160km (100 miles) a day. I have been training for this but I still haven't committed to it yet.

I am hoping to find people to host me along/at some of the more distant locations (let me know if you can host). This is ideal as I am trying minimize the weight I carry on the bike.

Training

I have been physically training for this adventure for over a year. Mostly out of fear of riding to Rainy River. For 2021, as of December, I have done 331hrs and 8657km on the bike. This included a 200km ride in a single day, a series of seven 100km rides over ten days and riding in the winter. These were all simulations of some of the distances/challenges I figured I could face this year twitching birds.

While the physical training has been super important I have also started birding training. Specifically, I am training my bird call recognition using Larkwire. The goal is to be ready for places like Point Pelee where birding by ear can be a huge advantage to finding rare species.

Glossary

Big Year

A big year is a personal challenge or an informal competition among birders who attempt to identify as many species of birds as possible by sight or sound, within a single calendar year and within a specific geographic area. - Wikipedia

Human Powered

Using transportation that is strictly human powered. No e-bikes, electric cars or mass transit allowed


Twitching

Chasing after a rare bird sighting. Typically involves dropping everything and rushing to the sighting location.

Ethics

To the best of my abilities I follow the OFO Code of Ethics while birding.



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