Big Year 2015 in Review

Portrait in Blue

Last year was a big year for me – both literally and figuratively. I wasn’t doing an official “Big Year” (I’m not really doing one this year, either – just going out and trying to see what I can. But I did have a goal – to see 300 species in a single year or, failing that, to beat my old record of 264 species from 2013. It was a fun year, running out to different places including TWO trips to California (San Diego and San Francisco – sometime, I’ll actually get those written up). I saw new birds, I saw birds better than I ever had, I had fun birding with new people, I had fun birding alone. And I broke my old record — actually, I shattered it.

The Year In Review

As I said, I set my goal before the year even started – get to 265 species, then 275 and with any luck 300 species. Unfortunately, the year started out a little slow with only 46 species in January (versus 68 in 2014 and 93 in 2013). The slack continued through March, but my species accelerated in April hitting 125 species (versus 128 in 2014 but nowhere near the 157 species I had seen by that point in 2013). At this point, I’d had only 1 lifer: a single Ross’s Goose seen in Tom’s River.

The Delaware Birdathon gave me some great numbers, bringing me up to 198 for the year (vs. 208/229). The month gave me 3 more lifers – Trumpeter Swan at Palmyra Cove, Saltmarsh Sparrow at Prime Hook NWR during Birdathon and a long-sought Cerulean Warbler at Old Mine Road IBA in Delaware Water Gap.

Blue Quest

In June I made my first trip to California was a fantastic visit into the wilds of San Diego – which I’m hoping to do again this April – and it was FANTASTIC. I saw over 125 species during the trip, including 66 FOY birds and 20 lifers. By the end of month I was up to 264 species, tying me best year ever and it was only June.

Mini Mama

From there, my numbers were slow but steady through the months. My record breaker happened on July 3rd with a Sora at Cape May Point State Park – sadly I never got a picture of it to commemorate the achievement. But I wasn’t done yet, hitting 275 species on July 25th (Cattle Egret at Mannington Marsh, NJ) and hitting my goal of 300 species on October 12th (Golden-crowned Kinglet at Palmyra Cove, NJ). I also added another 3 lifers.

Cattle Egret Parent

Golden 300th

From that point on, it was all gravy although I was really hoping to get to 325 species for the year. My trip to San Francisco , in early December proved a boon with another 20 FOY species and 4 lifers. Not only that but it was a beautiful trip despite the unseasonable chill at the time. But I had to wait until I got back to NJ to get #325 with a Purple Sandpiper at Barnegat Light – a species I usually got every January but had to ‘rescue’ with a late year visit. Ironically, I missed purple sandpiper this year in January, too – still have to get back there and try again. Now it was a real stretch to try to get to 350 over the final 2 weeks.

One Not Like the Others

My last bird of the year – a Brown Creeper seen during the Camden County CBC – ended up being #328 of the year, a new record by 64 species. But more than that, it was a fun journey across NJ shorelines and pine barrens, California coastlines and deserts, Georgia pine woods and New Hampshire mountains. I saw lots of species in different states, got to sit back and watch old species and trek through shrub to see new ones. I chased a few, I let a few come to me and I had fun and enjoyed the outdoors.

And now, because I’m a crazy man, for 2016 I’m planning to try to get 350 species. Wish me luck.

Lifers 2015

  1. Ross’s Goose
  2. Trumpeter Swan
  3. Saltmarsh Sparrow
  4. Cerulean Warbler
  5. Western Bluebird
  6. Red-masked Parakeet
  7. Western Scrub-Jay (Coastal)
  8. Heermann’s Gull
  9. Black Turnstone
  10. Song Sparrow (California ssp)
  11. California Towhee
  12. Black-chinned Sparrow
  13. California Thrasher
  14. Lawrence’s Goldfinch
  15. White-throated Swift
  16. California Quail
  17. California Gnatcatcher
  18. Black-tailed Gnatcatcher
  19. Tricolored Blackbird
  20. Pacific-slope Flycatcher
  21. Wrentit
  22. Mountain Quail
  23. Western Wood-Pewee
  24. Allen’s Hummingbird
  25. Ruffed Grouse
  26. Red Pharalope
  27. Sedge Wren
  28. Hutton’s Vireo
  29. Snowy Plover
  30. Mew Gull
  31. Yellow-billed Magpie
  32. Ferruginous Hawk

2015 Infographic

I wanted to do something more than this summary while exercising my creative muscles a bit. It’s not fantastic but I like how it turned out. I tried to show the progression of my sightings over the last few years, the where and when I saw them, how the journey compared to previous years. I included my target list and how I did and finally ended up with the top 15 species I saw most through the year (although this is my least favorite part of the infographic). I’d love any feedback anyone has.

So without further ado…

2015 Big Year Infographic


Leave a Reply