Its my 11th day on the ABA big year road, which is more than long enough to make at least some early judgements about how it compares to an Australian big year. Frankly, there’s hardly any comparison. At this stage, I’m in a driving/flying race to see the accumulated rarities - the sites usually being attended by birders - kind of like when good vagrants are in Australia. I’m looking at and recording other birds out of the corner of my eye (and there are some amazing birds, don’t get me wrong), but this ain’t birding. Yet. Its more about super airports, super-highways, and masses of people everywhere you look. It couldn’t be any more different than the bush-whacking days of 2014 that I enjoyed so much. I also wonder about when, if ever, I can actually write blog entries, and not just these updates to you bunch of pelicans!
So far I’ve spent time in Arizona, Texas, Florida, New York (drove past the Statue of Liberty, the famous skyline, and no doubt, George Castanza’s high school driving from Brooklyn neighborhoods that looked like the set from NYPD to snooty end of Long Island), Pennsylvania, Joizey, Connecticut, and Minnesota/Wisconsin, where I just missed the fucking Ivory Gull that waited for me patiently for two weeks before leaving just prior to my visit I’m now on a bumpy flight from Minneapolis to Vancouver – first heading 3 hours south to Dallas, then doubling back and a bit more westerly towards the Canadian locales of two current megas – a Siberian Ascentor near Vancouver, and a Redwing near Victoria, where I’ll also try to see introduced Skylark.
I’ve had mixed fortunes, and at times have felt a bit down and out about the luck factor. I’ve seen 10 megas, and missed six. SIX. Some, like the Barnacle Goose near Hartford Connecticut, by less than an hour. That hurts. I’m trying to remember to take scenery and ambient photos, but need to improve. Some of the scenes have been incredible: New England on an unseasonably beautiful winter day; Arizona Saguaro cactus deserts, . But then there are those highways and freeways, all of which are chocka-block, seemingly 24/7, and a blur of airports and hire car setups.
The intention is that after the first two to three weeks, I’ll run out of established rarities to chase, and new birds will slow down to every few days or so hitting the radar – at least that’s what happened last year. Then I can start doing some birding – I’m really looking forward to that. But it is an El Nino year, and there are more birds this winter than last – which I’m not complaining about. There seem to be more gull rarities showing up presently, but hard to get them to stay long enough for me. Kelps, Slaty-backs and now a Black-tailed, would certainly be appreciated ticks.