Tuesday, April 29, 2014

2014: The Potential of 500 in the ABA Area

Virtually everything I've posted so far this year has pertained to my effort at 300 species in Illinois in 2014, and rightfully so as this is where I've spent the bulk of my time, and it is still my ultimate goal for the year. But as Summer approaches, I'm having to stay focused in order to keep up with migration here while preparing for a couple out of state trips coming soon. One of the principles for doing an Illinois Big Year - any state level Big Year, really - is to minimize travel in May. I'm not following that rule. Instead I'm going to Arizona with my dad. The trip will be a week long and is somehow only three (insanely busy) weeks away, so in the down time I don't have I'm starting to work through this book with a tantalizing cover.

Having only been to Arizona once before, I probably have 20 lifers coming my way that week, which will hopefully include that persistent Sinaloa Wren and maybe another rarity or two!

Between Illinois, Arizona, and a couple trips home to Washington (including two weeks in July), I was thinking that 450 could be a possibility for my 2014 ABA year list, which had me rather excited. I began the year with 528 on my ABA life list, and I was pretty sure I would be hitting 550 by the end of it, which again had me exited.

Then last week, out of nowhere, a really cheap trip to Florida in June landed in our laps. Jen will be attending a conference, and I'll be attending to Red-cockaded Woodpeckers, Gray Kingbirds, American Oystercatchers and the like, then we'll spend a couple extra days together which will hopefully include squeezing in a trip to Key West! With this recent development, I put together a list of birds I'm likely to get this year and found the list to substantially exceed 500. Seeing 500 in the ABA in a calendar year is one of my dreams, and now it looks like it just may come to fruition much sooner than I expected. There's another 20 lifers waiting for me in Florida, too, which could put me near 575 by the end of the year. Crazy.

A week in Arizona in May; a week in Florida in June; two weeks in Washington in July. All of these are great for my ABA year list and will likely get me to 500, but how will they effect on my Illinois Big Year effort? I don't think it'll be detrimental, and here's why. First of all, I'm not trying to break any records in Illinois. 300 has been my goal all along and I'm sticking to it. Also, I take off for Arizona on May 18th. By that point, I should have the bulk of migrants taken care of, except maybe Connecticut Warbler, Yellow-bellied Flycatcher, and a couple others. But I'll still have the last few days of May back in Illinois, which would be a good time to pick up either of those, and anything else that has still evaded me to that point. And, if worst comes to worst, I can track most of these migrants down when they ome back through in the Fall (had to do that with Black-throated Blue last year and it was nerve racking, but it worked out).

My absence for a little portion of June is pretty inconsequential. It's not a prime time for vagrants, and I'll have ample time to clean up breeding specialities across the state before and after Florida. My trip to Washington in July is similar, though shorebirds start coming back then - if something rare shows up during that stretch, it seems unlikely that it'll stick around long enough for me to get it. But, come July, I should be around 285-290 in Illinois, with a few shorebird holes to fill (and, let us not forget, I don't even have a frickin siskin yet! Or redpoll. Or crossbill. Or saw-whet.) and the entirety of Fall and Winter rarity season ahead. So, as long as the majority of the remaining Illinois rarities for 2014 don't show up in single mixed flock during one of my stints (wink wink) away, I should be in pretty good shape, and my Illinois year list should go largely unscathed.

300 in Illinois.

500 in the ABA.

2014 is truly shaping up to be a Big Year for this Littlebirder!