If you've been following my blog for a while you might remember that I kind of did a half-assed big year in 2010. I started off guns blazing, then slowed down and stopped entirely mid summer, before hitting the gas pedal again in the fall. The end result was I finished at 243 species for the year. That's a good total for year in Newfoundland and just 4 species short of the record, but my list should have been much higher. For example I had some very blatant misses, such as Dovekie, Great Shearwater, all three jaegers and both Skuas. On a real big year you should have all of these. As well I never travelled to get any of the tough to get Newfoundland breeders like Northern Hawk Owl, Rock Ptarmigan or Spruce Grouse. On top of that I never really chased any rarities. So in fact I guess it wasn't much of a big year at all. I basically just birded a lot and kept a list, but never did what was needed to really accumulate a big total.
This year things are different, well for now at least. I stated outright in my first blog post of the year that I was NOT doing another big year, well here we are in early march and things have changed. I made the decision about two weeks ago when I was thinking about al of the great rarities that was been seen this past winter. Then I got to think I don't really want to work a real job this year. So the decision was made, one more year dedicated to non-stop birding, then I have to make something of myself ;)
So far I'm at 110 for the year. That's a decent start, but really the number isn't important. What;s important is the number of rarities. Rarities will make or break my big year effort. Newfoundland being an island stuck out in the north Atlantic has only about 150 species. That means if I'm going to get to 260 for the year I'm going to need about 110 vagrant species- that will not be easy, but no worthwhile goal is is easily achievable. So far this year I have added 5 new birds to my Newfoundland list,considering I'm at 326 for the province it's not easy to add new birds. that will give you an idea as to how good the birding has been so far in 2011.
Aside from the legitimate rarities there are some what I will call " must haves" if I'm going to hit 260 this year. This list is comprised of birds that are uncommon breeders, difficult to see birds or bird that are seen on an annual or semi annual basis. So far I'm missing three of these birds, Gyrfalcon, Snowy Owl and Ivory Gull. It's quite possible that I could get GYR and Snowy Owl late this fall or in early winter, but if I don;t get an Ivory Gull in the next 3 weeks Ican forget that one. I plan on putting myself in the best possible position to see one by getting to the Northern tip of the island in a couple of weeks, where with any luck there wll be a few Ivory Gulls to be found not that the pack ice has reached that part of the island.
I'll be posting updates about my big year progress periodically and especially after significant finds or misses. If you'd like to have a look at my current list it can be found in the link immediately under the blog title, or by following this link.
Yesterday while looking for a Harlequin Duck that had been reported I stumbled upon a hybrid Tufted X Ring-necked Duck that was first discovered by Bruce Mactavish in January. That will be the topic of my next blog posting. Look for it tomorrow!