Why do a big year? That's a question that I've asked myself numerous times ever since I starting tossing the idea back and forth in my head. And to be honest, I still don't really have a straightforward answer!
For one, I want to explore my home province a lot better. While I am pretty familiar with the southern 1/4 of the province, I haven't really made it up north yet! I've never visited Ontario's ocean coast of James and Hudson's Bay. I've never visited the prairies in the Rainy River region, or even the Boreal forest in northern Ontario! I think the farthest north that I have explored/birded in Ontario is probably the Algonquin area.
Meeting other birders is another reason I want to do this big year. Since I've only been in the "Ontario birding scene" (its actually bigger than people might think!) for a few years, I haven't even met a large percentage of birders. It will be cool and a lot of fun to put faces to names and to meet birders in far off areas of the province I haven't really explored. My knowledge of birds is far lower than many other birders in the province so it will be a great learning opportunity as well.
Like I mentioned before, the logistics of doing a big year seem to be in my favor this year, so if I ever was to do one, this would be the year. I'll be graduating with an Ecology degree in the spring, and I don't have a full time job to tie me down yet. So far, my girlfriend Laura, my family, and my friends have been really supporting of the idea of me spending an entire year driving around the province and looking at birds (hopefully they are not only supportive of the idea because it means that they won't have to put with me as much :P ). Obviously money will be an issue next year, and I haven't really figured out what I'm going to do about that. I'd like to pick up some consulting work for a few months sometime from mid June to mid August - if you hear of anything, by all means let me know. ;)
Obviously doing a big year isn't all fun and games, especially since I plan on going virtually "all out" next year. There will definitely be a lot of times when I will miss friends or family. I'm sure I'll question my decision to spend a year screwing around looking at birds instead of pursuing career opportunities with my brand spanking new Ecology degree. And of course, I'll smack myself in the head and mutter, "What the hell are you thinking?" to myself after driving all night to chase a rare bird, only to discover that it is not longer around.
While it will be cool to beat the record, I'm not sure if that's the sole reason why I'm going to do a big year. If anything, having a numeric goal will give me the excuse to go on an adventure, explore some cool areas, see some amazing birds, and meet more individuals in the birding community. I can hardly wait for it to begin :)