Thursday, 10 January 2013

Strange big year records set last year

Obviously, one of the side-affects of seeing 344 species in Ontario is that there are several other records that can probably be broken. With most of the following examples, I'm really reaching for straws and coming up with obscure categories. Thought this would be a fun thing to do, and an effective way to procrastinate!

Most bird species seen in one year in Ontario: 
-this one is the obvious one. But there are a few other obscure records that I think I might have set. Keep reading...

Most bird species photographed in one year in Ontario:
-now this probably isn't the record as someone, at some point has probably photographed more in one year. At the very least, this is a very beatable number! Remember some of my misses? (Thayer's Gull, Ring-necked Pheasant, Warbling Vireo, Marsh Wren, American Woodcock, etc)

Thayer's Gull - a big miss

Most species "self-found" in one year in Ontario:
-I have no idea if 307 is now the number to beat, but it seems like it would be tough to self-find that many ever again in a given year. Partly why I managed 307 is that I traveled to the north (James Bay) and the northwest (Rainy River), so species like Black Guillemot, Northern Fulmar, and Gyrfalcon were locks in the north and Western Meadowlarks, Franklin's Gulls, and Black-billed Magpies were easy self found birds in the northwest.
Other self-found highlights last year include Fish Crow, 35 warbler species, Blue Grosbeak, King Rail, Yellow-crowned Night-heron, Harlan's Hawk (though it doesn't count as a species), Common Eider, Northern Gannet, Great Cormorant, Western Kingbird, and Scissor-tailed Flycatcher.

self found Western Kingbird

Most species seen at least twice in one year in Ontario
-this category is the same as a typical big year, the only exception being that each species has to be seen twice, not just once! Some notable misses include Golden Eagle, Gray Partridge, Piping Plover, Red Phalarope, Laughing Gull, Arctic Tern, and Prairie Warbler. Most rarities I saw only once, with the exception of a few such as Western Tanager, Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, Yellow-throated Warbler, Black Vulture, Black Guillemot, and Fish Crow.

1st Scissor-tailed Flycatcher of the year - Demorestville (April 15, 2012)

Earliest date to hit 300 in one year:
May 18
-at the start of the year, my goal was to hit 300 by the end of May. I managed to get it 13 days ahead of schedule. Bird #300 was Piping Plover from Wasaga Beach, Simcoe County.

Piping Plover - Wasaga Beach (May 18, 2012)

Most "total county ticks" in one year in Ontario:
-for those who don't know, this is the sum of all of my county lists for the year. Fortunately, Ebird keeps track of county lists for me! This averages out to 83 species per county. Out of Ontario's 50 counties, I birded in 49 of them - only missing out on Kenora District in the north. My top 5 counties were Essex (262), Cochrane (193) Chatham-Kent (176), Hamilton (171) and Rainy River (162). Again, this may not be a record, and even if it is, it seems very breakable. I would imagine that a birder trying to set this record could top out somewhere between 7000 and 9000 in a year. The strategy would be much different than for a big year and there would be considerably more traveling. A good strategy would be to spend one day birding each county during all four seasons. I would imagine that after a year spent doing that, you would know the backroads of Ontario better than anyone else.

That's all I have got for now...


  1. Josh might have broken some additional Big Year records during 2012, but he failed to mention them:

    -- animals killed with his car
    -- free meals received from other birders
    -- free booze received from other birders
    -- number of times his car broke down
    -- speeding tickets in one year
    -- cameras breaking down in one year

    I'm sure there are others LOL!

  2. I only broke two cameras! You may be on to something with the fee booze, though...

  3. How many ticks did you make in the Nipissing area? Are you counting Nipissing as a county? It is a district and a huge one at that. It seems to be split into two -- on the east side is Algonquin Park on the west side is North Bay and surrounding area.

  4. Yes, I am counting Nipissing as one of Ontario's 50 counties (or more precisely, census divisions). I saw 110 species in Nipissing District last year, highlighted by White-winged Dove, Spruce Grouse (and all the other Algonquin "specialties"), Vesper Sparrow, and Lesser Black-backed Gull.

    While it is a huge district it is small compared to some of the other "census divisions" such as Algoma, Sudbury, Cochrane, Thunder Bay, and Kenora. It's not entirely true that the east part of Nipissing is conspecific with Algonquin since the southwest part of Algonquin is part of Haliburton County, and the extreme southeast corner of Nipissing District is not part of Algonquin.