6 Big Lessons from My NM Big Year

Movies and books sometimes portray only the romantic and glamorous elements of a Big Year. This doesn’t necessarily mean the authors’ intents are duplicitous; perhaps authors are sometimes restricted by writing space, editorial limit, or something else and therefore can’t present a perfectly thorough representation of all of the aspects of a Big Year.

I’ve been asked by others who intend to do various Big Years in 2013 if I learned anything I could share with them about how to conduct a successful Big Year. This post is a 6-pronged answer to that question as well as my best attempt at an honest and comprehensive portrayal of what it takes to complete a Big Year. Continue reading

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Posted in 2011 December | Leave a comment

Comparing the All-time 1st and 2nd Highest NM Big Year Lists

Although my 2012 NM Big Year of 418 was the highest NM list for this year, it is the second highest all-time NM list, short of Jerry Oldenettel’s record-setting 2005 NM Big Year of 428 species. This post is a compilation of some comparisons between the species we each encountered. Continue reading

Posted in 2011 December | Leave a comment

Stats and Analyses of My NM Big Year in 2012

A compilation of some statistics and interesting analyses I threw together to help others understand my year from a quantitative perspective. Continue reading

Posted in 2011 December | Leave a comment

End-game Strategy: Buzzer-beater Bendire’s

As the final days of my NM Big year approached, strategy became more and more important. Should I stay in a central location in order to chase a rarity that could get reported from anywhere on New Year’s Eve? Or should I go to a remote place that has the most potential to produce a few of the easier species I had missed earlier in the year? The former strategy would mean giving up on the few Continue reading

Posted in 2011 December | Leave a comment

Bitter Cold Bitter Lakes Bittern

Every Big Year birder has at least one or a few relatively non-rare birds that prove harder to find than originally thought. For me, my NM Big Year nemesis was the American Bittern.

It’s a species that Continue reading

Posted in 2011 December | Leave a comment

Car Problems of My NM Big Year

During 2012, I sequentially owned 3 different vehicles. I spent approximately $7,353.43 on gas to fuel these vehicles during the year (this figure omits gas money spent to fill others’ tanks when I rode with them on certain outings). Since late June, I drove 21,000 miles in my newest vehicle (this figure omits miles driven in others’ cars when I rode with them on certain outings). Needless to say, a NM Big Year is hard on vehicles. Continue reading

Posted in 2011 December | Leave a comment

(Hot-)Spot(-Light): The Melrose Trap

What is a migrant trap? Why is the Melrose Trap the ultimate migrant trap in NM? How did the Melrose Trap contribute to my NM Big Year? Continue reading

Posted in 2011 December | Leave a comment

A Potential First New Mexico Record Bird!

Word about a potential Red-breasted Sapsucker (Sphyrapicus ruber) broke to the New Mexico birding community on the morning of October 27. Red-breasted Sapsucker is a species that occurs almost exclusively Continue reading

Posted in 2012 October | Leave a comment

The Rules and Limitations of a (New Mexico) Big Year

A Big Year is all about limits. The limits of a Big Year are self-imposed boundaries in space and time as well as uncontrollable external Continue reading

Posted in 2012 October | Leave a comment

Mock Pelagic

I was invited to join the members of the Executive Board of the New Mexico Ornithological Society (NMOS) on the first annual mock pelagic boat trip to the otherwise inaccessible spots on Elephant Butte Lake. A pelagic boat trip ordinary goes miles out into the ocean to look for pelagic species that can rarely be seen from land, Continue reading

Posted in 2011 December | 2 Comments

(Hot-)Spot(-Light): Rattlesnake Springs and the Rarest Bird of My NM Big Year

The rarest bird I saw during my NM Big Year was a Piratic Flycatcher on September 16 at Rattlesnake Springs. This species has been recorded North of the Mexican border only 9 times and in New Mexico only 3 times (including one other record from Rattlesnake Springs in 1996). Not only was this bird the rarest bird for my New Mexico Big Year List, it was also probably one of the rarest species Continue reading

Posted in 2011 December | 1 Comment

Run-in with the Law / While Birding at Boone Draw

Roosevelt County Sheriff's Truck, photographed in haste by Collin after an incident at Boone Draw.

Roosevelt County Sheriff’s Truck, photographed in haste by Collin after an incident at Boone Draw.

Continue reading

Posted in 2011 December | 4 Comments

Portales: A Strategic Move

At the end of May of 2005, Jerry, the current NM Big Year record holder, had seen 368 species. At the end of May 2012, I had seen 307 species. In the last 7 months of his record-setting NM Big Year, Jerry saw 60 species, whereas I saw 111. The explanation for this discrepancy was Continue reading

Posted in 2011 December | Leave a comment

Ptarmigan Ptrek and a Boreal Owl

On August 4, Cole W. led an Audubon field trip to Jicarita Peak which is South of Taos and East of Española. The trip primarily focused on finding White-tailed Ptarmigan, a hard-to-find species that usually occurs much farther North than New Mexico but which sustains a small local population near Jicarita Peak. White-tailed Ptarmigans are non-migratory, so they could theoretically be found any time of year. However, Continue reading

Posted in 2011 December | Leave a comment

(Hot-)Spot(-Light): Guadalupe Canyon and John P.

The trail head for Guadalupe Canyon is in Arizona but is less than 100 m North of the border with Mexico. The first 3 miles of the trail are in Arizona, but eventually the trail then wends into New Mexico for the final 2 miles of the hike. So during a NM Big Year, one aims to hike the first 3 Arizona miles before dawn and cross the state line as the sun is rising in order to Continue reading

Posted in 2011 December | Leave a comment

Near-fatal Hike into Skeleton Canyon

In early June, Cole and I hiked into Skeleton Canyon and almost didn’t come back. This story retells the actual events of that day, the day when I came closest to dying, the scariest day of my life. Continue reading

Posted in 2011 December | 6 Comments

shoulders bear skins

an ode to a coyote killed(,) by Collin Adams: Continue reading

Posted in 2011 December | 1 Comment

Lesser Prairie-Chicken Festival

My job with Hawks Aloft, Inc. required me to work every day in the month of April except for 3, all of which I spent with my father at the High Plains Lesser Prairie-Chicken Festival in Milnesand, NM. Once a year in late April, the town of Milnesand, which consists of 3 houses, a post office, and a fire department, hosts 100 visiting birders from as far away as Continue reading

Posted in 2011 December | 3 Comments

How Technology has Positively Shaped Modern Birding

It’s an exciting time to be a birder. Although optics continue to be refined at the same pace they always have been, the most exciting and exponential acceleration of advancements in birding is due to the technological achievements of the digital age and the age of information. This post aims to highlight a few of the important ways that birding has changed recently. Continue reading

Posted in 2011 December | Leave a comment

Birding Origins: Albuquerque Academy Birding Club

I sometimes get asked by non-birders about my origins as a birder. “How did you get involved in such an eccentric activity?” they ask with a perplexed tone. Sometimes I’d like to respond by asking, Continue reading

Posted in 2012 February | 1 Comment

Waiting for a (not so) Common Redpoll

The Common Redpoll, related to House Finches and Goldfinches, is a northern species. The circumboreal range of the species rarely extends further South than Colorado. This species has only ever been verified in New Mexico 3 times. This species was first detected in New Mexico in December of 1972 by Continue reading

Posted in 2012 January | 2 Comments

The Delicate Art of Bird Sharing

Almost every month of the year, local Audubon Society chapters around the country organize informal bird field trips to nearby spots that offer chances of seeing cool birds. The field trips, which usually attract around 15 participants, are led by high-caliber local birders who Continue reading

Posted in 2012 January | 1 Comment

Blurring the Work/Play Distinction

A couple of weeks ago I responded to a job posting (thank you for forwarding the posting, Carly!) from HA, Inc. HA is a local non-profit organization that does avian research, conservation work, mitigations, and Continue reading

Posted in 2011 December | 1 Comment

Hitting a Palindromic 101 Species at the End of Day Six

After returning from a whirlwind tour of southwestern New Mexico for the first four days of the year, it felt nice to be home in Albuquerque. But in what I’m finding to be typical Big Year fashion, the birding didn’t stop after Continue reading

Posted in 2011 December | Leave a comment

Ontological Uncertainties at a Real Dump

An extremely rare Glaucous Gull (Larus hyperboreus) had been reported at the Sunland Race Track in Southern New Mexico, just West of the Texan border at El Paso and barely North of the Mexican border Continue reading

Posted in 2011 December | Leave a comment

Run-in with the Law on Day 2

Today started pleasantly at Narca and Allan’s beautiful home in the foothills of the Chiricahua Mountains in Portal, AZ. Although I was grateful to Narca and Allan for their generous hospitality, I was eager to get back to New Mexico where Continue reading

Posted in 2011 December | Leave a comment

A Big Start to a Big Year

My NM Big Year started today at 5 AM, waking up at Narca and Allan’s house in Portal, AZ. After a quick breakfast, Bill, Jason, Raymond and I traveled to the oridnarily non-public Diamond-A Ranch in Hidalgo County (the southwestern-most county in New Mexico) to Continue reading

Posted in 2012 January | 1 Comment

Skinny Branches on New Year’s Eve

Welcome to my blog: New Mexico Big Year 2012! Happy New Year’s Eve! Thank you for visiting!

As 2011 comes to a close tonight, my anxiety has reached an all-time high. My head is cluttered with all of the potential problems with Continue reading

Posted in 2011 December | 1 Comment