The Big Year…those three simple words than can elicit so many different emotions from Birders around the world. For some, the purity of birding should be without hype, without competition. Sitting in a city park, or quiet hide somewhere, enjoying nature and all the serenity it has to offer. Of course, the “numbers” people are all about the competition, and how many bird species can you find in a year. For me, the very premise of a “Big Year” got itself rooted in the back of my brain after watching a historic comedy trio present the tale on the big screen back in 2011. Up to that point, I was just something of a country bumpkin, simply enjoying the birds, and making notes in my tattered old field guide as to the birds I had seen. As I have matured, (well, don’t ask my wife about that) I have come to also understand the importance of the recognition that these competitions provide for those non-birders or at least those on the fringe.

The upcoming year, 2018, will mark 47 years that I can say I have been actively watching, recording and photographing birds. Thru most of that time, my travels have been pretty limited, staying for the most part in the Pacific Northwest part of the US. The scribbles in my field guide increased with each new bird, with a date, and sometimes a small cryptic note about the bird seen. It never occurred to me to add them all up. Now, all of that is about to change. Starting January, 2018 I am going to embark on what I am referring to as my “Little Big Year”. This will under no circumstances be the daunting undertaking that Noah Strycker, or Arjan Dwarshuis have recently provided the bird world with. In fact, the bulk of my world travels will only cover 5 months, before continuing back into the Pacific Northwest. In addition, I will be joined along the way by my wife, Jeanne and Father-in-law Gordon. Jeanne has done an incredible job of booking all the flights(14), motorhomes(6), rental cars(6) and many places to stay. It will be great to have some company along the way, but I am pretty sure I am not going to be able to refer to Gordon as my “Sherpa”, but I am going to go with that for now. With the family along, there is going to be some obvious non-birding tourist time, side trips that will satisfy the photographer in my wife.

My itinerary at this point, while still pretty basic is as follows:

Jan 1st thru Feb 1st will be transferring the paperwork and ownership of our business here in La Paz to the new owners. All the while wrapping up as many of the Mexican birds as possible

Feb 1st Load up the truck and 5th wheel and work our way north hitting as many locations as possible and yet still make it to Seattle by the 25th

Feb 28th, flight to New Zealand, pick up a motor home, for two months. One month on the south island, one month on the north island

April 24th, fly to Melbourne, Australia. And then travel via airplane, motorhome, and rental car to Alice Springs, Sydney, Cairns, Darwin, and Perth.

May 21st, fly to Johannesburg, drive to Krueger National Park, South Africa

June 10th, fly to Capetown, South Africa

June 15th three days in Doha, Qutar

June 18th fly to Edinburgh, Scotland

July 10th, spend 10 days wandering the English countryside, on our way to London

July 20th, fly back to Seattle.

At this point things get a bit fluid, as we begin our slow travel back toward the Mexico border. Some talk of Yellowstone Park has come up, definitely work our way down thru Oregon, with Malheur, Summer Lake and Hart Mountain National Refuges all getting some time. Then over to the Oregon Coast for some coastal and off shore birds. After that, it is just a matter of following the migrants as they head to Mexico along with us.

I want to send out a huge thanks to Mike and Corey, for allowing me to continue submitting our travels tales as we make this circumnavigation of the earth. I really do not have any expectations, I don’t have a “Number” of species in mind that will serve as a goal, so this trip will serve as a middle ground, between the need for the serene, pure enjoyment of the birds, and my competitive nature, wanting ring up that big number. Well, time will tell, and I do hope you enjoy following along.

Written by Tom Brown
Tom Brown grew up in the high desert area of central Oregon. His love for birds and photography started at a young age. Thru the course of time, travel, and a lot of different occupations, he ended up living in Seattle, and met a girl with a sailboat. When he is not scouring whatever area they are in, looking for the next great bird photo, he can be found trying to earn enough money for the next adventure, and of course, a new lens or camera body! Having been nick-named “The Bird Nerd” by his last remaining friends and family, Tom continues search for that next lifer, and the accompanying photo that goes with it. Find his continuing adventures, photographs, and guiding opportunities at Focus on Feathers.