We have arrived at the end of our little adventure, which has come to be known as “The Little Big Year”. It ended with little fan fare; in fact I did not even go chasing birds on the last two days of 2018, as I am just plain tired. Not of the birds, but the seemingly endless early mornings, rarely sleeping in my own bed, and the pressure, mostly self imposed, to find yet one more bird. For a good portion of the year, it became a numbers game, and my pure enjoyment of the birds for what they are, went away. When we returned to Tucson, from the Bahamas, I was approaching a milestone number, 1300 bird species, and drove myself hard, climbing, hiking, searching, and driving all over the state of Arizona looking for those last eight birds. A few nights ago, I sat out in a light snow/rain mix, in the pitch black of Madera Canyon, trying to find a Whiskered Screech Owl. By 7:30, two of the owls starting calling back and forth across the small ravine, and I had my 1300th bird! With four days to go in 2018, why not try for a few more, right? There had been reports of a couple of real rarities up in Florida ( pronounced Flor-ee-da) Canyon, just to the north of Madera Canyon, so I was up at o-dark thirty the very next day after getting the owls. I had already gotten the Winter Wren up there, as bird number 1299. I was more than willing to make the hour long drive in order to hike up the canyon,  in the newly fallen snow, looking for a warbler. Not just any warbler mind you, but a Rufous-capped Warbler. I was joined by a young man named Matthew Jensen, whom I had met the day before. Matt was working on his own US Big Year, and wanted to join me for the hunt. Like any ultra rare bird that pops up, we would not be alone up there looking for the bird. In fact there were 5 of us total, all willing to make the hike up this snow filled canyon to find this bird. I don’t really know if it was the relief from the pressure of the numbers game, the beautiful morning hike, Matt’s fresh energy, or finding that amazing warbler, but somewhere in the day, birds became fun again. We had to get down off the mountain to try to get Matt his first ever Blue-throated Hummingbird (Which can be seen at the top of this story), that had been hanging around the Santa Rita Lodge, over in Madera Canyon, or I might have just sat there up in that cold snowy canyon, looking at the wonderful different species that had gathered in the small little valley all day. Here is a picture of that beautiful Rufous-capped Warbler.

So, it is with a fresh mind, slightly exhausted body, and a renewed sense of love for our avian friends that I will start all over again here 2019. I just don’t see us doing anything even close to what 2018 turned out to be, but I guess you just never know. The last few days my wife Jeanne has helped me put together some of the “numbers” of our Little Big Year. So below is what the year looked, by the numbers:

Total Number of Little Big Year Species: 1302

Overall World Ranking as per eBird.com  79th

Here are the bird species numbers by country:
USA Total: 361
New Zealand Total: 104
Australia Total: 242
South Africa Total: 219
Qatar Totals: 9
Scotland Totals: 106
Wales Totals: 37
England Totals: 71
Mexico Totals: 238
Costa Rica Totals: 351
Bahamas Totals: 58

Here are a few more fun facts:
Total number of countries: 10
Total air miles: 56,336
Total driving miles: 25,787 (on both sides of the road)
Total number of flights: 22
Total number of photos taken: 77,986
Total number of RV’s rented: 5
Total number of Air BnB’s rented: 17
Total number of hotels/motels: 6
Total number of rental cars: 6
Total number of ferry/boat trips: 24

It wouldn’t take much imagination to comprehend the amount of work that it takes to put together a year of this magnitude, and to navigate thru 10 different countries with all the challenges that each one offers. There are no words to explain how much my lovely wife Jeanne did for me this last year. It just would not have been possible with our her determination, organization, foreign language skills, money management, incredible bird spotting ability (even at 70+ MPH) and her moral support that kept me going when I was at my most tired. We have always lived our lives with the motto “Live in the moment, because who promised you tomorrow” and there is no question in my mind, that this year epitomizes that perfectly! Thank you Jeanne, I love you.

I would be remiss in wrapping this up, without acknowledging the many, many people who were instrumental in help along the way. I hope that I do not forget somebody, but if I do, please know that I will be forever grateful for your help.

Corey Finger and Mike Bergin, and the other writers at 10000Birds.com have offered help and support throughout the year. I want to especially thank Simon Tickle, Duncan Wright, Clare and Grant Morton, Patrick O’Donnell, and Jason Crotty, who all went out of their way to provide the latest in news, guides, and where to find birds!

The following list of talented individuals, all played a huge part in the way this year turned out. If they have a professional service or site, I have listed some information for it behind their name.

Giles Daubney – Melbourne Australia
Murray Hunt – Daintree River Guide Caines, Australia – Boatman@daintreerivertours.com.au
Nick Coetzee – South Africa
Phumula Kruger Lodge – info@ phumulakruger.co.za, South Africa
Carol and Livia – Doha, Qatar
Marty St Louis – Manager at Summer Lake NWR, Summer Lake Oregon
Alison MacLenna with the RSPB – Isle of Skye
John O’Groats Ferry Boat Wildlife Tours – Scotland
Jonnie at the Spurn National Wildlife Refuge, England – accommodations.spurnbirdsobs@hotmail.com
Loree Johnson, Malheur NWR – www.loreejohson.com
Tom and Connie Unsicker at Estero Llano State Park in Texas
John Yochum at Estero Llano State Park in Texas
Mark and Joanie Hubinger at Santa Anna NWR in Texas
John Brush in Alamo Texas
Jean and Gary Siesener in Tucson, Az
Deborah Kaechele in Tucson, Az
Susana Blanco Susana.cotinga@gmail.com Birding BNB coordinator in Costa Rica
Chris Fischer – World Birder, Costa Rica and US
Jorge at the Paraiso Quetzal lodge, Costa Rica – info@quetzalsparaiso.com
Bosque Tolomuco, Costa Rica – bosquetolomucolodge@gmail.com
Geiner Huertas Reyes, Bird Guide – costaricasbestchocolate@yahoo.com
Abner at the Haliconias Skybridges, Biagua , Costa Rica
Andres Chinchilla – Guide at Alexander Skutch Bird Sanctuary, Costa Rica
Franklin Javier Sanchez Reyes – Guide at Carara NWR, Tarcoles, Costa Rica                                                Serge Arias – Casa Tangara Dowii Reserve, Costa Rica                                                                                     Carolyn Wardel, Bahamas Bird Guide – Carolyn.w.bahamas@gmail.com

Again, I apologize if I have missed somebody. Next Wednesday, I will post a story with my favorite birds of the year. With over 1300, it is a daunting task just to look at all the pictures, let alone narrow it down to 10 or 12, but I will see what I can do.

Last but not least, I want to thank everybody who has followed along with my little adventure this year. I appreciate your comments, praise, and notes when I screwed up an identification. I hope you all have a wonderful New Year, filled with good health, happiness and lots of new birds!


You will have to check back next week to see if this Blue-gray Tanager makes the cut for my favorite birds of 2018!!


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.