For those of you that didn’t hear: the Australian ‘Big Year’ record was officially broken at the end of 2012. John Weigel has annihilated his predecessors, seeing 745 species of bird in Australia in a single year, beating the previous record of 720 set by Sean Dooley in 2002. Just let that sink in for a moment. Seven hundred and forty five different bird species.
Seen by one man.
In one year.
John has used his big year to raise money and promote a Tasmanian Devil breeding facility known as Devil Ark.
My interest in the ‘big year’ phenomenon comes after a friend leant me Sean Dooley’s highly entertaining book ‘The Big Twitch’ about his now surpassed record attempt. Big years have a long and colourful history in Australia, originating from England and North America.
We marvelled at the concept, wondering what it would take to achieve this kind of feat. To properly undertake a ‘big year’ people quit jobs, re-mortgage homes, spend life savings, baffle and alienate loved ones and dedicate every waking minute to being in the right place at the right time. It requires commitment, organisation, a touch of madness and a good bit of luck to get anywhere near the record.
Feeling inspired, our gung-ho attitudes were quietly quashed with a few stern words from our significant others, both pregnant. Ok so this was probably not a good time for either of us to quit our jobs and start a big year. But what about a big year of sorts? A ‘not so big year’? Where we would record how many bird species we could see in a year in our day-to-day lives without going particularly out of our way. But not just the ‘year list’ that many birdos make. This one would be a competition with high stakes; a carton of XXXX. So we started the next day, 18th March 2012. We also roped in a couple of mates living in central Australia to keep things interesting.
With three months to go the ‘not so big year’ is going on strong, and personal tallies are in the order of 300+ species per competitor. It feels like we seen a huge amount but our lists pale in comparison to the epic records set by the true bird nerds of Australia.
Stay tuned for the official wrap up of our ‘not so big year’ at the end of March.
For John Weigel’s bird list and more information on Devil Ark see his website Birding for Devils.