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A global Big Year while working full-time (?) (1 Viewer)

Lerxst

Well-known member
Hello all;

I've been lurking around the threads related to various birding competitions for a while. Always an interesting topic.

For years, I've wanted to make a run at such a thing, but there are two factors that have put a damper on it. First, I'm not interested in restricting my birding to some specific area, such as the ABA region. It isn't that there is something wrong with having a competition that is confined to a prescribed space. Rather, it has more to do with wanting to see new species and adding to the life list while engaged in this potentially quite expensive pursuit. I agree with the sentiment that some others have noted in different threads: investing lots of money and time in an area where one has already birded extensively is not as appealing as going further afield for new birds.

This means that a year-long global birding effort is a far more attractive idea, but that gets to the second issue: I can't quit my day job or take a year off from it. Such an idea is utterly impossible at this point in our lives, and I am sure this is the case for many other birders.

Keeping the employer satisfied means that one will have several hours during work days, plus weekends and vacations and holidays, to bird. For the sake of putting some numbers on this, let's say a typical amount of yearly vacation is five weeks. That gives 129 non-working days to bird full-time or use for the process of traveling.

So...how many birds species could one expect to record in a calendar year, if one has zero geographical constraints, but rather this time constraint?

Does anyone else find this question and concept to be of interest? Perhaps this category already exists?

Finally.... yes, I bring all this up partly because I'm planning to do something along these lines. In calendar year 2018 my goal is to record at least 2,500 species while faithfully executing the duties of my day job.

Thanks for reading, I'm curious what comments you all might have.
-Michael
 

Farnboro John

Well-known member
I like the idea of applying our collective knowledge to this. First I think we need to know a bit about the basics.

Here's what I mean, using a UK example:

New Year's Day is a bank holiday (BH), so a free day - but its a Monday in 2018, so a local start is a must unless you are taking some leave that week (or using the previous year-end to position, having a full day in the field and returning to base after darkness falls).

Easter has two BH, Good Friday and Easter Monday, giving four days to go somewhere a bit more distant: flight out overnight Thursday returning after dark Monday is a useful lump of time to spend somewhere.

There are BH early and late May, also late August, all creating three-day weekends with no leave cost.

Christmas gives two BH which mean a full week's holiday costs only three days leave, handy for that year-end bonus holiday somewhere and with New Year's Day to recover/travel back.

Fill in the gaps with the rest of the leave.

So what "free" holidays/long weekends can you use before starting to make inroads into your annual leave?

IMO all leave should be used abroad in "hot spots" with native birds kept to weekends and before/after work.

I've no doubt there are other possible approaches and I definitely wouldn't presume to nominate any hot spots, the better travelled on here can fight that out!

John
 

Andy Adcock

Well-known member
England
Hello all;

Keeping the employer satisfied means that one will have several hours during work days, plus weekends and vacations and holidays, to bird. For the sake of putting some numbers on this, let's say a typical amount of yearly vacation is five weeks. That gives 129 non-working days to bird full-time or use for the process of traveling.

So...how many birds species could one expect to record in a calendar year, if one has zero geographical constraints, but rather this time constraint?

Does anyone else find this question and concept to be of interest? Perhaps this category already exists?

Finally.... yes, I bring all this up partly because I'm planning to do something along these lines. In calendar year 2018 my goal is to record at least 2,500 species while faithfully executing the duties of my day job.

Thanks for reading, I'm curious what comments you all might have.
-Michael

If you have five weeks holiday, (where do you get 129 days from?) minus travelling time presumably, that means recording 500 new species per week or about 70 per day, a very tall order I think?

I personally think that this would be a huge rush on a daily basis and you'd learn very little about any of the birds. There would be little time to appreciate many of them before moving on.

I think I'd wait until you retire for this one.

I wonder if any of the big World listers, would have a record of the highest number of species they saw in a calendar year whilst still employed full time?

A
 
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peter.jones

Former supporter. No longer active.
Supporter
If you have five weeks holiday, (where do you get 129 days from?) minus travelling time presumably, that means recording 500 new species per week or about 70 per day, a very tall order I think?

I personally think that this would be a huge rush on a daily basis and you'd learn very little about any of the birds. There would be little time to appreciate many of them before moving on.

I think I'd wait until you retire for this one.

I wonder if any of the big World listers, would have a record of the highest number of species they saw in a calendar year whilst still employed full time?

A

Agree, forget the competition, go on a couple of long haul 1-2 week trips, and enjoy the wildlife. Go birding locally evenings and weekends.. Repeat every year, until retired!
 

Paul Chapman

Well-known member
I know next to nothing about world birding but to me from the US this looks like a two centre Asian trip into a two centre African trip (18 day trip with 12 days holiday used), two different two centre trips to South America (9 day trips with 5 days holiday used each time) and a Central American two centre trip (5 day trip using remaining 3 days holiday).

This could clearly be improved using the other holidays (New Year's Day, Good Friday, Thanksgiving, Christmas, etc) but maybe they are best used getting longer weekends for say Mexico, Caribbean and short additional Central American trip.

US based trips can plainly be done over a weekend.

It would take a little while to work out potential numbers but 2,500 does not seem either unambitious or unrealistic.

All the best
 
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dantheman

Bah humbug
Some people already do this to a limited extent - using all normal holiday for foreign trips, weekends and evenings for same-country twitching and local stuff ie national list.

To do it to maximise species diversity over a year probably just a slight extension of that, and whether a record would be reached that others would attempt to beat questionable. Interesting though!
 

Ian Lewis

aka Gryllo
Europe
I have never planned trips with the sole intent of building up a big world year list but most years I see/hear over a 1000 species.

I am retired now but when I was working the best I did for world year list was 1718 in 2002. This involved around three 2-3 week bird tours. However due to time of in lieu for working at weekends I did amass quite a lot of leave.

Since retirement my best has been 1788 in 2013

Ian

Ian
 

temmie

Well-known member
I have been lucky enough to have had years with 8 full weeks of holiday, that is, 34 days + planning weeks of holiday with a festive day included. In those years I did two big trips and when those where overlapping, like a March trip + August + January trip the next year, I could 'easily' see 1500+ species within the time span of 365 days.
So I reckon based on 300 species in a week in eg Mexico, Ecuador, Brazil, Kenya, Thailand, India, Australia, S Africa + local birding, over 2000 should be doable, but I reckon 2500 is a bit of a stretcher unless you do crazy big days during extended weekends to e.g. Mexico, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Colombia, ...
 

jurek

Well-known member
Nobody so far mentioned that it depends what is your job. If you happen to work as a bird tour leader ;) or at least take frequent business trips overseas.

Jon Hall of mammalwatching has this to the extreme. He works for United Nations and this takes him to all the world countries. Plus has nice contacts to gather huge mammal list.
 

Nohatch

Mad scientist
So...how many birds species could one expect to record in a calendar year, if one has zero geographical constraints, but rather this time constraint?

Without geographical constraints quite a lot I would say...but that's unrealistic. For all the weekends you'll be bound by what you can reach from your local airport, presumably MSP? That gives you all of North America, a bunch of places in Mexico and the Caribbean, plus Costa Rica and Hawaii - plenty to keep you busy and roughly 1K species (ABA birders help me out here...)
To go further afield you can get to London, Paris and Tokyo - so a long weekend in Europe and Japan gets you say another 300-ish.
To really add to your list you'll have to get out of the Holarctic region, visiting the countries already suggested by Temmie and others. For that you're limited to your 5 weeks annual leave which is not a lot of time tbh. But another 1K-ish species should be doable so I don't think the target is that unrealistic.
Could you take your annual leave all at once and buy a round the world ticket? That would save a lot of flying back and forth and be cheaper too - not to mention one hell of a summer holiday :)
Curious to see what you decide to do and how you get on next year, keep us updated!

Joost
 

nikothomsen

Well-known member
I love this! Following with great interest. One concern though, a global big year reaching 2500 may not be impossible, but how well would this coincide with your aim to see ‘new’ species, aka lifers? In other words, wouldn’t you need to make a trade off here between going for lifers and going for high numbers. OP’s desire for ‘new’ species may conflict with the aim to see 2500 species. This will of course depend on what you prioritize, and where you have been birding before. Looking forward to your thoughts on this.
 

Lerxst

Well-known member
Wow, thanks for all the replies. I'm glad this topic has piqued much interest.

I agree that 2500 is ambitious. I consider it a 'stretch goal'. I reached the number by looking at what recent global birding record-setters have been able to do and interpolating based on days; that got me to around 2400, then I rounded up to 2500.

Here is the part I didn't mention: I have a year long work assignment (and I'm an engineer, not a bird guide!) starting in mid-January in Bangkok. This will be the fourth trip here for my wife and I, as my work usually sends me here for one month stints. Bangkok is a fantastic central location for such an effort, not only because there is good birding in the immediate area, but also because there are a very large number of destinations in Asia that are only a short, and relatively inexpensive, flight away. So our weekends will include jaunts to Cambodia, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, China, Taiwan, and within Thailand, for example. Longer weekends that have a holiday will include several stops in Africa, Australia, Nepal, Japan, and India.

Before I thought about total number of species, I was thinking about this trip in terms of lifers. Hoping for 1400. That would be quite easy if we'd never been here before. Again, a stretch goal, I think.

Also on Jan 1 we will be in Ecuador, so that helps. (We are doing a Galapagos / Quito trip from Dec 24- Jan 1). If the timing of this had been better, I'd have set up this trip to fall more fully into 2018. But most of this had all been arranged some time ago, before I started thinking about 2500 birds.
 

Nohatch

Mad scientist
Also on Jan 1 we will be in Ecuador, so that helps. (We are doing a Galapagos / Quito trip from Dec 24- Jan 1). If the timing of this had been better, I'd have set up this trip to fall more fully into 2018. But most of this had all been arranged some time ago, before I started thinking about 2500 birds.

Then why on earth don't you start your Big Year this weekend?!
 

Lerxst

Well-known member
If you have five weeks holiday, (where do you get 129 days from?) minus travelling time presumably, that means recording 500 new species per week or about 70 per day, a very tall order I think?

I personally think that this would be a huge rush on a daily basis and you'd learn very little about any of the birds. There would be little time to appreciate many of them before moving on.

I think I'd wait until you retire for this one.

I wonder if any of the big World listers, would have a record of the highest number of species they saw in a calendar year whilst still employed full time?

A

129 is the number of full time days. 104 weekend days plus 5 weeks vacation.

On normal weekends, if one can get 25 birds per weekend, that is 1300 right there. Then one would need five week-long trips that get 240 birds each.

Looks pretty tough, I do admit.
 

Nohatch

Mad scientist
Don't know if there's any rule that says they have to be a calendar year 1 Jan to 31 Dec, but all the ones I've read about have been.

Sure, within the 'official rules' of say the ABA it would have to be a calendar year to keep things comparable between 'competitors'. But if you're doing a global big year then that's pointless as you're theoretically covering the whole planet and all species on it. I don't see any reason why it would have to be a calendar year...unless it's a self-imposed restriction of course, in which case who am I to argue :)

Joost

P.S. green big years are 'allowed' to start/finish any day of the year
 

Andy Adcock

Well-known member
England
129 is the number of full time days. 104 weekend days plus 5 weeks vacation.

On normal weekends, if one can get 25 birds per weekend, that is 1300 right there. Then one would need five week-long trips that get 240 birds each.

Looks pretty tough, I do admit.

3 weeks in Kenya could yield 5-600

I think that the best tactic would be to spend unbroken time in countries with huge lists to save on lost travelling time?


A
 

jurek

Well-known member
If you go for number, I can imagine something like:
400 birds in the local area.
6x 9-day trips covering six separate and bird-rich regions of the globe, stretching 5 weeks of leave around Christmas and other holidays. Each can give realistically between 150 and 250 new species. Say Costa Rica, Ecuador, South Africa, Kenya, India and Malaysia. You might be able to pass well over 2000 but be below 2500. And your costs would be very high.

BUT:
Realistically it is not possible to spend every weekend on birding travel, manage all your life obligations and keep productive day work. You cannot be half-asleep zombie for months. Most I can manage is one weekend birding, next for rest and life obligations. Even then I was not keeping this pace for more than 2-3 bird weekends in a row.

Most birders prefer longer in one place (2-3 weeks not 9 days) to get reasonably most local birds, not just the commonest.

I feel that best 'big year' would be to save up money, and take time off work. If you want to keep day work, take 2 3-week holidays in the tropics or 3 2-week ones. You will see enough of these places, managed your hobby-tiredness ratio and be much more satisfied with a very high number.
 
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