For the Birds Radio Program: Year List

Original Air Date: Jan. 2, 2008

Birders can start afresh every January 1.

Duration: 3′35″


Every year on January first, I start a new year list. It’s a lovely ritual, making every single species, including pigeons and house sparrows, fresh and welcome for at least a moment. I saw a lot of birds in 2007—well over 600 species—since I’d traveled to Costa Rica and Guatemala as well as doing a lot of birding in the US. I won’t see nearly as many species in 2008, but I’m just as excited about my prospects this year as I was last year. For one thing, I’ll be spending the vast majority of my time in Ithaca, New York, so I’ll be working on whole new city, county and state lists. And I’ll get to start a whole new backyard list, which is always fun. But on top of everything, I’ve joined a little band of birders trying to reduce our use of natural resources while birding. We’ll each be making a list of birds seen on foot within walking distance of home or work, or on bicycle or other self-propelled vehicles, or via public transportation. Although we’ll be keeping track of what we each see, this isn’t really a competition—how could we compare lists of people living in the heart of a big city with those who live within walking or biking distance of exceptional birding hotspots? But it will be fun to test the limits of what we can each see while doing our best to make the world safer for the future of birds. This is probably the funnest approach to a New Year’s resolution I’ve ever had. I always want to get more in shape, and this year I don’t even need to make that a specific resolution since it should be a natural outcome of my 6-mile biking commute and all the winter hiking I’ll do even before the bicycle season. The group is calling this new kind of green birding Bigbying—BIGBY stands for Big Green Big Year.

Even as I work on my Bigby list, I’ll probably do a bit of traveling outside of Ithaca. I badly want to drive to the Catskills or the Adirondacks to add Bicknell’s Thrush to my lifelist, and if I can talk my family into meeting for a vacation together, would love to get back out to Machias Seal Island to spend a day with Atlantic Puffins. But overall, the birds I’ll be seeing this year will be birds seen in Ithaca and between there and Duluth. I’ll be involved in a few birding festivals up here—one at the Sax-Zim Bog in February and one in Ashland in May, but I’ll be lucky to get this year’s list up to a third of last year’s. But even though I won’t see a Resplendent Quetzal or a Horned Guan, this year’s birds will have a special sweetness I’ll savor the whole year through.

If you’re interested in keeping track of the birds you see within walking or biking distance of your home or job, click on the bigby link on my webpage, Many people love birds without keeping track of the ones they see, but I always say no one should go through life listlessly.