John Richardson
Skylark Guiding Services
 Professional Birding Guide


Here is my blog about my travels, what's new, current migration updates, identification and more...!

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February is Superb-Owl month!!

Posted on February 6, 2017 at 10:10 PM Comments comments (0)

February is a busy time for birders in the northwoods of Minnesota. In the depths of winter it might be cold, but the birding can be red hot!

Owls are often the big draw as people come from far away lands to see birds found here but in very few other places in the US. 

We have finches, crossbills, grosbeaks, and other boreal speciaties such as the" target="_blank">Boreal Chickadee, a shy and fairly reserved cousin of the ubiquitous Black-capped Chickadee. 

This winter has been a funny one (arent they all) with not inconsistant sightings of the owls we hope for and sometimes expect, and this year has been no exception with 4-5 year cycle of the Boreal Owl hightly anticipated.

Unfortunately, it appears its more likly going to be a 5 year cycle this time around. However, this past weekend a Boreal Owl did appear at a friends yard, the sad part was it was on its last legs, and by the time I arrived it had already died. is this a sign we might yet see a bunch of this boreal beauties? Who knows....?

On a more positive note, this past weekend an influx of Great Gray Owls have graced us with their presence much to the excitment of many birds who planned the timing of their visit to prefection it seems! Up to 17-18 had been reported and I and a visitor from Ohio was able to pin down 7 on Saturday.

So, its not too late to catch a chance of a life time opportunity to see what we have to offer 'Up North!'

Highlights of 2016 Part 1 (Jan-June)

Posted on December 13, 2016 at 10:45 AM Comments comments (0)

As we get ramped up for the winter season of birding we are closing in on the end of the calendar birding year. And what a year it was!

How could we have started the year off any better then have not 1, but 2 IVORY GULLS in Duluth, despite only one of them been documented alive. The one we all got to see put on quite the show. It was bitterly cold, but people from all over country and beyond brave the weather to see a bird that rarely ventures south of the Arctic Circle. It was beautiful bird that arguably consumed more salmon than anyone else in Duluth this year! 

It was not a great year for owls 2016. The only owls around seemed to be resident birds. GREAT GRAY OWLS could be found in the bog, but you had to be patient. HAWK OWLS were in short supply, and Roseau County was about the only place you could find one. I did see that bird as 'Big Year' birder John Wiegal need it for his list, so we drove the whole day to see it! As the year progess one of my goals was to see 300 species in MN in a calendar year. This in part was I had wanted to see some species in MN that can be tough to find, or you have to go to very specific places in the state to see them. As the we rolled in to April and May I had had a bit of luck (as is often needed) and tried hard to see some of the toughies with success. Thus, 300 was a doable target.

June came and I was doing quite a bit of guiding, and this time of year is when birds are on territory and you have a good chance of seeing them. John Wiegal and his good friend Nigel Marvin from Animal Planet had contacted me again to come back to MN to sweep up some of the speices he needed for his Big Year.

John had hoped to get around 15 species to add to his list, I thought we could do better, which we did. In total between this trip and his February visit we added at least 40 species to his Big Year. John as of writing currently sits at 779 species for the ABA area with 2 weeks to go! After driving 2,600 in 4 days I turned my attention to another Big Year birder, Laura Keene who also had some unfinished business in MN. So, after saying goodbye to John and Nigel it was time to head back up to the Northland and do it all again! Laura is currently at 756 and will be the first woman I think to break the 750 barrier, and 1 of 4 people to smash Neil Hayward's record of 749. 

By the end of June I was at 294, so 6 months to find 6 speices. But, now I had to turn my attention to family as we were moving house!

Here is a PROTHONOTORY WARBLER S.E. Minnesota which was one of my favorites of the year. And a big thanks to John Hockema who I am indebted to for all his help this year. Check back in a bit to see how the rest of the year unfolded....

Birding in the Heat (The 'Least' of my concerns...

Posted on July 23, 2016 at 3:45 PM Comments comments (0)

Being part of family of 5 means you cannot go birding when you want, all the time. You have to utilize the time you’re given; regardless of the conditions, and this week has been no exception.

I wanted to add 3 birds to my year list and I had to head to the SW of MN (again) if I was to be successful. So, first thing I always do is research the weather forecast for the area I will be and work from there. It did not look good. The ticker tape at the top of each city I visited on the Weather Channel was blood red ‘…EXCESSIVE HEAT WARNING…’. Oh boy!!

Joining me on this trip was Josh Watson from Garand Marais. Josh is no stranger to toughing out in harsh conditions; he is as much an accomplished global traveler as he is a great birder in the field. I had a great wingman!

With plenty of water for the trip we left an unusually steamy Duluth and headed straight west towards the Lakes area of Ottertail and Grant Co. We would not have a lot of time here, but it is hard to resist this underrated and beautiful part of MN. Rolling hills of green with lakes of all sizes provide some ideal habitat for many species of herons and egrets.

We were not disappointed despite the lateness of the day as we came across our first Great Egret roost. With the sun falling fast these lanky birds of brilliant white still pop right out at you in the failing light as they assemble on bare braches over-hanging the glass-like water of the lake. It was a scene worthy of being an Audubon portrait. 

Yet, we had to leave these graceful birds to their beauty sleep and find somewhere to roost ourselves. Tomorrow we planned on an early start to avoid the predicted 109 degree heat index, hot temps and high humidity. On the agenda today was some of the most Westerly counties in MN. There is not much to do here unless you are a farmer or… yup, a birder!

In Grant Co. a multi-Federal/State agency effort to control devastating floods has successfully provided great relieve for the locals and some amazing bird habitat. And this was by design, the water levels can/are controlled at certain times of the year for both migrating and breeding birds. The place is called the Ottawa Impoundment Project.

We are about 20 miles west of the town of Elbow Lake, and are greeted by the sight of 100 Great Egrets all in one spot!

Around us, Dickcissels, Sedge Wrens and Grasshopper Sparrows are still singing resiliently despite it been a hot late July day.

Hundreds of fledged blackbirds and swallow of various species fill the air and churned around us. However, upon closer inspection among the towering presence of the egrets and pelicans we noticed a good number of shorebirds already heading south. 10 species to be exact.

As we traveled the dykes we got commendable looks at Western Kingbird, Eared and Western Grebes and even flushed a Peregrine Falcon no doubt taking advantage of the many slapdash fledgling ducks on the menu. But, the fun was short lived as a thunderstorm approached. No target birds found, but what a place!!! Highly recommended to you all. I had an agenda to stick to, so we headed south to Big Stone Co. were we hoped to catch up with one of Josh’s previous finds this year, the eye-popping Black-necked Stilt.

After a brief unscheduled detour (we got lost!) we arrived at a marshy lake just west of Graceville, MN. It was quite busy with Black Terns, White Pelicans and a good number of shorebirds to boot. And there they were, 2 Black-necked Stilts standing tall and chic. They would not be that big, but as the name suggests they are propped up by these incredibly long (and pink!!) legs.

With 1 of the 3 target birds in the bag, it was time to move on, but before we did I suggested checking the other end of the marsh in case we missed anything. It was a good thing as we were both about to get a very much unexpected Life, State, and Year bird and a County 1st. As if by design Josh and I approached the end of the lake only to be interrupted by a exquisite adult Least Tern circling the lake at close range. This ‘Accidental’ status bird (only 3 records in the last 10 years in MN) is very small (9” long) and only weighs 1.5oz. It circumnavigated the lake 3 times before fading out of sight, and has not been seen since. Timing is everything it seems sometimes. I was able to get a handful of photos for documentation before it and we left.

Wow, 2 birds for the year now safely in the books, albeit 1 of them completely unexpected. But, that’s birding for you. Continuing south we encountered other great birds.

A Swainson’s Hawk had just made a fruitful hunting trip and graced the skies right above us as if to show off its quarry.

A enchanting Krider’s Red-tailed Hawk showed really well against the backdrop of the darkening skies for good measure.

The day was swiftly slipping by us and we still had 1 more species to find, the Blue Grosbeak. To find this elusive, shy bird we enlisted a local of the SW. Garrett Wee is relative birding phenom in these parts and an extremely nice chap, which always helps! Garrett does not fit your typical stereotype of a birder and would look more at home in the UFC octagon, quite a refreshing change!

We navigated our way down towards Marshall, MN amidst the oppressive heat of Lyon Co. We scoured all of the spots Garrett knows as reliable places for the Blue Grosbeak, but as often it goes with birds they just don’t do what you want them to. It was getting late, we all were hot, tired and exhausted. I was happy with what I had, and it had been a great trip. I don’t get too upset when I don’t find things even when you know they are there! It was time to get out of this heat.

That’s when we heard it. Singing away in classic habitat near a gravel pit we could hear the song clearly (something akin to a Purple Finch). It was time to get out and suffer the heat one more time and snag 3 for 3. After much searching we did get a glimpse of the bird and despite it been brief we got what we wanted. Garrett got the job done and is a pleasure to bird with. Garrett your credit to the MN birding community thanks for everything.

Well, we got what we came for, and more. It was overbearingly hot and muggy, but fortune favors the brave sometimes. We traveled some really special country, saw some equally special birds and the company was top-notch.

I only need 2 more to reach 300 species in MN for the year, which was my goal back in January. Bird on my friends…

What do you get...?

Posted on June 1, 2016 at 8:30 PM Comments comments (0)

What do you get when you cross a Canadian, 2 Americans and a Yorkshireman…?

All will be revealed in due course as I tell you about one of my best weekends I have spent in memory within MN.

Day 1

The South East corner of MN, most notably Houston Co. is a real treasure and if it’s not already, it should be on any MN birder’s bucket list. For me, it has been long overdue as there are some species you can only find in the southeast portion of the State. For example, Bell’s Vireo, Acadian Flycatcher, Hooded Warbler, and other stunning birds. Why did I wait so long I ask myself?

Starting at Beaver Creek Valley State Park at 5am sharp I met up with John Hockema of Rochester, MN and Josh Watson of Grand Marais, MN. It was light rain and cloudy, but the birds were already singing. This amazing State Park (established in 1937) is a narrow stripe of high tree-laden cliffs with idyllic trout streams meandering through with its own wild population of Brown Trout.

Within minutes we could hear the elusive and shy Acadian Flycatcher calling from mid-level branches, which is its preferred location. In the distance, Yellow-billed Cuckoos could be heard along with Blue-winged Warblers and whole host of on-territory birds. The step cliffs provide an amphitheater level of acoustics that resonates the dawn chorus to an incredible level. If you get chance you have to visit, what a true Minnesota gem.

Black-billed Cuckoo

Our next targets lie in the low-lying areas of the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge, which is actually part of the Mississippi Flyway. Here we are on the hunt for Prothonatory Warblers that prefers these low, wet areas. Quite quickly we hear its piercing song echo through the trees of a landscape, which actually reminds me of the swamps of the Deep South. This little cutie nests in tree cavities like that of a woodpecker or chickadee. We were fortunate enough to find our very own nest site. A female chastised us as we apparently were a little too close, so a quick couple of pictures for the record and we left them safe to tend to their familial priorities. A Black-billed Cuckoo had just flew by, our attention was needed elsewhere.

Female Prothatory Warbler

As the day progressed at lightening pace the three of us managed to find all we where hoping for and more besides. Day one had been a truly great day of birding, and to share it with two great birders in a magical place one could not ask for more. Josh’s passion and enthusiasm is infectious and John’s knowledge and experience leave you feeling quite privileged and ready to do it all again tomorrow!

Male Prothatory Warbler

Day 2

After a decent night sleep we started nice and early in search of another Casual species in MN, the Yellow-throated Warbler. Normally found way further south, this species has been known to breed in extremely limited numbers, but this year a pair had taken up residence in arguably a quite unusual location.

Joining us for the day, we were privileged enough to have a young lady from Nova Scotia, Canada. Plying her trade as a veterinarian at The Raptor Center, Kathleen MacAulay has already made a name for herself by finding a potential 1st State record Mottled Duck, and a Great-tailed Grackle in a small wetland in the middle of Scott County of all places this spring. Both are really good finds and true testament to her birding skills.

In any event, in the heart of Minneapolis a pair of Yellow-throated Warblers have decided a small row of pines in Gold Medal Park is just the place to nest and rear their young! And it was not long before Kathleen opened her account for the day by finding the male hiding in one of the pines! Wow, what a stunning bird…

During that day around the Cities we found singing Bell’s Vireo, Grasshopper Sparrow, Willow Flycatcher, Dickcissel and all other intended targets, we could not have had a better start!

Bell's Vireo

To finish the day we had one major goal we all wanted to fulfill. Finding the elusive Hooded Warbler. A bird that does nest in southern MN, but they are notoriously shy and like to hide in the undergrowth. We called in a favor and contacted Pete Nichols who lives very close to Afton State Park which is on the border of Woodbury and Cottage Grove right on the St. Croix River. His knowledge of the park is amazing and he kindly brought his acute hearing skills to try and locate this little fella for us to feast over.

We did not get there until 1pm, which is not the best time of day, but you cannot be everywhere at once. It was hot, and quite windy. Things were not looking in our favor. We walked many trails, but came up empty handed at every turn.

We did find a very obliging Fox Snake (new for me), which is not poisonous, but mimics the rattlesnake by having its very own rattle that it uses to warn of its presence when threatened.

Fox Snake

Great find, but not what we came for. Pete had one more spot in mind. Was our lucky streak about to end?

Afton State Park has only recently become a favored haunt of the Hooded Warbler because of the invasive buckthorn that is taking over the understory of the forest at a voracious pace. Along the trail that runs adjacent to the St. Croix River, Pete noted there had previously been a male singing high in the canopy away from prying eyes, but he was not guaranteeing anything. It was our last chance, it was find the bird, or go home empty handed.

Well, he may as well of, because no sooner was Pete’s sentence finished a male Hooded Warbler could be heard singing away right where Pete suggested. Josh and I were not going to pass up an opportunity to snatch a glimpse of this shy diminutive creature. Easy said than done unfortunately, as we had to climb a very steep, slippy and muddy embankment, which was thick with buckthorn if we were to be rewarded.We could hear its call getting louder and louder, and eventually we came close enough to snap glimpse of this woodland beauty. Pete Nichols, we owe you big!!

We finished the day in Goodhue County at Miesville Ravine Park Reserve to find the Cerulean Warbler, bird that is in some trouble as its wintering grounds are under constant pressure in the tropics. This bird is getting harder and harder to find. But, find it we did with the keen hearing of John Hockema. It was a great way to end a very successful weekend of birding in the south eastern portion of MN.

Throughout the two days of non-stop birding, we found life birds; State birds, County birds and even John Hockema got in on the act and added 1 county bird (Black-crowned Night-heron, Houston Co.) for the entire weekend!! That tells a story within itself.

So, what do you get when you cross a Canadian, 2 Americans and a Yorkshireman?

I think the answer has been told, but it ended up being the most enjoyable, educational, and amazing journey with some truly great birders. I can wait to do it again with these amazing peeps!!

(Left to right) Myself, Kathleen MacAulay, Josh Watson, John Hockema

NW Minnesota Treasures

Posted on May 4, 2016 at 7:50 AM Comments comments (0)

This past weekend my travels took me to the other side of the State to the wide open prairies of Polk Co. and the vast expanse of perhaps one of MN's most greatest treasures, Agassiz National Wildlife Refuge (NWR).

Saturday, my clients and I headed to Agassiz NWR, an 85,000 acres ecological wonder! Home to moose, bears, wolves, you name it, Agassiz has it all. Oh, and almost 300 species of birds drop by at some point in the year, and half of those breed there.

Before we even arrived at Agassiz we were lucky enough stumble across a lek of SHARP-TAILED GROUSE which was a stunning experience to see as the prairie sun broke the horizon. As a backdrop we could hear newly arrived LE CONTE'S SPARROW, SAVANNAH SPARROW, BREWER'S BLACKBIRDS, booming AMERICAN BITTERN and 2 dueling pairs of SANDHILL CRANES which echoed all around us. What a start!

As we entered the refuge resident BLACK-BILLED MAGPIES heralded our arrival with their classic machine-gun rattles. At our first stop the Lansing Parker pool which boasts a great elevated overlook, one can see for miles, but the there is action right underneath you, above you and all around. Before long we encountered 15 species of duck alone. Grebes, sparrows, swallows, phoebes, gulls, geese and swans make this place magical.

But, we had to keep moving, there was some much more to see. After lunch at the Wired Bean Coffee Shop in Thief River Falls, MN (great sandwiches btw!) the vast prairies of the Glacial Ridge Project, a sprawling 40,000 acres of tall grass prairie, which is the largest tallgrass prairie and wetland restoration project in U.S. history!

This area is home to GREATER PRAIRIE CHICKENS, MARBLED GODWITS, LOGGERHEAD SHIRKES, migrating LAPLAND LONGSPURS and scores of other shorebirds, ducks, sparrows, hawks and more. One of the highlights was unbelievably close looks at AMERICAN BITTERN as it stood feet from us feeding in the ditch! These amazingly adaptive birds when sensing danger will stand with neck and head in an upright posture and become part of the back ground. Their cryptic camouflage plumage allows them to blend perfectly in to the background avoiding danger (see pics). They even sway back and forth as to appear wind-blown like the reeds it stands in.

Of course no birding trip would be complete without visiting a sewage pond! And Crookston, MN has some of the best. Mmmm, I can smell them from here!!

One of the ponds was drawn down providing perfect shorebird habitat, and it did not disappoint. Despite it been a tad early for the shorebirds we were afforded stellar looks at both male and female WILSON'S PHALAROPE, MARBLED GODWITS, and more YELLOWLEGS you could throw a stick at. What was nice was we could really see the difference between the LESSER and GREATER YELLOWLEGS. Standing on their own their positive ID can be a challenge for most, but put together one can really see the differences in size, bill shape and more. Great ID workshop material.

In all we amassed over 85 species of birds. Not bad considering the winds on Saturday, and the fact many migrants were still not here yet. It's a wonderful area of the state that is very much under birded. If you have not been, you really should consider it.

All was left was to say goodby and see you next time. It was a long drive home, but worth ever penny. I plan to be back there soon.

Southern Gems!

Posted on April 26, 2016 at 7:50 AM Comments comments (0)

If there was one thing I learned this past weekend, it is you can go to a great birding location, but it does not guarantee birds. Mother Nature is a fickle thing!

This past weekends birding adventures took me to the very SE of MN and the very SW of MN. Lots of miles, lots of winds, and, in the end lots of birds! 

Driving down to Rochester Thursday night enabled me to be well rested for the early morning start. And what a morning I had. My main target was the loud, but often shy and skulking LOUISIANA WATERTHRUSH. I arrived at Whitewater State Park near the town of Altura, MN in earnest.

What a great and beautiful place. Trout streams meander through steep and craggy valleys, and this is the preferred habitat for this little gem. After quite a while, one could hear the distant, but distinctive song as it echoed upstream. Eventually, I was afforded some brief but wonderful looks as he perched up and sang his heart out in hopes of attracting a mate. I sure it won't be long fella!

From there, the morning was filled with some other southern MN specialties, LOGGERHEAD SHRIKES, HENSLOW'S SPARROW, LARK and FIELD SPARROW and many more...

But, I had to move on as I had a date with SW MN. This time of year anything can show up there. Weather looked good, southerly wind flow, sunshine, temps in the 70's!

However, the wind took precedence. We battled 30 mph winds and birding was tough in those conditions. Also, the lack of moisture this winter coupled with earlier than normal warm temps likely created a scenario where many fields were dry, dusty and water free. Not great for shorebirds unfortunately, or hearing anything for that matter.

Nevertheless, birds were found. After hooking up with some great birding friends we did find WHITE-FACED IBIS, a previously reported GREAT-TAILED GRACKLE and a nice flock of 23 AMERICAN AVOCETS, and we missed a nice flock of SMITH'S LONGSPURS by an hour, darn it! 

Despite the fact Southern MN has lost a great deal of habitat to agriculture, where you can find birds it can be magical part of State. I encourage you try it if you can, you won't be disappointed. :)

Longspur Leap!

Posted on April 10, 2016 at 1:40 PM Comments comments (0)

One thing I like to do as a birder is try new places! Perhaps I have an attention problem, but we seem to have been stuck in horrible Jet-stream pattern of constant cold winter winds and its mid-April, so I have to do something different! I have been warned there is no Spring in Duluth and there seems to be some truth to that.

This Saturday I took the long drive down to Lincoln Co. MN (which is almost a 6 hr drive from Duluth) and met up with some friends who just happen to be great prairie birders.

The primary focus was looking for SMITH'S LONGSPUR, which briefly pass through SW MN during Spring on their way to their Arctic breeding grounds. The male in summer plumage is a stunning bird. In the fall they turn into just another 'LBJ' (Little Brown Job).

Anyway, in this part of the State you never know what you will see. The landscape starts to look much like South Dakota with rolling hills of prairie grass. It is quite a beautiful place with sleepy little towns such as Pipestone and Lake Benton, MN with the famous Lange's 24hr diner/cafe (got to try the cinnamon rolls).

The towns maybe sleepy, but the birding is anything but that! From 6pm of Saturday until 2pm Sunday we had a respectable 86 species. Many where migrants just passing through, but they did not disappoint one bit.

We were treated to SWAINSON'S HAWK, a multitude of waterfowl species, PELICANS, both LESSER and GREATER YELLOWLEGS, FRANKLIN'S AND BONAPARTE'S GULL. PURPLE MARTIN, TREE SWALLOWS and various new sparrow species were in attendance. WINTER WREN, YB SAPSUCKER, and many NORTHERN FLICKER littered the prairie, it was simply wall-to-wall birding! I can't wait to guide people to this wonderful part of the state.

So, did we find the elusive SMITH'S LONGSPUR? We did find pockets of it's more common cousin the LAPLAND LONGSPUR, but it was not to be. On Saturday before I arrived my friends did find one male in Redwood Co, which was a 1st record for that county. Again, a day late, and a dollar short!!

I simply have to go back again and try! I might need some company. Anyone!?

A really 'Big Year'!!

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Every other year, or so a few ambitious individuals embark on one of the most enduring challenges in all of birding, the ABA (American Birding Association) ‘Big Year’.

Like the Hollywood movie The Big Year, which details the adventures of 3 determined birders to try and see more bird species in a calendar year than anyone else. This year’s race is looking to break all previous records and with this year’s colorful characters, it might just spawn a sequel! 

This year there are 4 noteworthy individuals attempting to take the crown from Neil Hayward, a British ex-pat, who holds the current record with 749 species, set in 2013.

First, Laura Keene, a native of Ohio has been quietly scurrying around North American not only trying to see as many species as she can, but also photo-documenting as many as she can. Laura recently made a quick stop in the Upper-Midwest to find some boreal specialties.

Laura and I spent a day mostly up in Northern MN, and despite some birds starting to slow down and not performing too well, we did get to see Connecticut Warbler and Mourning Warbler at close quarters ensuring Laura has 2 more species photographed and logged in the book for the year! Safe travels for the rest of the year, you will do great!

Second, Christian Hagenlocher, a former science teacher from Missouri is using his Big Year’ opportunity (in his own words) to ‘Educate others. Promote learning. Preserve bird habitat. Inspire people to explore outside. Connect people and birds using technology’.

Rapidly approaching his target of 700, Christian is currently in the beautiful State of Maine spreading the good word! We wish him the best and please check out his awesome website at The Birding Project.

The 2 others in the ‘Heavyweight’ category, Olaf Danielson (the alter ego of Dr. Bradley McDonald) and John Weigel could not be more different.

Olaf, an M.D., is a Mid-westerner who is a self-professed ‘author, religious scholar, storyteller, and adventurer’ who made quite a name for himself by doing a ‘Big Year’ naked! Naked birding is quite a bold, peculiar and unusual thing to do, especially, if you’re gull watching at Canal Park in Duluth in January. Brrrrr!

Despite Olaf’s eccentricities and aberrations he currently has a commanding lead in the standings. 726 in fact, according to eBird’s Top 100. His strategy has been to see as many species as quickly as he can, and made a blistering pace by hitting 400 before the end of January. Of note, Olaf is not alone on his travels as he decided to make it a family affair by bringing along his charming daughter who is almost at 500 species herself! Well done. Best of luck to both of you! You can follow Olaf on his blog at The Bad Weather Big Year 

Meanwhile, as Olaf was sweeping up the easy birds John Wiegel had a different approach. Born in Colorado, but a citizen of Australia for over 30 years John focused on picking off the rarities across the region and deciding to pick up the easier species later in the year. This could be a risky move. As July rapidly approaches some of those breeding birds can be quite tough to find, but despite being quite a few species behind Olaf his strategy might be starting to pay dividends.

John is no stranger to ‘Big Years’ and holds the Australian ‘Big Year’ record with 770, and is looking to add the ABA ‘Big Year’ trophy to his collection. 

Over 4 days in the Lower 48 John, Nigel Marven and myself was able to catch-up quite a bit of ground finding all but 2 of his target birds! Quite the haul of birds considering most were quite elusive species. With the wind in his sails now it looks likely as autumn approaches we will have a good idea who chose the right strategy?

So, will it be Olaf, the Dr. from South Dakota who kindly spared us all by doing his ‘Big Year’ fully clothed this time, or John Weigel the impassioned Aussie?

Whatever happens, it appears records are going to be smashed! Olaf will likely be the first person to record 750+ species ever in the ABA area (extraordinary stuff), but that will perhaps be a mere side note in the annals of history if Olaf cannot scoop up a large amount of rarities and take the Big Prize.

All will be revealed as this tense affair enters the second half of the year. Who said birding is boring. In this ultra-competitive world of ‘Big Year’ birding there surely must be enough for another Hollywood movie. It has drama, theatrics, mystery, suspicion and intrigues, what more could you ask for? It might just happen!