Thursday 17 November 2016

A Summary of BIGBY - Green Birding and The Big Green Big Year

Thursday 17th November A Day Off To Recharge

With just over six weeks to go before the end of this amazing year and with around 500 miles still to cycle, I have decided, partly due to today's weather forecast, to relax, take stock and think about my Green Birding achievements. I also have emails to send concerning projects that start next year but more about those nearer to Christmas. Suffice to say for the moment, 'Butterflies and birding, Manu and Israel,' exciting future ahead.

A BIGBY logo from Laura Erikson's blog

Green Birding, a BIGBY, A Big Green Big Year, is one where a birder aims to see all of his or her birds without the use of hydrocarbons.

Jim Royer has collated the main Green Birding achievements together on website :-

Taking his statement from there to clarify what Green Birding is all about.....

Traditionally, a green birding record should entail the use of no hydrocarbons, but the use of public transportation, or a ride to the start or from the finish, still makes it much more green than driving the whole route. This list notes which green birding records used no gas and those which have some use of gas: to drive to the start from the counter's residence, or from the finish to the residence. It also notes which counts used local public transportation or a ferry ride. Given the carbon footprint, the use of airplane flights does not seem consistent with green birding, so green birding efforts where the counter(s) flew to the location and/or back are not included here. This list does not distinguish whether or not the use of gas for a count is technically outside the count period, since the point of green birding is to count without a carbon footprint (not just move it a short period before or after the count period.) Unlike the motorized big years, the green big years should be allowed to start any day of the year and finish at the end of 365 consecutive days. Otherwise, green birders who live in hard winter climates are penalized because of the difficulty of starting and finishing on a bike in a freezing snow-covered location. The prior use of a car to scout for a green big day is noted. Given the difficulty of knowing how each participant got to a Big Sit, no notations are made for Big Sits.

Dorian Anderson has the BIGBY World Record at 618. In 2014 Dorian cycled around the USA beating the previous record by around 300!

Dorian's incredible blog is linked below:-

I love to dip into it at random and read of his exploits. Exciting Green Birding.

Ponc Feliu Latorre had the European Green Birding crown until this year. Ponc saw 304 bird species in his native Spain in 2013.

So, time for my own Green Birding trumpet to be blown. Having almost spent 35 months cycling the end of the third year is approaching. Let's look at each year starting with 2010.

The main aim for 2010, other than to survive it as the Winter weather in the UK was the worst seen since 1963, was to visit every RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) and WWT (Wildfowl & Wetland Trust) nature reserve. Over 200 nature reserves to be visited in a year, my route I had mapped back in 2005 as an idea to help me keep my sanity during a time of tremendous personal stress.

The weather was atrocious at both ends of the year and really I didn't have the money to do the year comfortably. I camped or slept rough most of the year. I remember vividly one night of extreme cold sleeping in a church porch in Essex, wriggling most of the night to try to stay warm. Sardines and doughnuts and waiting for supermarkets to reduce some food items at the end of the day kept me going; that and a determination to not only visit all of the reserves but also beat the UK Green Year list record then held by Chris Mills of Norfolk.

I achieved my aim on an icy day in Bedfordshire when a group of RSPB staff cycled with me the last few miles to the HQ, Sandy. I went over the finish line with a flat front tyre!

That day ended with ten inches of snow falling in an hour and me having to push the bike to Bedford. The following day I cycled back to my parent's home in Warwick. 55 miles cycled that day along snow-covered, slushy roads, four punctures endured.

I ended the year on 253, a new record. Looking back later I removed sooty shearwater. I considered the bird I thought I saw to have been not well enough seen to be fully certain of the identification. That brought me back to 252.

Then the British Birds Rarities Committee report into the rare birds of 2010 decided that the red-breasted goose that I had seen in Devon at Exminster Marshes RSPB reserve was an escape. I was now level with Chris on 251.

2010 was a wonderful tour of the whole of the United Kingdom. England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland, I visited them all, criss-crossing to remote areas, visiting ancient monuments, cathedrals and museums, schools and colleges along the way. I had a whale of a time meeting so many fabulous people and seeing how diverse a country the UK is.
I collected money for charity, for the RSPB, the WWT and also for Asthma UK; the latter due to myself having asthma.

Back then I didn't consider the fact that the list might be an European record. That was until one day when I was sitting looking at a western sandpiper at Cley. Sitting next to me in Daulkes hide were two Belgians who had come over to see the mega rare American wader from Brussels. They recognised me as The Biking Birder and told me that their friend, Laurent Raty was trying to beat my European record. News to me that birders from Belgian knew me, I never did hear whether Laurent beat my, and Chris' total of 251.

In 2014 though I heard about Ponc Feliu Latorre though. A Spaniard had not only beaten 251, he had gone past 300! I had to beat that! I started to plan for 2015.

2015, I wanted to be the first British birder to get past 300. I wanted to visit every RSPB and WWT nature reserve again and yes, I really wanted to beat Ponc. England versus Spain, bring it on!

A similar route to 2010 except for May being spent in East Anglia. I had missed several easy birds n 2010 by not going over there. If I was to get close to 300 I needed to see turtle dove, stone curlew, nightingale and hobby.

By June I realised that the 300 target would not be achieved but I kept going. The hope of a phenomenally good Autumn in the Northern Isles and the desire to visit all of those fantastic nature reserves kept me pedalling.

I ended up on 290. Creditable but not 300. I slept in a bird hide on New Year's Eve and carried on.

Now I have seen 300 and I have beaten Ponc. My total BOU (British Ornithological Union) is 315. AERC, the European listing authority has me on 312; hooded crow, mealy redpoll and Northern Harrier aren't treated as separate species on here.

I am still collecting money through donations for the three charities previously mentioned; Asthma UK, the RSPB and WWT. Also I amcollecting money for the incredible rainforest children of Chaskawasi-Manu in Peru.

 These wonderful children leave their homes from deep in the Manu rainforest, to stay with volunteers and staff at the Chaskawasi centre, in order to access the local school and get an education. Their desire is to help protect their rainforest and I had the privilege of meeting these children in 2014. I will be returning there next year. A truly wonderful project that deserves mine and hopefully your suppport.

Please if you can make a donation to any of the charities then please do so. The links to each are at the top right hand side of the page.

Many thanks to all who have already done so.

Six weeks to go. Will Ponc have a go at beating the new record? Will another Green Birder have a go themselves? Hope so.

Meanwhile I await the news on a hooded merganser. It flew away yesterday and is being searched for as I relax.

No problem . . .  it is back!

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