Wednesday 4 April 2018

An Unused Article for ABA - Bit of Background to Biking Birder

Back early in 2016, I sent an article to ABA, the American Birding Association trying to promote my BIGBY (Big Green Big Year). I don't think it was ever published by them but I feel that it may fill in any gaps any of you have over reasons to be a Biking Birder.

What do the names Jim Royer, Scott Robinson, Ted Parker and particularly Dorian Anderson mean to you? Four Great Americans, pioneers in a relatively new birding field, Big Green Big Year listing.
Jim Royer back in 2010, saw 302 bird species in just one county, San Lui Obispo County, California using no gas
Scott Robinson a scientist from the Florida Museum of Natural History, together with Ted Parker, saw 331 bird species whilst doing a Big Green Day back in 1982 in Peru.
Then we come to Dorian Anderson. In 2014 Dorian didn't just break the North American Birding Big Green Big Year (BIGBY) record as take it into the stratosphere. Before 2014 various American birders had seen around the 300 mark doing a BIGBY. No one could have imagined that Dorian would end up seeing 618. Phenomenal Green Bird listing, this is also the World record. 

Dorian Anderson, a true American World champion, is the ultimate Green birder.
In Europe people have said that I, Gary Prescott, am the most famous Green Birder. Yet I am not the European BIGBY record holder. I was back in 2010. In that year I cycled around Great Britain seeing 252 birds whilst raising money for British bird charities, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) and The Wildfowl & Wetland Trust (WWT). I visited every one of both societies nature reserves adding to the challenge.
Chris Mills of Norfolk County had held the record until 2010 when he challenged Simon Woolley of Hampshire County to a Green Year list competition. Chris won with 251.
Disaster hit my record number when the British Birds and Rarities Committee took a bird from my list, deeming that a red-breasted goose was an escaped bird. Obviously escaped birds don't count and I was therefore back to parity with Chris on 251.
251 was the European Big Green Big Year record at the time. What happened next upped the stakes. Ponc Feliu, a young, handsome Catalonian from Spain saw 304 birds in 2013. So whilst out in Peru for a lot of 2014 I planned my assault. I must get the record back for Britain.
Back in 2010 I had visited all of the said nature reserves and also given talks to schools and colleges, visited cathedrals, museums and ancient prehistoric sites. I had climbed the five highest peaks and swam in each of it's oceans and seas. In other words 2010 had been a relaxed extended exploration of Britain. Things would have to be very different in 2015 if I was to have a chance of beating Ponc.
I would still visit all of the RSPB and WWT nature reserves, all 242 of them; after all I wanted to raise money for these two incredible charities. Away from that though it would be a year of where is the bird and how can I get to see it.
The year went well, the weather was mostly benign, unlike the weather in 2010 when Britain experienced the two worst winters since the Big Freeze of 1963, and I ended the year on 289. A massive increase, in relative terms on the previous 251 but sixteen short on the record held by Ponc. I, The Biking Birder, would have to do it all again in 2016.
The Biking Birder. I have been birding since the age of nine but only seriously Green Birding since 2010 when I first dig a BIGBY. My passion developed after college when I found out that there were many other people who loved birds as much as I did. I had a patch near Wolverhampton, UK and became a High School teacher of biology on a large working class housing estate. Here I organised a bird watching club which at its peak had over one hundred members. My thrill at the time wasn't so much the birds but in seeing children develop their own passion for nature. Even now after thrity years and more a lot of those children, now in their forties go birding. Four of us meet up every year on Shetland to celebrate our mutual love of birds.
So here I am. It is 2016. The route this time doesn't include all of those out of the way nature reserves. There will be no three weeks spent in Northern Ireland, no three weeks spent in Wales. I will be cycling along the south coast, along the east coast and visiting both Shetland and the magical, remote Fair Isle. This time I will have 305 on my Big Green Big Year list. I will beat Ponc and regain the European crown.
And I will do all of this to raise money for charity. Every bird I see will mean more will go to the four charities; to the RSPB and to the WWT. I am also supporting Asthma UK. Maybe surprisingly but I suffer from the condition and have to regularly take my inhalers in order to cycle every day. Finally, after my time in the Manu Biosphere in Peru I am supporting the Chaskawasi-Manu Project. Beside the beautiful Madre de Dios river there is a very small village called Salvacion where a Spanish organisation is working to give indigenous children a home from which they can go to school and get an education. The tribal leaders of the indigenous communities very deep in the Manu, a fully protected rainforest national park of over a three million acres, understand the need for a few of their children to be educated in worldly ways. The hope is that these children will become ambassadors for their tribes. The Manu is reputed to be have the world's richest biodiversity yet it is under pressure from the oil industry, mineral extraction and tree logging.

Green Birding is a way in which nature lovers, particularly birders can contribute to negating the challenges presented by Global Warming and Climate Change. A Big Green Big Year is mentally, spiritually and physically challenging but what a ride!

The Biking Birder 2016 – The Quest for 300 blog

Have a fabulous year, consider Green Birding for yourself and . . . go find it.

Gary, The Biking Birder Prescott

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