On May 22nd, my Pennington County big year list reached 200 bird species for the year with the sighting of Sanderlings in Wall, SD. That means that my contest for people to guess when I would get to 200 species is over. This was much earlier than I expected it to happen. Most of the people who entered the contest also guessed that the date would be much later in the year than May 22nd.
MADELINE BAUER of Mira Loma, California, however, was very close with her guess of May 25th and is the winner of the contest. She disclosed to me that she is a statistician, and used the data table that I provided on my previous big years to estimate the date when I would get my 200th bird for the county. She worried that maybe she had an unfair advantage, but we all know that there are many unpredictable things about birds that just don’t fit into statistics very well. She also used her experience/knowledge about migrants in May. It was an unusual (for west South Dakota) assortment of migrant warblers that made the 200th species come quicker than I expected.
I sent Madeline her prize of a signed copy of my Extreme Birder book, and asked her to tell us a little about herself and her birding. So, let me introduce you to Madeline Bauer, in her words:
Where she likes to bird: “Anywhere, everywhere, the birdier the better!”
Why she likes to bird: “The challenge, the puzzles, the solitude, the exercise, the companionship, nature, ... “
Her special birds: “Snowy Owl, White-tailed Kite, Gray Flycatcher, Evening Grosbeak”
How long she’s birded: “I got hooked in 1999 - my brother and I took our step-mom (at 80 a self-taught amateur photographer) to Alaska. In planning the trip, she said she'd like to see swans and cranes. In the process of researching where to find those species in Alaska, I got hooked, even before we got to Alaska!”
Whether she’s done any kind of big year: “The closest to a big year is my "local patch" year list, which I started doing in maybe 2008 when I read about some birders starting a "birds by bicycle" list. So I wanted to see how many I could see on foot. 130+ the first year, not much by Big Year standards!”
Other things about Madeline: “My birding has had a big change for the better, starting in early January when I got hearing aids! They have 4 programs, #1 for normal speech, #2 for speech in noisy places like restaurants, leaving #3 and #4 for birding! I met with the audiologist weekly for the first 3 months and he would adjust the programs based on the bird call CDs I took to him and my experiences in the field. Obviously I birded every minute I could spare! But I couldn't have done it without a great birder friend who went out with me, patiently pointing out the calls and songs that he heard. If I couldn't hear those, I'd make notes and have the audiologist make adjustments to the programs, enhancing the soft or faraway sounds and de-emphasizing the loud, close sounds (crows, House Finches, etc). About 2 weeks after I got them, we went to the mountains to look for Evening Grosbeaks. A couple of other birders were looking along a road, walking west. So I started walking east by myself and suddenly I realized the grosbeaks were muttering to themselves in the tall trees above me. Wow!! A $6000 lifebird!!
Each time I go out, whether in my front yard (17 acres) or the local wildlife areas or even Magee Marsh, I'm excited, anticipating seeing something new. Maybe a new species (wow!) or learning something new about birds and their behavior, like a House Wren struggling to get a 6 inch stick inside a 2 inch pipe where it must be trying to build a nest! And, now that I have my hearing aids, there's the added excitement to learn new sounds and try to match those sounds with the bird singing/calling! Always something new!”
Thank you everyone who entered the contest, and congratulations to Madeline Bauer!
Of course, my BIG YEAR CONTINUES, and I am now at 218 species. Some of the best birds seen lately that I also photographed are Red-headed Woodpecker (now fairly easy to find in the county) and Cassin’s Finch (found in the Black Hills, but not common there). Things are becoming very slow, but there still are possible birds that I may find. In my wildest imagination, I think I might reach 235 species for the year, but even that is a bit of a stretch. Stay tuned…