Friday, January 23, 2009

Birding goes green

Long ago, bird watchers amplified a mild hobby to quixotic extremes. In 1939, Guy Emerson got things rolling with a total of 497 species seen in North America. The Big Year record didn't last long as a succession of fanatics invested increasing time and resources into raising the bar. According to the Wikipedia entry, from which I've culled these numbers, the current record is 745 set in 1998 by Sandy Komito. It's a great accomplishment under which must lie some other remarkable numbers. I don't know any of the particulars of Komito's travels but it will serve the purpose of this entry to consider the logistics of a former record holder.

In his book Call Collect, Ask for Birdman, author James A. Vardaman chronicles his 1979 record setting tally of 699 species. To achieve this total, he covered a lot of miles - plane (137,145); car (20,305); boat (3,337); bicycle (160); and foot (385).

Thirty years later, one can't help but think of the carbon footprint involved such an intense chase. Many have eased back on the throttle and it is becoming more common for Big Year and local birdathon participants to compete without burning fossil fuels.

No one have given this more thought than Richard Gregson, of Baie d'Urfé, Québec. Richard came up up with the catchy acronym of BIGBY - the BIg Green Big Year - to promote a culture of birding with a very minimal carbon footprint. Participants in the BIGBY initiative sign up and share the results of their efforts to find birds using human propulsion.

In 2008, Andrew Kleinhesselink and Josiah Clarke took the concept to a new planet-friendly extreme. From their base in northern California, the Bike-by Birders, cycled their way to an amazing 295 species.

Closer to home in the annual Carden Challenge, a local fund raising birdathon, the bicycle borne Carden Plain Janes have set a fine example in each of the last two years. In 2008, The Janes raised $907.00 for conservation while tracking down 102 species during the one day event.

In a similar spirit I will track the birds I see in the Stony Lake region, within areas circumscribed by circles with diameters of 80 and 24 km, centred (44.547873, -78.152851) at the government dock on Juniper Island.

The the larger circle includes a good variety of habitats north and south of the margin of the Canadian Shield. Many areas can only be reached by canoe or trail. Others, I drive through regularly as I commute to and from Peterborough.

The smaller circle is the same size as a Christmas Bird Count circle; and overlaps the Petroglyphs CBC circle on its east side. Within this circle are familiar hiking and ski trails as well as the backwaters we like to explore by canoe.
I'll track the results in the right hand column. BIGBY birds - those seen within the green circle, without the use of a car or power boat - will be listed in green.

1 comment:

Sparverius said...

Good luck with your BIGBY. And thanks for the suggestion to track the distances I travel as I do my own Bigby.