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eBirding the World Big Year – September Update

Mottled Wood-Owl in southwest India, © Noah Strycker

In 2015, Noah Strycker is attempting to become the first person to see 5000 species of birds—about half of the avian species on Earth—in one calendar year! Noah is now more than three-fourths through 365 straight days of birding around the globe, with an itinerary covering 34 countries and all seven continents, on one continuous, all-out, global birding trip. To date he has covered Antarctica, South and Central America, Europe, and Africa, tallying a fantastic 4565 species – more than 80% of the way to his goal, and a new world record for the most bird species seen in a single year! Congratulations Noah! Noah is using eBird to keep track of his sightings and to help strategize during his quest, as well as to connect with many other birders as he travels. You can see his daily blog accounts on Birding Without Borders. He has been kind enough to write up a summary of his travels for us each month – you can find his notes from September here!

I spent the first half of September in Uganda and the second half in India, with a one-day layover in the UAE in between. In September I submitted 178 eBird checklists and saw 955 species of birds, 454 of which were new for the year, bringing my cumulative 2015 total to 4565.

This was a big transition month: Africa is now in the rearview, as is Europe and the entire Western Hemisphere. With three months left, only Asia and Australia remain. How many birds might I add by the end of December?

We’re getting to the business end of this adventure and my goal is still to see 5,000 species in 2015. Meanwhile, on September 16, I reached an anticipated milestone. In Thattekad, in southwest India, I saw my 4,342nd year bird, a pair of Sri Lanka Frogmouths, which officially surpassed the previous world big year record, held by British birders Ruth Miller and Alan Davies, of 4,341. That day, I was accompanied by more than a dozen local Indian birdwatchers who had heard about this project and wanted to help set the record on their home turf. India is an especially world-record crazy country (more than 20% of all Guinness Book submissions come from India), so this seemed appropriate – and quite exciting!

Local (e)birders in southern India.

Local (e)birders in southern India.

A few days later, I also set a personal record of another kind: I shared one eBird checklist with nine other people! I’d never been birding with so many eBirders at once, not even at home in the U.S., which underscores just how international eBird has become in the past couple of years. India launched its own eBird portal last month and it’s extremely popular. eBird is bringing together birders around the world in a way never seen before, and it helped me connect with locals in India who I wouldn’t otherwise have had the opportunity to meet. Cool stuff.

The Shoebills and zebras in Uganda already seem like a distant memory even though that was just a couple of weeks ago. This big year is rolling toward the home stretch, if you can say that about two continents and a dozen more countries… Well, actually, three months is a long time still. On second thought, we’re nowhere near the home stretch yet – and this train isn’t slowing down.

Martial Eagle in Uganda, © Noah Strycker

Martial Eagle in Uganda, © Noah Strycker