eBirding the World Big Year – June Update

By Team eBird July 18, 2015

Noah scans for birds along Spain's northwest coast

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 past the halfway point of 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, and Europe, tallying a fantastic 3331 species – well over halfway to his goal. 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 June here!

This month I birded through parts of Oregon, New York, Iceland, Norway, Turkey, Spain, and Ghana. In June I submitted 253 eBird checklists and saw 850 species of birds, 630 of which were new for the year, bringing my cumulative 2015 total to 3331.

June was a big month! I crossed the Atlantic, leaving the Americas behind. Long hours of summer daylight in North America and Europe meant very long days of birding, and I probably got fewer hours of sleep this month than in any previous month of my life. I can sleep next year… meanwhile, there are birds to see, and I’ve racked up some good ones lately.

Here are my top six birding moments in June:

6. Reaching the snow in Norway

Birding in the snow in Norway

This is the year of “endless summer,” and I’ve mostly been in warm, warmer, and hot places so far (except Antarctica at the very beginning). So it was refreshing to spend a day in the snow at Valdresflya in central Norway early this month. Peering over six-foot-high snowbanks on the side of the road, my friend Bjorn Olav Tveit and I found Lapland Longspurs, Temminck’s Stints, Ring Ouzels, and Bluethroats greeting the arrival of spring.

5. Hanging out above the canopy in Ghana 

At Kakum National Park in southwest Ghana is the most awesome canopy walkway I’ve ever seen: A series of hanging rope bridges connect platforms in half a dozen treetops, forming a loop trail in the top of the forest. In several hours, sharp-eyed Kalu Afasi and I saw more than 50 species of birds from the canopy, including some impressive Black-casqued Hornbills. Just don’t look down…

4. A friendly surprise in Spain 

When I arrived in Spain, a birder named Gorka Gorospe [eBird note: also a key member of our eBird editor team in Spain] gave me a wonderful present: A handmade big year T-shirt with my name on it and hand-drawn bird silhouettes from around the world! Gorka, you’re the best – and Spain was amazing, from the Little Bustard to the Grasshopper Warbler and beyond.

3. Pulling an all-nighter in Iceland

The home of Iceland’s president is a good birding spot, even at four in the morning.

The home of Iceland’s president is a good birding spot, even at four in the morning.

A delayed flight cut my day-and-a-half layover in Iceland to just seven hours, between midnight and seven a.m. This didn’t phase Yann Kolbeinsson [eBird note: Another all-star eBird editor], who volunteered to stay up all night with me – and we birded the land of volcanoes together under the midnight sun. Eiders, fulmars, and puffins kept us awake through the wee hours.

2. Birding with the eBird team

Noah admires a mural in progress at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Noah admires a mural in progress at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology

During this big year, I have relied heavily on eBird—for trip planning, uploading lists, keeping track of species totals, and awesome support. So, before heading for Iceland, it was fantastic to spend three days in Ithaca tracking down birds with a core birding posse of Marshall Iliff, a project leader for eBird; Tom Schulenberg, a taxonomist at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology; and Tim Lenz, an eBird programmer. We started out with four new species at dusk right after I arrived at the airport, and picked up 18 new species all told. We even chased down a rare Brown Pelican that turned up on Cayuga Lake. Thanks, guys!

1. Seeing a Tawny Pipit, my 3,000th year bird, on 17 June

A Tawny Pipit isn’t the most inspiring “milestone” bird, but the setting was incredible! The top of Turkey’s Mount Nemrut is bare rock with a panoramic view and a collection of 2,000-year-old stone sculptures at the summit. Emin Yogurtcuoglu, who is just 18 days younger than me, made the moment even more fun with his exuberant enthusiasm.

June wraps up the first half of this year. It’s gone so fast! I’m looking forward to the second half – the Eastern Hemisphere has many more bird species than the Western Hemisphere does, and more of them will be lifers for me. My most exotic destinations still lie ahead, in Africa and Asia – and, I hope, some major milestones will be coming up in the next couple of months. Six short months to go.