It was July 2014 when I first heard about Noah Strycker’s ambitious plan to see 5,000 different bird species in a single year and have to admit I skeptically thought, „Hmmm… that’s pretty ambitious!“ He posted the same publicly on October 2014, and I know for a fact that others thought the same, some even publicly suggesting it wasn’t possible when they first heard about the effort. I mean it’s an impossible undertaking, unfathomable really. Especially considering the highest totals ever posted by similar efforts were 4,341 (The Biggest Twitch) in 2008, and prior to that 3,662. To think anyone could best the world’s highest mark by almost 20% was nuts. But heck, it’s good marketing, and who am I too scoff at some healthy hyperbole? 5,000 is a nice round number and it makes for a good sound byte, right?!?… I’ve always liked Noah, he’s a positive guy, great writer, and uber passionate birder, so even if not a believer, I was a supporter from the beginning.
Well, I think we’ve all learned one thing since January 1st and that’s to not underestimate Noah Strycker’s unstoppable drive and you certainly don’t want to bet against him! When we first checked in with him in an interview posted mid February, he had already tallied 1,100 birds in less than 7 weeks…. Impressive to be more than 20% to your goal in <7 weeks, but it was still too early to make any judgements. The first birds always come faster, right?!?…
When we checked in again on April 3rd, 2015, Noah had reached Colombia & tallied 1,918 species (38% of his goal in 25% of the year). Here I tried to contrast and compare how his effort stacked up against the world record effort (Biggest Twitch) held by my friends Ruth & Alan, breaking down and analyzing the numbers (Contrasting & Comparing Big Years). Even using the best analysis I could muster and with certainly a surprisingly quickly growing tally, I still had to admit that the big year efforts were too different in approach to compare this early.
We checked in with Noah in May mostly to share some of his stunning images and remind everyone that he posts a blog post with at least 1 or 2 images every day on his blog, Birding Without Borders (hosted on National Audubon website). Noah also sent us a nice report on June 1, he had surpassed half his goal by May 16th (50% of the species goal only 37% through the year)! Even skeptical me, had to admit things looked promising at this point.
We checked in again on August 6th. Noah, had long since finished the „New World“ had swept through Europe and was now halfway through Africa, and I had thrown my cautious skepticism to the wind. My „we’ll just have to wait and see“ attitude had been replaced by this is a done deal! The species count was up to 3,837 (77% of the goal in 60% of the year). It was at this point, I boldly declared the current world record would fall, and that Noah was on pace to not only meet his goal of 5,000 but exceed it by a landslide.
It didn’t take long from here. On September 16th, Noah Strycker broke the existing world record of 4,341 set by Alan Davies & Ruth Miller that had sat untouchable for 8 years and chronicled beautifully in their book „The Biggest Twitch“. He shared another update from the field with us here on the blog on the following day!
Then on October 26, 2015, the impossible happened. The optimistic young man from Oregon, had gutted out an impossible task. Showing amazing determination, and unstoppable drive he had birded every day for just under 10 months and met his goal ending October 26th, 2015 at 5,012 bird species tallied since January 1!
We’ve not done an update since and I have to admit it has everything to do with an impossibly busy fall migration birding show season leaving precious little time and NOT due to any lack of interest! In the time since he has continued to amass new species, and is on the home stretch.
He has birded in over 40 countries on all 7 continents and has less than one week of birding left, and following his Christmas Day update (where he birded for 19 hours) this tireless soul had reached a staggering total of 5,966 bird species and counting! I encourage all of you to follow his continuing daily posts (and even read about past adventures) on his wonderful blog, Birding Without Borders and see if he will tally 34 or more species over the next 6 days and reach another major milestone setting the new high bar for World Big years at OVER 6,000 species! Noah, I am personally in awe of tireless drive and commitment, and promise to never doubt you again! Thanks for carrying us along on your wondrous adventure!
NOTE: Noah Strycker will be joining the Leica Crew at our booth at the Space Coast Birding & Wildlife Festival in late January 2016. If in the area swing by and meet him and get a book signed in the Leica booth, and possibly join him on a field trip as well!