When we last touched base with Noah he was enjoying scenery, birds and wildlife with Jennie Duberstein one of our Leica Birding Crew at famed California Gulch, in southeast Arizona (May 24, 2015). By that days end, Noah had already tallied an amazing 2625 bird species, in countless locales in 2015 alone.
He began his quest on January 1, 2015 aboard a vessel headed toward Antarctica, then wound northward through South America living out of his back pack. As you can see from the map above, Noah’s path is designed to be efficient and methodical and the color-coded key shows the plan by month. He wound northward through South America throughout the first three months of the year, zipped through Central America and Mexico (March – April) arriving in the southern United States in May where we caught up with him last. He swept quickly through the US, having already picked up many of our neotropical migrants on their wintering grounds & during spring migration through Central America. After a quick stop at home for few days, he was off again bouncing from New York City to Europe.
Along the way, Noah has posted daily photos and a synopsis of each day in these wondrous birding locations. The male Rose-breasted Grosbeak above was a local rarity Noah was treated to while visiting home on June 4th. He typically highlights the rare/unusual endemic or species of special concern often spot lighting a specific local conservation project along the way. He birds daily with locals – sometimes guides, other times researchers, and even amateur birders adding another element of depth to the daily updates which give a brief sampling of local wildlife, culture, and magnificent locales at each of Noah’s stops. We’d be remiss if we didn’t point out that all of the images shown were taken either with his Leica V-Lux (typ 114) camera or digiscoped through his Leica APO Televid spotting scope.
Noah left the US on June 8th having already recorded 2,747 bird species and counting. He made brief stops in Iceland, Norway (2,885), Turkey where he tallied his 3,000th species (Tawny Pipit), then to Spain (3,062), and arriving in Africa on June 28th.
In a new continent and back in a more tropical habitat, Noah’s list jumped dramatically adding nearly 300 bird species in west Africa’s Ghana in just 5 days (nearly 60 new species a day). In the mountains of Cameroon, Noah’s count would climb to 3,453 bird species with highlighted species like the Mountain Robin-Chat, Crossley’s Ground-Thrush, & the Mount Kupe Bushshrike.
Noah’s adventures continued to South Africa with more amazing birds, mammals, scenics, and friends!
In 18 amazing days in South Africa, Noah continued sending out stunning images and tales daily as always adding many new species and finishing the South African adventure at 3,756 bird species for the year.
At Kruger National Park the amazing and iconic mammals stole the show.
Not surprising for the man who wrote the book, „Among Penguins, A Bird Man in Antarctica“ one of Noah’s personal life goals (right after wanting to see 5,000 species of birds in a year) is to see all of the world’s penguin species in a year.
Taxonomists are always bickering over what constitutes a full, valid species but the number usually hovers around 18 species of Penguins worldwide. Seeing Jackass Penguins for the first time on the wild, was a major personal highlight for Noah in South Africa (his 11th species)!
Of course with an additional 300+ species added in South Africa there were a lot more than Penguins, the lovely Drakensberg Rockjumper above was but one of the highlighted species.
Noah also treated us vicariously to „Albatross-palooza“ off the Cape of Good Hope!
He’d seen most of these species off of Antarctica in January but likened the event to „seeing old friends“ plus a few new ones as well. The White-capped Albatross (bottom) with a similar Black-browed Albatross was one of these „new friends“ encountered off of Africa! New or not, he admitted the wildlife spectacle of such rich species diversity was amazing to see.
From South Africa Noah hopped to the Island of Madagascar where he has been soaking up specialty island endemic species like the Madagascar Fish-Eagle and Madagascar Scops-Owl.
Noah has temporarily stalled here due to an Airline strike, and as you can see from the map, the last red blip occurs on Madagascar. The last update from Madagascar from August 4th showed Noah’s year list had climbed to 3,830 bird species. For those that follow these kinds of things or have read the book „The Biggest Twitch, Around the World in 4,000 Birds“ or our past blog post „Contrasting & Comparing Big Years„, you know that prior to 2008 no individual had ever seen more than 3,662 species of birds in a single year. In 2008, our friends Alan Davies & Ruth Millers‘ biggest twitch set a new (and still current) world, big year record at 4,341 species seen and chronicled in their fun read. Unfortunately for my friends Ruth & Alan it seems a certainty their incredibly-high, record count will be bested by Noah who currently has seen more birds in a single year than any other human other then them.
Looking forward, Noah will spend the next 4.5 months (153 days) working his way back north through eastern Africa, then through the middle east to India, Sri Lanka & Nepal. He will then continue to the far east – China, Malaysia, Thailand, Japan, the Phillipines, Indonesia, and continue on to Australia, Papua/New Guinea, & New Zealand before hopping back across the Pacific to his home in Oregon for the end of the year. A lot of time, a lot of territory, and an amazing array & variety of new bird species still left to see.
Some numbers: Noah’s current total puts him only 511 bird species shy of the world record count. Through his first 216 days of birding Noah has averaged 17.7 new birds a day. If he were able to maintain that blistering pace over the remaining 153 days, his tally would reach over 6,500 bird species! However, the reality of this type of endeavor is that the numbers of new species one adds typically diminishes as common widespread species are seen in the first days in each new area.
Even if he were able to maintain the lowest total on the chart above, 10 new birds per day (tallied over the past 4 days in Madagascar which was hampered by cancelled travel plans on 2 days due to an airline strike), Noah would finish the year well above his personal goal of 5,000 species. For Ruth and Alans‘ record to remain in tact, Noah would have to average less than 3.3 new birds daily or more accurately would have to add fewer than 10 new birds every 3 days! We will have to follow along to see where the final total ends up.
Numbers and records aside though, I’d encourage any and all interested in birds & wildlife or with wanderlust to enjoy Noah’s descriptive writings and catch the highlight reel from these amazing locations, and the birds & wildlife that show themselves along the way.
For readers who love a good game and opportunities to win free prizes, contests are held at the end of each month. The individuals who guess closest to the month’s ending species total (guesses have to be submitted by mid month to qualify) will win free prizes. Find all of this and more on the Birding Without Borders blog!