Whats harder to believe is that, without even trying to do another Junior Big Year, I am so close to my own "record". I've just birded a lot this year--and traveled a lot this year but really haven't put in much effort to try and brake the record, at all--yet as of 11/21/13 I've landed 430 species (my 2011 record was 437)!
It's been a GREAT year this year and by that I mean GREAT. 2011 will always be my favorite year I've ever birded--- until I do a full all-blown Big Year or something - but for my youth years 2011 will always be on the top of my favorite list. It was an incredibly fun year but this year is one I will not soon forget either.
The cool thing about this year is that while I've landed an unreal close number to the number of bird species I landed in 2011--- I've traveled to a lot of different areas than 2011 and seen a lot of the same yet a lot of other birds. Other than my "home turf" (i.e. Virginia, Pennsylvania, Maryland, North Carolina, West Virginia) Texas is the only place that is a "repeat" location for 2011 and 2013. In April of this year ('13) my Godmother (a fellow birder) and I took an awesome trip to the Rio Grande Valley Texas - same area I went in 2011. In '11 I went in March so birds were similar but a little different because late April is getting into heart of migration season - when everything changes around!
Locations I visited this year that I 'bypassed' in '11 include -Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana (I didn't realize until now that they are 3 'M' states -funny!). I also went to New Jersey (Cape May) this year and I did in 2011 but this years trip was for only 8 hours. though I did land 2 lifers - Parasitic, Long-tailed Jaegers.
My family and I go to Glacier National Park Montana most summers but 'bypassed' it in '11 because we went to Alaska instead.
One of the fun aspects in my Junior Big Year ('11) was bird chasing - crazy, out of my mind, twitching, which I did very little of in my other birding years ('09, '10, '12) so it was fun to do some again this year. In fact, this year my chasing was, for the most part even a little more out of my mind than in '11 - because at least two of the full-blown chase trips were 'stabs in the dark' - no more than 50/50 chances of scoring the bird. My first 'all-out' chase this year was to Massachusetts for a Gyrfalcon that my dad and I chased early in January. Gyr is one of both of ours favorite birds and we've only seen one - this one had been hanging around so we went for it. But we knew it would be a longshot - it was getting less and less reliable. We dipped it. But we had a great time saw some cool birds including a rare in area Short-eared Owl that I actually found and my lifer Hoary Redpoll (of which the following month I got 8 of in Minnesota).
My second all-out chase was early March - a long day trip with my mom and my Godmother to North Carolina for a previously reported Northern Lapwing. It had been seen for almost a week but the report from the day before our chase was of a no show for the Lapwing. But this lifer was too hard to resist and we had to go for it. We got lucky and we scored it. We arrived at the cemetery a few hundred yards away from the pond where the bird had been seen and several other birders arrived. In the first 10 minutes -no luck. Then I was checking out some Scaup in my scope and behind the Scaup -Ta Da! Lapwing. Apparently I was so dumb-founded that I was so quiet in saying it "oh there's the northern lapwing." And my mom had to ask "You see the Northern Lapwing? That's the bird we're here for, right?" I finally got excited got all on the bird!
I've had several other chase trips this year but these were the 'stab in the dark' all out chases - got 1, dipped 1, not bad.
I scored 40 life birds this year which I am pretty happy with since I saw so many birds in 2011 and other years also. I am now officially in the 500 club for life list - in fact my life list is now 532!
I don't think I'll break my '11 Junior Big Year record this year as I don't have any more big birding trips planned - just local birding with Christmas Bird Counts and stuff but it's been another fun year. Looking forward to another one next year and hopefully many more lifers!