Posted by: atowhee | September 7, 2017


I got to hear Noah Strycker talk about his global big year at Linfield College last night. Soon Noah will be at the Oregon Birding Association gathering at Malheur Field Station. That’s Sept. 15-17. Late in September (23rd) he will talk at a Klamath Bird Observatory event in Ashland. The next day both Noah and I will lead separate trips into the southern Cascades for KBO supporters.

His book about the big year, Birding Without Borders, will come out next month.
Noah’s talk was enchanting, fun and funny. His opening image was the Swordbill, more beak than body on this great Andean hummer. SWORDBILL
He talked much of the people who helped him along the way. Everywhere he went he birded with local experts, not hiring any flown-in professionals. He often roughed, sleeping on the ground or on sofas when that luxury was available. One hundred thousand air miles, thousands of walking and driving miles, $60,000 (covered by his publisher, Houghton Mifflin).
Best of all were his stories of dying cars, mudslides closing Andean roads, cancelled flights, sleepless days in Iceland and Norway in June when there is no sunset, and many days afield with dedicated and enthusiastic birders from Mexico to Madagascar.
He began his quest for 5000 species seen in a year at the edge of the Antarctic. He hoped for a penguin as his first species. Instead the Chinstrap Penguin came in #4.chinstrap
One highlight of his trip was visiting Angel Paz’s bird ranch in Ecuador. Formerly Paz raise cattle, produce and logged his tropical forest. One day he was approached by a couple birders seeking cock-or-the-rock. Angel took them to see the bird and along the trail they encountered Angel’s favorite bird, a Giant Antpitta that often approached Angel as he worked. The birders, amazed, said other birders would pay to see that species. So Angel quickly stopped using his land for anything other than a bird preserve and he showed Noah four species of antpitta. Now he has numerous wild species that respond when he offers food and birders gladly pay for their close-up images of these elusive forest birds.
I got to bird at Angel’s bird ranch a decade ago.GA1GA2 Above Angel feeding worms to the antpitta he named “Maria.” She came when he called her name.

Below, birds at a feeding station Angel put up. Mountain tanager, then my favorite, a Toucan Barbet who scared off all the other birds and plucked grapes, carefully, one at a time.MTANTB

In India as Noah approached the world record 4342 species in a year Noah was followed by news reporters and TV crews. The record bird was a Sri Lanka Frogmouth.
On Taiwan Noah was among the thousands of birders who got to see the only known Siberian Crane to ever land on the island. This one bird stayed for weeks before lifting off and disappearing over the China Sea. His rarest bird was a Golden-masked Owl in palm oil plantations on the island of New Britain near New Guinea. gm owl
A small member of the Barn Owl family the Golden-masked is endemic to New Britain Island, rarely seen, considered endangered and there is an estimate there are fewer than 10,000 left in the wild.
His #6000 was the Yellow-rumped Honeyguide in the mountains of northeastern India to which Noah went after he had nearly exhausted the Australian bird list and he had a few days left to hit six thousand before the year ended. Final total: 6042. Go see Noah and his talk on Birding Without Borders. Enjoy learning about the robust network of amateur birders the world over.
A science note: Noah says the DNA taxonomy specialists believe the world total of species will eventually be around 18-thousand so his big year list will continue to grow as more species are split into still more species.
Noah’s complete species list.
Noah’s Audubon homepage.

Footnote: records are made to be broken. In 2016, the year after Noah’s epic adventure a Dutch couple saw over 6200 species following Noah’s pioneering route. No matter, shrugged Noah,just go out and spread the inspiration of birds!


  1. What an adventure!

  2. […] Here’s my earlier blog on Noah Strycker’s talk last night. AFterwards several of us were discussing how he did it and how important modern technology was to his efforts. Not just airplanes or laptops…but the ability to scan and digitally store thousands of bird images from paper field guides, cellular communication, digital cameras, et al. […]

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