Legally Blind Birding

Testing the Patience of Birding Guides Around the World

The idea of a Global Big Working Year is to see as many species as possible between Jan 1 and Dec 31 without geographical constraint, but rather with a more pedestrian limitation: you have to work normal hours at your full-time day job, just like during any other year. (And no, if your full-time day job is being a professional birding guide, that doesn’t count.) In 2018 I will try to reach 2,500 species in this manner.

Is that a lot? A little? Is it a record, or not even close? For all I know this has been done before. (An official keeper of such records would certainly be welcome.) One can look at the eBird Top 100 for the world in order to get a feel for the numbers, but there are no details as to the time constraints at play. As of Nov 24th, 2017, there were seven individuals with more then 2,000 species recorded during the year. Based on their profiles, a few of these individuals appear to be active birding guides, so that wouldn’t fit with the GBWY criteria. In any case, 2,500 does not seem out of the question given sufficient travel on the weekends and vacations.

Without an official ‘record’ to try to break, I hope to make my 2018 GBWY mean more than just growing my life list at a healthy clip. I will pledge a fixed donation amount of at least $5 per species, for every species, over the year. That makes $12,500 or more my goal. Where is that money going to go? I plan to split it two ways, with half going for bird conservation efforts* and the other part going to research on blindness.

Maybe this is where I’d ask for others to contribute based on my result, or to do some kind of matching. That would be nice, but I wouldn’t ask for that. I can think of few things less interesting than birding or listing or doing anything, for that matter, vicariously. Instead, I’d rather challenge other birders to make a similar goal and pledge. Commit to some amount, any amount, per bird. Then pick a cause of your choice. Tell them what you are going to do, and do it. Tell other birders too.

This could even be done for just a day – such as the Cornell Lab of Ornithology global Big Day. They have a fundraiser based on the tally that their “Team Sapsucker” reaches during 24 hours – this is a great idea and it raises money for our common cause. Yet I can’t help but think that this could be augmented even more by having a Big Day Pledge fundraiser based on one’s own tally. You set the pledge level, you get the birds, and the accomplishment and the donation is a more personal event. Most importantly, it gets more involvement and more funds.

*Update Jan 6 2018: I’ve decided which birding cause I will support: Friends of Sax-Zim Bog. The timing on this is absolutely perfect, as they have just started a fundraising campaign for a “Big Half Year”

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