Birding Despite Disability

Obsessions Don't Care About Limitations

Global Big Working Year

From Dec 26, 2017 through December 25, 2018, I made a quixotic attempt to identify at least 2,500 species over the course of a single year, while working normal full-time hours. I called this a “Global Big Working Year” or GBWY.

Silver-eyes in New Zealand

In the end, I reached 1,770 species, which was just over 70% of the goal. As the plot below shows, the pace at which species were accumulated slowed appreciably in the second half of the year.  This reflects the fact that we eventually ran out of sufficiently varied destinations/habitats that were feasible for weekend trips out of Thailand. I did not account for this when drawing up my target of 2,500.

On target for 2,500 species through the first half of the year

To make this effort a bit more meaningful, I donated $5 for every species I found, with the results being split between ecological and blindness-related charities. The first half of the year was in support of the Friends of Sax-Zim Bog. The second half was in support of the Foundation Fighting Blindness. More details here and here.

The effort started in the Galapagos Islands and the Andes east of Quito for a few days, but the majority of the year was spent in the Eastern hemisphere, as we lived in Bangkok for almost all of 2018, for a work assignment. The sites birded there are shown below. In most cases, we had a weekend (or less) at each each locale, often with a guide, but many times on our own.

Eastern birding sites in 2018 GBWY

A few interesting stats and observations for the year:

Total number of lifers: 1040

Total number of planes boarded: 105

Number of weekends in which we did not board an airplane: 11

Number of vacation days used in addition to weekends: 25

Number of weekends in which we did not go birding at all: 1 (due to illness)

Total number of countries visited: 22

Number of continents birded: 5

Total number of birding guides worked with: 33

Total number of these guides that we would recommend to others: 25

Estimated approximate cost per bird: $35 (includes $5 pledge)

Most beautiful locations: (1) Balangshan Pass, Sichuan; (2) New Zealand

Locale with most new birds / day: Ethiopia (>46 species per day)

Locale with fewest new birds / day: Shanghai

Best restroom facilities: Any city / town in New Zealand. They have clean public restrooms everywhere and signs announcing them. This might be the most civilized place on earth.

Worst restroom facilities: Baihuashan area west of Beijing. Yikes.

Best food: Everything in Bangalore, India

Worst food: Cold, fried noodles in Cambodia, full of dead ants.

Most disappointing experiences: (1) Nanhui Dongtan, south of Shanghai, China; (2) Sepilok area of Borneo

Worst moments of year: (1) Late night intruder in our room in Sulawesi; (2) hornet attack in Bali; (3) that toilet in Baihuashan

Best moments of year: (1) Birding with Irene Dy in the Philippines; (2) everything in Australia

Most obnoxious dip: Red-flanked Bluetail that my wife saw but which I could not get my eyes on fast enough

Best birds: Bali Myna, Great Bowerbird, Narcissus Flycatcher

Links with photos, week-by-week summaries:

2018 GBWY – Weeks 1-8

2018 GBWY Weeks 9-16

2018 GBWY Weeks 17-26

2018 GBWY Weeks 27-36

2018 GBWY Weeks 37-44

2018 GBWY Weeks 45-52


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