Date: 1/12/21 10:33 am
From: Derb Carter <derbc...>
Subject: NC Big Years
Since there has been discussion of NC Big Years, I thought a short recap of the history would be of interest to some.

1987 327 John Fussell. This was the first serious effort at a NC Big Year that I am aware of. John was working on the Outer Banks at the time, no better place to see a lot of species. This was when phones had dials and were connected by wires, Bill Gates had just come out of his garage to market windows the year before, and Mark Zuckerberg was two years old. John found nearly all the birds, and went on to write the definitive coastal birding guide many have used over the years.

1991 328 John Wright. Long-time NC birder John Wright broke the record by one four years later.

1993 339 Steve Dinsmore. Steve was pursuing his PhD at NC State, studying shorebirds on the Outer Banks. Again, no better place to spend a lot of time and see many species. He is now a professor of ornithology and Chair of the Ecology and Natural Resource Management Department at Iowa State.

2001 344 Patricia and Russ Tyndall. This husband wife team set the new standard eight years later. Carolinabirds listserv came on line in 1996, undoubtedly aiding the effort.

2005 348 Ricky Davis. Four years later, Ricky broke the record by four. He birds as much as anyone I know in the state, has one of the biggest if not biggest list every year, and this year made a special effort.

2008 351 Derb Carter. I had cases and work across the state particularly on the coast this year, allowing me to work in some birding time. I did make an effort to go after some rarities (and missed Ruffed Grouse). The first Apple iPhone was released in 2007.

2018 351 Jamie Adams. Jamie made an effort two years ago and tied the record, which I am sure was frustrating. He photographed nearly all the species he saw.

2020 359 Stephen Howell set a new NC Big Year record last year. He also photographed most of the birds he saw. Congratulations to Steve.

In my opinion, Steve's record is going to be hard to beat, given the extraordinary number of rarities and even new species for the state this year. But not impossible. In 2008, I kept up with the number of species reliably reported in the state that year and the total was 273. And technology has changed birding and information on rare birds is instantaneous if you want it to be.

And then there is the neglected NC Big Day. The NC record of 184 species was set on May 3, 1987, the same year as John Fussell's big year above, and has remained in place for 33 years. The team was John Fussell, Merrill Lynch, Allen Bryan, Ricky Davis, and me. There was no technology to help then, but on Big Days it doesn't matter. You have to rely on your knowledge of birds and find them on your own. Still waiting for some team to make a run at this.

Derb Carter
Chapel Hill, NC

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