Day 23 - Jumping to Conclusions

Saturday, January 23, 2016 1 Comments A+ a-

This morning I was surprised to see a sharp increase in page hits on my blog this weekend.  I thought maybe the east-coasters who are bogged down at home during snow-pocalypse were taking a keen interest in my big year.  But that idea was quickly dissuaded when I found a neat tool on my blogger dashboard that lets me know where people are visiting from.  To my surprise somebody on a birding forum I will not mention by name started talking about my big year.  I had tried to join this forum earlier in the year, but my account was deleted since I mentioned that I had another account on the service--and this was strictly against their rules.  Bah hum bug.  Needless to say, it was interesting to see my year brought up, and how in less than 48 hours the detective/birders there had sliced and diced their way through various states, and birds to try and determine who and where I am.

It was fun to read their comments and see what they had come up with.  Some conclusions were well put together and spot on.  Others were expectedly off  as intended through the ambiguity in my posts, and species names.  But reading through these posts, and some of the comments I've received via my contact page, I thought I would clarify one main point that several people have jumped on.  In my initial post I said the following:

On an annual basis between 350-400 species are recorded in this state providing plenty of targets to chase.

Several detective have taken this very literally and used eBird to narrow the options.  The problem is eBird is useless for long term averages, and most birders seem to only look at the last decade.  But looking at a 50 year history of my state, the average # of birds recorded annually falls in this range--some years it may be higher, other years lower. The reason is that in the last 10 years the numbers of birds generally seen in any state trends higher than the 10 before that, and the 10 before that.  I did some math to come up with my total based on a cumulative history that takes into account a great deal of years with "less than" average combined with a recent history of "higher" than average.  350-400 might mean that over the last 50 years, total ranges anywhere from 250 to 450 species reported in any given year.

This means that narrowing things down to a handful of states doesn't necessarily rule out the outliers with higher or lower seemingly annual totals.  Confusing?  Damn right. :) It's supposed to be.  Guessing who I am in the 1st month and getting it right would be in my opinion a leap of faith, combined with sheer luck. That's not to say the clues aren't there to do it.

But at this stage in the year, it might just be a game of jumping to conclusions.  Wait, follow, and see what clues I provide as the months drag on.  Is it more fun to know who I am in the first 30 days, or to be on the edge of your seat wondering?  That was one of the main reasons I did this--a state big year generally doesn't intrigue a lot of people.  Mainly the folks who know you're doing it, and have an interest in your states listing.  But if it could be any one of 48 states (or 45, or 40 if you've already ruled out a few) it becomes more interesting.  The possibility that I might be one of your friends, or someone you see from time to time while birding certainly adds to the plot.

I hope this keeps everyone interested at some level.  I will help narrow things down as the year goes on, but won't fully reveal myself till the time is right.

I did manage to get in some birding today.  Some weekends aren't meant for birding--whether its because of the weather, or other obligations I won't get out every weekend.  So a couple hours today was a nice way to add 2 more birds to my year list.  The Diminutive Jerk and a wonderful Camouflaged Marauder were today's reward for taking the time to look carefully at every bird I could find.  The Jerk saves me a longer trip later in the year, or a chase when one shows up closer to home than usual.  Neither species are all that uncommon, but every new bird seen makes the path to a new big year record more clear.

New birds today: 2
Year List: 141


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January 25, 2016 at 9:14 AM delete

So I hopped onto the forum I mentioned in this post and was shocked to see the anger of some posters that I had been misleading in my "secret" big year. What?!?!? This is a game, and it is meant to be confusing. Giving my idenitity away in the first 3 weeks of the year would take all the fun out of it for me, and if I wasn't able to keep readers on their toes it might get old quick. Needless to say, being frustrated that I provided a further explanation of my numbers might just be the tip of the iceberg for some readers :) I hope everyone else enjoys the fun, and hangs on for the ride.