It is hard to believe that 2002 has come to an end, and with
it our “Big Year” contest. This has been one of
the most rewarding years of birding we have ever experienced.
The purpose of the contest was to have a great time, while sprucing
up our Sullivan County records. Although we had an excellent
database going back nearly 50 years, Valerie Freer noticed that
in the last couple of years many of the local birders were spending
a great deal of their time birding out of the area. In preparation
for updating our Sullivan County checklist of birds, Valerie,
wanting to include the most up-to-date records, came up with
the idea of increasing sightings by means of a contest. It worked
beyond her expectations.
We scoured the countryside looking for seasonal favorites,
as well as hoped-for rarities, using a phone chain
to notify each other of uncommon or rare sightings. Many
a mad dash took place
over the course of the year!
Highlights of the year included unprecedented records
of Slaty-backed Gull and Purple Gallinule and second
records of Yellow-headed Blackbird, Dunlin, Mississippi
Kite, Lapland Longspur,
and Black-headed Gull. There were also notable records
of Merlin, Philadelphia Woodpecker, Lesser Black-backed
Gulls (8), Red-necked
Grebes (10, and Black Terns.
Everyone added at least one life bird during the
contest, some more. We also increased our county
lists significantly. The total number of species sighted
was an impressive
In the end, the individual winner,
Renee Davis, had seen 204 species. She deserves a great
deal of credit for the tremendous
amount of effort and time expended in the field
reach this total. A close second was John Haas
with 202 species, followed
by Valerie Freer with 196, Marge Gorton with
186, and her husband Roy with 91 species.
To include as many of our local birders
as possible, we also included two additional categories:
one for feeder/yard birds (any bird you could see
from your home was countable) and
another for the Bashakill (any bird in the
designated area was countable). Leading the many noteworthy
yard lists was Arlene
Borko, whose yard provides a variety of habitats
for woodland birds, waterfowl and waders, as
well as open areas
birds. She was followed by Renee Davis (72),
Marge Gorton (65), John Haas (62), and Deanna
(46). Some examples of great
yard birds seen included Red-headed Woodpecker,
Bald Eagle, Belted Kingfisher, Northern Goshawk,
Evening Grosbeak, Great Blue Heron,
and Carolina Wren.
Totals from the Bashakill were also impressive.
John Haas had 163 and Renee Davis had 152.
I never thought local birding could be so
rewarding! I strongly encourage any bird
club or county group to add this interesting aspect
of birding to their future plans. You never
know, it may be you who discovers the next
New York state rarity right in your back