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Jan 5, 2020 | by

Compiled and written by Alex Lamoreaux and Chris Brown, with Sally Ingraham

A new year (and new decade!) has come around, and our guides have been enjoying some down time at home with friends and family. They certainly deserve a little rest because 2019 was the busiest year yet for our Wildside team!

Alex and Chris (left) with Winter Boreal Specialties tour group in Minnesota, celebrating a Northern Hawk-Owl sighting, February 2019 – photograph by Adrian Binns

Our North American ‘Big Year’ series guided by Alex Lamoreaux and Chris Brown (with Mandy Talpas, Greg Miller and Adrian Binns) was a huge success, with 13 tours run in 2019.

The combined total across 13 tours was a whopping 645 bird species seen or heard, and we visited 18 US states and 1 Canadian province!

These tours were inspired by Greg Miller‘s Big Year (as portrayed in the book and film The Big Year). With Greg’s expertise and the continued experience of our team of guides, the ‘Big Year’ tours are specially designed to maximize species seen at the peak time of year for each region covered.

Atlantic Puffin with Razorbills in Maine, June 2019 – photograph by Alex Lamoreaux

Sky Island Specialties tour group looking at a Red-faced Warbler in Arizona, August 2019 – photograph by Sally Ingraham

In 2019 we led adventurous guests from the foggy waters in the Gulf of Maine, to the Sky Islands of Arizona, to the Texas Rio Grande Valley. We went out to the Hawaiian islands, birded throughout central and southern California, and looped the Olympic Peninsula of Washington. We went down to Florida and explored the Dry Tortugas, and we climbed a remote mountain in Nevada.

Between our 7-day trips and 4-day target tours, it’s clear that we find the birds we’re after, and 2019’s 645 species marks our most successful year to date!

From the dirt-common to the mega-rare, we hunt down all the species possible. The 645 species seen in 2019 included 46 waterfowl, 18 gamebirds, 11 alcids, 16 parrots/parakeets, 15 hummingbirds, 43 shorebirds, 43 raptors and owls, 35 sparrows, 8 orioles, 45 warblers, and dozens of other birds!

Rufous-capped Warbler in Arizona, August 2019 – photograph by Alex Lamoreaux

Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl in Texas, November 2019  – photograph by tour participant Kevin Manley

Highlights from the year are too many to note here, but some of our guide’s top moments include seeing 3 Ruff in 3 days during the ‘Central Coast‘ trip, an insanely good Hawaiian pelagic on the ‘Island Endemics‘ trip, Bahama Mockingbird during ‘Florida and Dry Tortugas‘, Rufous-capped Warbler during ‘Sky Island Specialties‘, and Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl during ‘Rio Grande Valley in Fall‘.

For more detailed accounts of our fantastic trips in 2019, check out our Trip Reports for ‘MINNESOTA: Winter Boreal Specialties‘, ‘DRY TORTUGAS: Spring Migration‘, and ‘ARIZONA: Sky Island Specialties‘ (and past years’ trips ‘TEXAS: Golden-cheeked Warbler‘, ‘COLORADO: Chicken Odyssey‘ ‘OHIO & MICHIGAN: Kirtland’s Warbler‘, ‘UTAH & NEVADA: Snowcock, Crossbill, & Flammulated Owl‘, and ‘HAWAI’I: Island Endemics‘).

Ginny and Gary Lee of Pennsylvania saw the most species on our tours this year, thanks to joining us for 3 different trips! Their top species total means we will be awarding them with a pair of Zeiss 8×32 Conquest binoculars! Thanks so much for joining us and being such fun birders to travel with!

Alex and Chris pride themselves on the fact that our tour observations are more thoroughly documented on eBird than any other US tour company. We always take the time to teach our clients about using the eBird app for logging sightings and best-use practices.

All of the 645 bird species seen during the 2019 tours were logged on eBird across an astonishing 990 checklists! Our guides and clients also contributed over 3000 photos to the Macauley Library through uploads to our eBird checklists.

California Condor in California, September 2019 – photograph by Alex Lamoreaux

Our 2020 ‘Big Year’ series kicks off once again in sunny southern California where we are starting our ‘South Coast, Deserts, & Mountains tour, with our NEW ‘Condor, Scrub-Jay, and LA Exotics‘ extension, running January 5th to 15th!

We have 27 ‘Big Year’ tours currently offered for 2020 with 7-day and 4-day itineraries. This represents the most complete North American coverage of any tour company.

We’d love to have you join us in 2020, and can’t wait to see what this year will bring!

Scarlet Tanager in Maine (photograph by Alex Lamoreaux), Bahama Mockingbird in Florida, and Kirtland’s Warbler in Michigan (photographs by Chris Brown)

2019 Species Totals – with State/Providence & Tour Name(s)

ME 140 Mountains & Coast
WA 118 Pacific Northwest
HI 89 Island Endemics
NH 43 Mountains & Coast
VT 36 Mountains & Coast
NB 13 Mountains & Coast

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