BYWinners

Big Year Birding Contest Winners!

To celebrate Denver Audubon’s 50th Anniversary, we invited birders across the Denver metro area to compete to identify the most birds in their county. The competition took place throughout 2019.

Who are the winners and why do they bird?

We sent questionnaires to each of the winners to find out more about them. Below we publish the responses that we’ve received (in no particular order). In some cases, we included only excerpts or made minor edits.

Tim Ryan

How long have you been birding? How did you get started? And why do you bird? I began trying to ID Birds in 2007 And started using ebird in 2012. I work for Parker Water, and while Rueter-Hess Reservoir was in construction I would see all these birds that I had not seen before. I bought a field guide and cheap binoculars and worked thru bird identification. I bird to be more in-tune with nature, it’s amazing what you can see if you stop and look.

Why did you pick your county? I live and work in Douglas County, so it was natural to pick it. I try and visit Rueter-Hess Reservoir (Restricted Access) most days that I work to eat my lunch and count birds.

How did you prepare? I signed up for the ebird rare bird alert for my county and reviewed past years ebird reports for Douglas County.

What was your commitment and how did that fit into family, work, and all your regular activities? Commitment was like any other year except I chased rare sightings or needs more. Prior years I had focused on my life list, so may have dismissed some rare birds I had already seen in the county.

What were the challenges, expected and unexpected? Foul weather can be challenging and rewarding. A spring storm brought a fallout of rare shore birds, Rudy turnstone and plovers. The day after the storm they were gone.

Did you have a favorite bird and a favorite place to bird? Caspian tern, one visited my patch  (favorite spot) Rueter-Hess Reservoir (restricted access) last summer. I had close looks over several days of this large tern.

What did you learn along the way? Did anything unusual happen? I focused on habitat and had a mental target list of species that should be there. This helped me to see some species better. For example if I only had 30 minutes to bird I could do a quick complete survey of all habitats or focus on just one but more in-depth. 

Do you have any tips for new birders? My best tip that an experienced birder told me was to find a local patch and visit as much as you can. This way you will learn about the expected species, seasonal variation and habitats. Once you can easily ID the expected birds you may find something odd or out of place.

What are your plans for 2020? My goal is to bird every day and top 230 species for Douglas County!

James McCall

How long have you been birding? How did you get started? And why do you bird?  I’ve been birding outside of my backyard since August – September of 2016. What got me started was seeing some cool birds showing up in my yard and decided to get out and see more then what was showing up in my yard. Why I bird? Well I love getting outdoors, I’ve always loved seeing eagles, hawks and wildlife.

Why did you pick your county? When I saw the post on Facebook for the contest I thought, why not? I was going to try Broomfield County because it was smaller than the rest and not far from my house and still much of a beginner I thought I could do good there. But on the first week of January got all three Rosy finches, Cassin’s finch, Golden crowned sparrow, Winter wren and Fox sparrow decided Id try Jeffco. Also Jeffco is my home County. I did get into Broomfield some and didn’t expect to get that also but I guess not to many who entered birded Broomfield.

How did you prepare? I didn’t really prepare for the year.

What was your commitment and how did that fit into family, work, and all your regular activities? I hit Jeffco pretty hard which led me to neglect my yard some. I work midnight to 8 am, so after work I’d try to get out as much as possible and try to get home by 3 to get some sleep, but that didn’t always happen. Quite of few days went with very little sleep.

What were the challenges, expected and unexpected? My biggest expected challenge was to be able to ID the birds I was seeing, I made a lot of mistakes along the way, I don’t know how many times I submitted a Orange crowned warbler as something else but thanks to friends and reviewers those were corrected.

Did you have a favorite bird and a favorite place to bird? I think my favorite bird is the Easter screech owl, don’t really have a single place as my favorite to go, there are a few I enjoy near my house, Ralston Creek, Two ponds, Tucker lake and Leyden Lake area. The hotspots south of me have been great as well, Main reservoir, Belmar, Bear Creek lake park, Robert A. Easton, Chatfield and Denver west office park.

What did you learn along the way? Did anything unusual happen? Some stuff I learned along the way was to pay more attention to the habitat, listening more closely to their calls and songs and being better, but not quite there, on Identification.

Do you have any tips for new birders? Patience, enjoy the peacefulness and your not always going to see the bird your looking for. Also experienced Birders still make mistakes. Making mistakes is how we learn.

What are your plans for 2020? Don’t really have big plans for 2020, maybe hit 400 life birds. Thanks for having this big year, never thought at the beginning of the year it would end up like this.

Diane Hutton

How long have you been birding? How did you get started? And why do you bird? I have been birding since the early 1980’s. That was when I also took my Beginning Birding class with Hugh and Urling Kingery. I enjoy birding because it is an opportunity to be out, interact, and look at challenges nature and humans face everyday.

Why did you pick your county? I live in Adams County and think there are some great resources here on the eastern side of the metro area.

How did you prepare? I didn’t really make any specific plans to prepare, just needed a nice day. 

What was your commitment and how did that fit into family, work, and all your regular activities? I most often go birding alone but sometimes with a group. I also helped during the fall at the banding station at Barr Lake. I didn’t have a specific commitment other than the banding station and helping with some field trips.

What were the challenges, expected and unexpected? Traffic was sometimes a big challenge and getting from point A to B needed planning.

Did you have a favorite bird and a favorite place to bird? I did not have a “favorite bird.” I find all of them to be incredible wonders, a pleasure to watch and know they have journeys beyond my imagination. In Adams County my favorite spot to bird is Barr Lake. I have been going out there to bird before the eagles decided to make it home. 

What did you learn along the way? Did anything unusual happen? I have always known to expect the unexpected when you go birding.

Do you have any tips for new birders? Stop, look, listen. and watch. You will be rewarded. Have fun.

What are your plans for 2020? I am looking forward to seeing our current AMB class graduate.  They are a wonderful group of birders and I enjoy sharing and learning from all of them. I know they will be an asset to the birding community and beyond.