BCR 115: Noah Strycker, Birding Without Borders

Noah Strycker is the author of three well-regarded books about birds, and a regular contributor of photography and articles to many bird magazines as well as other media; he blogs regularly for the American Birding Association. Strycker set a world Big Year record in 2015, and his 2017 book, Birding Without Borders, relates the experience.  Strycker has studied birds on six continents with field seasons in Panama, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Hawaii, Maine, Michigan, Australia, Antarctica, the Galapagos Islands, and the Farallon Islands. He also works as a naturalist guide on expedition cruises to Antarctica and Norway’s Svalbard archipelago, literally spreading the inspiration of birds from pole to pole. His first book, Among Penguins, chronicles a field season working with Adélie Penguins in Antarctica (Oregon State University Press, 2011) and his second, The Thing with Feathers, celebrates the fascinating behaviors of birds and human parallels (Riverhead Books, 2014). Strycker is also a competitive tennis player, has run five marathons, and hiked the 2,650-mile Pacific Crest Trail from Mexico to Canada. He is based in Oregon, where his backyard has hosted more than 100 species of birds.

Show Notes:

  • How did you plan the trip, and what was your strategy for breaking the existing world Big Year record?
  • Did you change any of your ticks after the fact based on a further study? Can you tell us about it?
  • Of the thousands of species, you observed, which birds stand out most?
  • Do particular observations come to mind as the most memorable or interesting, can you give us some details?
  • Your last species seen for the big year was a Silver-breasted Broadbill seen in Assam, India; this gave you a total of 6,042 species. Your record was broken the next year, 2016, by Arjan Dwarshuis with 6852 species, do you feel challenged to do it again?
  • Your schedule was very tight throughout the year, were their situations where the habitat or behaviors you were seeing were a draw to stay longer and see more, but the realities of geography, seasons and airlines cut those short. What was the single best habitat and or behavior that you encountered?
  • What lessons did you learn by birding the world in one year?
  • What observations would you like to share with our audience going forward, and what advice would you give to someone thinking of doing a world big year?


Noah Strycker’s backpack gear For a Big year:

A 40 liter REI backpack; Leica 10×42 Ultravid HD-Plus binoculars; Leica 65mm Televid spotting scope with tripod; Leica V-Lux camera; GoPro Hero3 videocamera; 11″ MacBook Air laptop; iPhone 4; iPod nano; Surefire Fury LED spotlight; Yalumi LED headlamp; Marmot down jacket; Columbia rain shell; 4 lightweight Mountain Hardwear T-shirts; longsleeve collared bug shirt; one pair of shorts; 2 lightweight pants; 3 pairs Ex-Officio underwear; 4 pairs socks; plain black baseball cap; Oakley sunglasses; 2 kinds of bandanas; silk sleeping bag liner (but no sleeping bag); travel lock; adapters; notebooks; Audubon pins; and various toiletries including malaria pills and Israeli water-purifying tablets. 

Mentioned In Episode: Noah Strycker

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