John Weigel

To: Paul Dodd <>
Subject: John Weigel
From: Eric Jeffrey via Birding-Aus <>
Date: Fri, 20 May 2016 22:05:32 +0000
I do not believe that the difference between big listers and big years is that 
clear cut. To say that big listing is not a competition is simply wrong. The 
competition to be the world's top lister is extremely intense, just over a 
longer period of time. That is equally true of the top lister for a country or, 
at least in the U.S. for a state. Keeping track of that competition is one of 
the original and still main purposes of the ABA.

Further, some of our top big years have been turned in by people who also have 
large life lists. It also begs the question of what you do about a person such 
as Noah Stryker, who in smashing the world big year record also pushed himself 
well toward the upper echelon of bird listing.

Eric Jeffrey

Sent from my iPhone

> On May 20, 2016, at 10:39 AM, Paul Dodd <> wrote:
> First of all I want to untangle the notion that someone that conducts a "Big
> Year" is also a "Big Lister". The two are absolutely poles apart. Ruth and I
> have conducted our own "Big Year" in Victoria, and whilst we do travel the
> world, bird watching, we are as far from being big listers as most people
> that I know.
> A Big Year is all about seeing as many species as possible in a certain
> geographic area within one calendar year. A Big List is about seeing as many
> birds as possible in the world in a lifetime. A Big Year is about
> challenging oneself and other Big Year participants (past and present) - it
> is, in essence, a competition. A Big Lister, on the other hand, has the
> luxury of time, and is generally not competing with anyone, past or present.
> Big Listers, as a rule, use guides. Big Year participants, as a rule do not.
> In fact, when Ruth and I did our Big Year in Victoria, we used a guide only
> once, and that was Simon Starr who helped us see Plains Wanderer. As people
> that travel all over the world, Ruth and I ALWAYS use local guides in the
> countries we visit - not necessarily to identify the birds (we have done our
> homework, after all) - for the sole purpose of managing the logistics, and
> getting us to the right place.
> People have questioned the "practicality" of Big Years. When Sean Dooley did
> his Big Year, there was no doubt in anyone's mind that seeing 700 species in
> Australia was impossible. Sean, of course, proved "them" wrong by seeing 704
> species. When John Weigel did his Big Years, there was no doubt that Sean's
> record was almost impossible to reach, JW proved everyone wrong by seeing
> 745 species. In his second year and second attempt, JW saw 770 species.
> Surely this suggests that 800 species in Australia (and its territories) in
> a calendar year is possible?
> When Ruth and I conducted our Big Year, we only had one goal in mind - to
> beat Tim Dolby's record, set the previous year, of 345 species seen in
> Victoria. In actual fact, Ruth and I beat that number in June of 2010 (by
> seeing Little Penguin at St Kilda). We ultimately went on to see 392 species
> (IOC taxonomy) in Victoria, surely suggesting 400 species in this state is
> possible.
> Peter Shute mentions the problem of proof or verification. I suggest that
> cheaters and frauds are soon found out. Ruth and I found several rare
> species in Victoria in 2010, that would normally have people questioning
> either our honesty or our ID skills - both were, in fact, questioned during
> the year. Ultimately though, if you have integrity, it is hard to suggest or
> prove that you were doing the wrong thing. For instance, we saw Spangled
> Drongo in Victoria in 2010 (in actual fact, we saw this species twice in
> Victoria in that year). We were challenged by one of the moderators of
> Birdline Victoria (we obviously posted on that site), and our response was
> simple - we actually used Birdline to indicate when and where rare species
> were found and went to those locations to find the birds - the moderator
> simply had not looked at the previous postings on their own site! We also
> found Red-chested Button-quail in Victoria - normally an impossible species
> to find in this state. I found the birds simply by looking for historical
> records and going to those locations on the off-chance. One of the locations
> looked like suitable habitat and we spent more than three hours quartering a
> native-grassland paddock in 40 degree temperatures until we flushed a bird
> and had a good-enough view to identify the species. Obviously our sighting
> was met with a high degree of scepticism, but the following weekend a group
> of birders attended the same site, and applying the same procedure,
> identified the same species.
> If asked about the number of kilometres travelled or other such questions,
> to date I have declined to answer. I feel that by asking that question, the
> asker is establishing a particular point-of-view. Instead, I argue that
> despite the carbon footprint, a Big Year has a certain value - and the most
> immediate value is that people genuinely want to hear about it - and I am
> talking about non-birders here. In and of itself a Big Year, whether
> state-based, country (or region)-based or worldwide is going to be of
> interest. And by writing books or blogs, and by public presentations, people
> are engaged in this activity we call "bird watching". My experience with a
> Big Year is that in the end it certainly *does* become about the journey,
> rather than the target - one becomes very fixated on the birds rather than
> the number. By virtue of the fact that we needed to see certain birds, we
> became far more interested in the available habitat - so we certainly
> developed a deeper understanding of where to look for birds.
> My experience with Big Listers is that they tend to be more private - Big
> Listing is a personal activity, with personal goals, rather than being
> public. This is neither right nor wrong, it is simply the way it is. Whether
> Big Listers develop the same affinity for birds and habitat, or whether Big
> Listers are fixated on just a number, I suggest depends on the birder. I am
> absolutely certain that there are Big Listers that could care less about the
> birds and are only interested in the "tick", and I am equally certain that
> there are Big Listers that absolutely interested in the species and the
> habitat.
> Ruth and I are NOT Big Listers - we are Big Year participants. I know of
> nobody that is both a Big Lister and a Big Year participant. Since this
> thread started with a discussion about John Weigel, I should point out that
> I know John very well. John is definitely NOT a Big Lister - John is a Big
> Year participant. John is also a person of the utmost personal integrity and
> someone that I would not have any question should he say that he's seen a
> Curlew Sandpiper in the lower 48.
> Paul Dodd
> Docklands, Victoria

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