Sorry about that!
I should title this post: Continued Frustrations of the Chase (or Not).
I have written about this topic before. Namely, how it always seems that rare birds show up where I am not far more than where I am. Don’t get me wrong. I am happy that I saw two new lifers while in Arizona and New Mexico this spring, BUT why is it that even before I had arrived at our summer destination, less than a week after we left the Southwest, new rarities started to show up there … and none that I need are here?
Three new rarities, including a first-for-the-ABA-area bird, have been found in SE AZ since we left. Berylline Hummingbird and Aztec Thrush were species that I was hoping to be able to chase during our stay, and Pine Flycatcher was a totally new bird for the ABA area.
Meanwhile, here in North Carolina, pelagic rarities are present, but we are 500 highway miles from Hatteras, where Brian Patteson’s boat operates, and thus outside my self-imposed chase radius. White-tailed Tropicbird is the only new species there for me.
All of this reinforces my earlier conclusion that unless I am willing to drop everything and chase rarities at a much greater cost than at present, I am not going to reach 800 species by the end of eight years.
There have been plenty of rarities to chase! Florida has had at least eight potential lifers for me so far this year (although only one is still being seen now that I am within my chase range … sigh!), California has had at least three, Newfoundland has had a similar number, and single species have popped up in other states – all far out of my chase range. Alaska has been racking up rarities, too, but don’t even start on that topic. Nearly all of those species are being seen out on the Aleutians or Bering Sea islands and getting there is either restricted or far too expensive to fit into my “Birding on a Budget” theme.
Thus, as I have written before, I am refining my expectations as time goes along. I no longer expect to reach 800 by June 2020 (just four more years). I am fairly sure that I can reach 750 species (24 more needed for that – about one every two months from now on) and I might reach 775 if I am lucky (about one new species per month for the next 48 months).
Those numbers are possible within our budget. We generally set aside about $500 each month for travel within the U.S. Last year’s trip to Alaska exceeded that amount but we considered that to be an “international” trip, for which we budget a higher amount. Our goal is to start taking more international trips, and our U.S. travel will suffer during those time periods, but we still expect to be able to visit one or more rarity hotspots each year.
The international trips bring up an important point about birding and budgets. Now that we have seen over 725 species in the ABA area it is becoming far more expensive to add new species here than to travel internationally and add lifers to our world birds list. For example, my first trip to South Africa cost me about $3200 in the year 2000. I saw almost 300 lifers on that trip at a cost of approximately $11 per species. It might cost around $500 per species to chase a rarity here in the ABA area!