A (mostly) friendly competition between 2 avid birdwatchers that are also friends/co-workers. Who can observe more bird species in Idaho in 2009? Will they still be friends at year's end? ;-)

Monday, February 16, 2009

The Competition Begins!

So, some of you many be wondering how this all started:

While still in Venezuela around the turn of the year, Jay (who has kept an ABA area ‘year list’ since 1994) suggested to Heidi via e-mail that she might enjoy starting and maintaining an Idaho year list for 2009 (year list: list of bird species observed in a calendar year). Some history: Heidi and Jay became friends after Heidi became a regular and enthusiastic volunteer at Lucky Peak for the Idaho Bird Observatory in summer 2008. Both are avid birders in their free time and will be in the field a lot doing bird surveys for the bird observatory during the spring, summer, and fall of 2009. Because Heidi is newer at birding (but learns very quickly and has a lot of passion for birds), Jay was thinking that the year list might be a fun way for her to track her progress during her first full year dedicated to birds.

Then, after arriving back to the states and heading out for a birding day, (partly under the evil influence of fellow birders Louie and Harry :-) Jay & Heidi started discussing ways to make it into a fun competition. (… at least that’s Jay’s story—and he’s stickin’ to it—although Heidi suspects he had the competition idea in mind all along!). Although Jay has kept ABA area lists annually and, while supposedly working on his PhD research, tried a big year in South Dakota (314 species; 6th in state) in 2002, he has never maintained an Idaho year list. Thus, 2009 will be the first time either Heidi or Jay has kept an Idaho year list.

Lastly, because it is always a challenge to raise enough $$$ to run the Idaho Bird Observatory’s fall migration study at Lucky Peak, we then realized that we could also make this into a fund-raising effort (see details below). Disclaimer: we fully understand that today’s economic climate is forcing people – including us – to be more careful with $$. Thus, we would very much appreciate any support for the Idaho Bird Observatory you can provide but we would also be very happy to simply get comments, birding tips, etc. from you.

The Handicap
: Because Jay has many more years of birding experience than Heidi and, therefore, is likely to be able to detect/identify more species seen poorly and/or heard but not seen, we agreed that a ‘straight-up’ year list competition might not be completely fair. But, what would be a fair handicap? Jay has more birding experience and knows the vocalizations better BUT Heidi & Jay will be birding in many of the same locations throughout the year (birding on weekends, field work during summer and fall in the same general areas, etc.). During this time Jay will be trying to help Heidi observe and learn as many species as possible (after all, if she’ll be conducting official bird surveys in the summer, it’s in Jay’s best interest that she know the birds!!). Meanwhile, Heidi may or may not be trying her hardest to prevent Jay from getting as many species as possible (after all, it is in Heidi’s best interest!). Strategies such as, “What? that’s not a great-tailed grackle…are you blind?” or “LOOK behind you! An eagle!” may be employed to further her goal of thwarting Jay’s birding. However, Heidi is not completely cruel-hearted, and may ‘allow’ Jay to find the occasional good bird … such as a hybrid sapsucker :).

After long deliberations and discussions with a number of Boise area birders, we have settled on a ‘handicap’ of 20 bird species for the year and 15 species for the mid-year cut-off (July 10). Thus, to win, Jay will have to see 21 more bird species than Heidi for the year and 16 more species by July 10.

The ‘Loser’
: Our friend, and fellow bird-nerd, Melanie (who is very creative and has ‘exotic charm’) has agreed to help embarrass the loser at both the mid-year cut-off (July 10) and the final year list total. We have, in principle if not in detail, agreed upon the ‘punishment’ for the mid-year ‘loser’ but are still seeking ideas for the final year list total.

The ‘loser’ at the mid-year cut-off will have to wear a T-shirt designed (to embarrass) by Melanie during the first week of training the new field crew at Lucky Peak and other embarrassing locations to be determined in the future…birding fieldtrips with the Golden Eagle Audubon Society? classes at BSU? parties with friends? The possibilities for humiliation are endless!

While Heidi and Jay are confident in their creative abilities (thoughts of pink frillies and “I wish I was as awesome as _______” on the loser’s T-shirt are already dancing in their heads) they would also appreciate any other creative suggestions you can offer! Feel free to post these publicly in a blog ‘comment’ or, if you’re more shy (or feeling a bit sneaky and devious!), you can send ideas directly to your birder of choice through email (Jay: jaycarlisle@boisestate.edu or Heidi: heidithebirdnerd@yahoo.com). We foresee inspiring conversations beginning over this topic, and know that if we all work together, we can accomplish something great!

Raising $$ for the Idaho Bird Observatory:
If you are so inclined, 100% of ALL DONATIONS will benefit the Idaho Bird Observatory’s fall migration study at Lucky Peak.
People can support the Idaho Bird Observatory in one of two ways: direct donations or pledging (read more about how to donate <--here or on the side bar) As pledges come in, we will post updates and a bar graph showing who (Jay or Heidi) has raised more $$!! Other Birder’s Year Lists: If you are a birder that is also keeping an Idaho year list in 2009, please feel free to tell us/other blog readers about it and keep us posted!! We may even come up with a ‘2009 Idaho Year List standings’ feature ….

Tips on finding rarer species that we haven’t seen yet? Feel free to send them in!

That's all for now, Folks!

More updates (and refinements to the site) are coming soon!

-Jay and Heidi



  1. How'd Heidi get top billing? Good luck you two!

  2. you people are gigantic dorks.
    *tries to find some local dorks to compete with

  3. Jay's gonna get pwned.
    For the competitor who has "many more years of birding experience" (a.k.a. you're old) it means: completely annihilated or dominated.

  4. ouch! but "pwned" - not sure if I should cry or laugh?? That said, thanks for bringing the moxie - it's about time!