What’s the title “Little Year” mean?

Birders do a  “Big Year” when they try to identify as many species of birds as possible in a single calendar year. The area covered in a Big Year varies. It can be the whole world, a single country, a single state, or even a single county. For people in the U.S., the area covered generally includes not just the States, but all of North America. Canada counts, but Mexico doesn’t. Islands like the Aleutians and the Florida Keys count, but Hawaii didn’t until November 2017. These distinctions can seem arbitrary, and in a way they are. But a Big Year is just a game, and those are the rules.

Top birders may do only one Big Year in their entire lifetime, and if you’re traveling back and forth across the continent hunting down rarities, you can end up spending tens of thousands of dollars. And in the end, these people come up with numbers that are unattainable for the average birder. For example, the record for a Big Year belongs to Neil Hayward, who saw 747 birds in 2013. He recorded another 3 species that still need to be verified, so the final count may go up to — do the math — 750. The previous record belonged to Sandy Komito, who saw 745 birds in 1998, an extraordinary number that many birders thought could never be surpassed. Hah. (An entertaining book on Komito’s quest, where he competed with two other first-rate birders, is Mark Obmascik’s The Big Year. A movie based on the book came out in 2011, but it’s not as good and not as true to what birding is like.)

In 2006, we decided to do our own Big Year. We knew we’d never be able to reach 700, let alone 600, or even 500. So we decided to try a Little Year, which you can think of as a Big Year without the Big. A Little Year means a little count, a little travel, and a little money. Our goal was 400 birds each. We picked that number because we thought it was attainable. It also happened to be the minimum number needed at that time to earn a listing in the American Birding Association’s annual List Report. Alas, it wasn’t attainable, and we fell short. You can read about the reasons why in our last entry for 2006.

But we decided to keep Little Year running. We won’t be doing another Big Year for a while, but this site proved to be a lot of fun, so it’s staying up.

What do the numbers on the scorecard mean?

total = total birds in the current year
lifers = new lifers in the current year
life = our current life list (the total number of species we’ve seen)

Who are Pole and Scrubb? Are those your real names?

We’re both writers living in Chicago. Pole has worked as a science editor and writer and now freelances. Scrubb has also done freelance, but he’s currently working full time for a large global company. And, no, they’re not our real names.