17 episodes

I began my birding journey in 2012 having never picked up a pair of binoculars. I decided to learn by doing an ABA,(American Birding Association), Big Year and finished with 600 species. 10 years later, in 2022 I did a Canada Big Year, and counted 456 species.
Now I get to talk to the birders of the Big Year, from Sandy Komito who was the first birder to do two Big Years, to Eve Morrell who was only the second woman to see more than 760 species in the continental ABA Area and provincial Big Year Birder, Karen Miller, who still holds the New Brunswick, Canada provincial record of 303 species.

The Big Year Podcast Robert Baumander

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I began my birding journey in 2012 having never picked up a pair of binoculars. I decided to learn by doing an ABA,(American Birding Association), Big Year and finished with 600 species. 10 years later, in 2022 I did a Canada Big Year, and counted 456 species.
Now I get to talk to the birders of the Big Year, from Sandy Komito who was the first birder to do two Big Years, to Eve Morrell who was only the second woman to see more than 760 species in the continental ABA Area and provincial Big Year Birder, Karen Miller, who still holds the New Brunswick, Canada provincial record of 303 species.

    Season 2, Episode 2, Part Two: Bruce DiLabio’s Canada Big Year

    Season 2, Episode 2, Part Two: Bruce DiLabio’s Canada Big Year

    Hello there everybody,
     
    Welcome back to The Big Year Podcast. This is part 2 of my chat with the new all time record holder for a Canada Big Year, Bruce DiLabio.  As I type this, it’s a sunny spring day in late March and the excitement of migration season is just around the corner.  It’s what all birders crave after a long, cold winter in the northern US and Canada.
    However, for those in the southern US, migration gets going an about month earlier.  And one of the best places to be in April is Texas and specifically, High Island on the Gulf Coast, where spring storms can bring the holy grail of migration season, a Fall Out. Sue and I will be heading there the second weekend of April and fallout or not, it’s one of the best places to see southern migrants passing through on their way home to their breeding grounds.  I’ve experienced two fallouts. The first was at Fort DeSoto near Tampa Florida in April of 2012 and Sue and I enjoyed one in Rondeau Provincial Park in South Western Ontario in May of 2018.  On both occasions, warblers and other songbirds were sitting, exhausted, like Christmas ornaments on all the trees.  Not just a Kaleidoscope of color, but even carpeting the ground, forcing birders to gingerly step over and around them.  And for Big Year birders, it’s an event not to be missed.  I’ll be reporting live from Texas beginning April 10, and perhaps I’ll run into a birder or two doing their own Big Years.
    In Part One, I left you hanging, so we’ll pick up where we left off, with Bruce Di Labio heading out for his 53rd consecutive Ottawa Christmas Bird Count when things took a very unexpected turn.
    I hope you enjoy listening to Bruce’s stories of his amazing, record shattering Canada Big Year.  Having enjoyed many of the same adventures, including my own slip on the ice in Nova Scotia, that could have brought my Canada Big Year to a crashing end only 3 days into 2022, I can appreciate all Bruce went through in 2023. Congratulations Bruce.  And good luck to anyone attempting their own Canada Big Year in future. 
    Next month, we have a guest from out west.  Krissi Martin,(Sorry I said “Kristi” last month).  Krissi lives in Abbotsford British Columbia and is known on line as Momma Birder.  Krissi is very open about living life after a brain injury, and like many of us, has discovered that birding has had a very positive impact on her life.  We’ll talk about that and the Big Years she’s done in British Columbia and how birding in general and Big Years in particular can improve your well being and outlook on life.  Following my chat with Bruce, I’ll leave you with a brief excerpt from my conversation with Krissi Martin.
     

    • 31 min
    Season 2, Episode 1, Part One: Bruce Di Labio’s Canada Big Year

    Season 2, Episode 1, Part One: Bruce Di Labio’s Canada Big Year

    Hello Birders, welcome back to The Big Year Podcast.  I am so excited to be back for a second season.  I wasn’t sure we’d get renewed but the birds tweeted their approval and desire to hear from even more Big Year birders, so here I am and boy do I have a great line up of guests ready to share their stories.
    Over the course of the spring and summer, you will get to hear form Lynn Barber, the one of the great ABA Big Year birders, and author of many books, including Extreme Birder: One Woman’s Big Year, the story of her 2008 ABA Big Year. Lynn was the first birder to break Sandy Komito’s record with 723 species.
    I’ll also be catching up with a couple of Ontario Big Year birders, including Andrew Keaveny, who was doing his Ontario Big Year when I was a newbie birder doing an ABA Big Year in 2012, and Brett Forsyth who did a self-powered Ontario Big Year, in 2022 when I was doing my Canada Big Year.  I will Never be doing a self-powered Big Year, I can tell you that right now.
    We’ll also be venturing out west to talk to Kristy Martin, who did a Big Year in British Columbia, and Danny Bernard who completed a Michigan Big Year a few years ago.
    But today we have Part One of my lengthy and wonderful chat with the new all time record holder for a Canada Big Year, Bruce Di Labio.   In 2022, I was only the third birder to ever top 457 species for Canada in a single year.  Hot on my tail during the second half of 2022 Bruce, who had already been birding and guiding for 50 years, pushed me until the final day of the year.  During 2022, though we birded in many of the same places, sometimes within hours or even a few miles of each other, we never actually met.  With Bruce breathing down my neck in New Brunswick near the end of the year, I was able to end up in top spot, with Bruce a close second, each of us only the third and forth birders to ever see over 450 species in one Canada calendar year.
    Finally in the spring of 2023, when he was trying to break the all time record,  we met at Point Pelee National Park during spring migration.  We talked about his spark bird on that occasion, and his expectations for his Big Year.  His initial hope was to hit at least 460 in 2023.  Knowing what I missed in 2022 and my lack of extensive coast to coast birding experience, not to mention his vast knowledge of the country and where and when to find the most species at the best times, I expected him to pass my record, easily.  Thanks to an amazing year for rarities in Canada, zoomed way past 460, setting a record that may stand for a very long time indeed.  I know records are made to be broken, I just never expected to be dethroned less than a year later.  I take solace in the fact that I was even able to get past 450, given my various physical and mental disabilities.  We all bird for our own reasons, and a Big Year is a personal journey.  The success you reap depends on the passion for birding that you sow.  
    So, as winter turns to spring and a birders fancy turns to migration and all the excitement of the return home of hundreds of snow “birds” from the south, let’s catch up with the birders of The Big Year.  Or words to that effect.   Go forth and enjoy the podcast and the birds.  Perhaps you’ll be inspired to take on your next adventure!
     
     

    • 37 min
    Episode 14: Kelly-Sue O’Connor and Birding with Mental Health Issues

    Episode 14: Kelly-Sue O’Connor and Birding with Mental Health Issues

     
    Hello birders, and other non-feathered friends, and welcome to Episode 14 and the final episode of Season 1 of The Big Year Podcast.  I am thrilled to have Kelly-Sue O’Conner, who runs Birder Brains, who along with myself and many other birders, live with various mental health issues, including Attention Deficit-Hyperactive Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder or Post-concussion Syndrome.  In my case all three plus a few other, including Social Anxiety Disorder.  Boy, do I hate the word "disorder" as a descriptive.  
    Anyway in this episode I did something very different. Because of the subject matter, I didn’t edit out anything, as I thought it important to hear us as we really are and not hide our pauses and such.  So, the idea was to not cut out the parts of the conversation that were challenging to us.  You'll even hear, in my opening monologue, that sometimes I have trouble getting the words out, because of different mental challenges I have.  So bear with us when we go off on tangents, and be patient where there might be some long pauses.
    We wanted to get that message out that if you do have your own cognitive and mental challenges, it’s okay talk about it, and if you need help, there's always people you can talk to and people that can definitely give you advice and help you feel more comfortable with what you’re going through.   I like to take some of these challenges like OCD and ADHD and put them to use in my everyday birding life. 
    So, sit back, relax,(unless you’re driving), and enjoy my chat with Kelly-Sue, live from the boardwalk in Rondeau Provincial Park.

    • 40 min
    Episode 13: Tiffany Kersten’s 2021 Lower 48 Big Year, Part 2

    Episode 13: Tiffany Kersten’s 2021 Lower 48 Big Year, Part 2

    We are back. Welcome once again to the show about birders and their Big Years. I had the pleasure of speaking with Tiffany a while back and in a previous episode we were discussing the life changing events that accidentally pushed her into doing a Big Year in the Lower 48 states.  And today as we continue with our discussion we shall see how life changing doing a Big Year was for Tiffany.  At a crossroads in her life, during the pandemic  and as a single, unemployed new home owner, she threw caution to the wind, and set out on an adventure that in the end, took her life into new directions that she may never have foreseen.  Join me once again as we talk about her amazing 2021, record breaking Lower 48 Big Year.

    • 25 min
    Episode 12: Tiffany Kersten‘s Record Breaking Lower 48 Big Year: Part One

    Episode 12: Tiffany Kersten‘s Record Breaking Lower 48 Big Year: Part One

    Welcome to Episode 12 of The Big Year Podcast.  
    For those of you here for the first time, my name is Robert Baumander, but I spent 41 years as Captain Video for the Toronto Blue Jays.  Along the way I performed as a magician and Escape Artist, managed the computer system for Pizza Pizza, volunteered in elementary schools and The Hospital for Sick children doing magic and story telling and science classes.  I have done a variety of Big Years in North America since I became a birder in 2012, and now spend my time, since my Canada Big Year in 2022, hosting this podcast and writing about my adventures in birding and my travels across Canada and North America.
    This is part one of my chat with Tiffany Kersten, who’s resume sounds like that of the Dos Equis guy. I’ll let her tell you about her many accomplishments and some of the other, shall we say, more eclectic endeavours that have kept her busy over the years.  Suffice it to say, my resume doesn’t even come close to stacking up against hers and I have been compared to the Dos Equis guy.
    We had such an enjoyable and wide ranging conversation that I have had to divide it into two episodes. Her 2021 Lower 48 Big Year, where she broke the all time record  with 726 species, took place in the midst of some challenging events in her life, as an unemployed single home owner during the Covid-19 pandemic, which lost her a spot on American Ninja Warriors.  Really.
    With all that being said, please enjoy Part One of my conversation with Texas birder Tiffany Kersten.

    • 32 min
    Episode 11: Kiah Jasper’s Record Breaking Ontario Big Year.

    Episode 11: Kiah Jasper’s Record Breaking Ontario Big Year.

    And a hearty welcome to episode 11 of the Big Year Podcast. I'm Robert. Baumander, and I'm your guide to the life of the big year birding experience. Late in the year 2011, which seems like a lifetime ago, I saw a little movie called, not surprisingly, The Big Year.
         One of my favorite actors, Steve Martin, was starring in it. I was also a fan of Jack Black and remembered him from way back when I saw High Fidelity. And who doesn't love Owen Wilson? So I told Sue that I'd like to see it and from the previews I just thought it was a buddy movie.
         Sue didn't let on that it was actually about birding or I may not have gone. But we did go, and I, like my guest, Kiah Jasper, was drawn into the prospect of doing a Big Year. Keep in mind, at the time, I was not a birder and had only ever used binoculars at the racetrack.  By the time the credits rolled with photos of all the birds and the Guster song, “This could all be yours someday,” I was pretty much hooked. I remembered that Sue had the book, The Big Year, by Mark Obmascik, from the library, and I really hadn't given it a second thought. Now, I had to read the book. Well, listen to the audiobook. Even while listening to the book, I was secretly planning a Big Year.
         Not a full out ABA plus Attu, but a smaller Big Year, birding wherever I traveled across North America. I had a full time job with the Toronto Blue Jays,(oddly appropriate), that took up the majority of my year and my days. What could it hurt to do a little birding along the way? And maybe see, oh I don't know, 300 or so species as I learned how to bird and what it took to become a birder.
         The trouble was, and I really didn't acknowledge it at the time, I was suffering, or perhaps gifted with, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. On a January trip to California, my guide Eddie Bartley told me that if I really wanted to call it a Big Year, I had to go to Arizona, the Rio Grande Valley of Texas and Alaska. How could I possibly do that while working full time and I really had zero spare dollars in my bank account?
         Well, it turns out if you are obsessive and determined enough, you can make a good stab at it. At the end of 2012 I was thousands of dollars in debt but had seen 600 species. Last year I completed a Canada big year. I counted 457 species tying the all-time record.  And if that darn Limpkin had just flown far enough across the Niagara River into Canadian airspace, I would have had the all time record. Woe is me. But if “Ifs and buts…” as my mother used to say.  However, in Ontario in 2022, one young man did break a record.
        Kiah Jasper, at the age of just 20 - I'm 63, so yeah, just 20 - broke the all time record for an Ontario big year. He traveled thousands of miles, sometimes in terrible weather and on roads no birder had ever been to in the farther northern regions of Ontario, which put it into perspective, has a larger area than Texas.
         When it was all said and done, Kiah had seen 359 species, blowing by the previous record of 343 species set in 2017. So, it's not a coincidence that Kyah is the final guest on my five part series on the Birders of the Ontario 2022 Big Year.  I am grateful to Kiah for re-recording this episode after a couple of glitchy recordings, early in the year, made it nearly impossible to hear.  My fault entirely and perhaps I should have fired myself on the spot.  But, now it is finally finshed and this is the result of all that hard work and perseverance, just like, well, doing a Big Year.
         Please.  Finally.  Enjoy. 

    • 40 min

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