The Alaska Big Year Record
Holy Moly! What a Big Year!
Lynn Barber has totally rocked the Alaska Big Year with 287 species and Five Months to go! As of yesterday, it looks like she has tied the previous record, although there’s some doubt as to what the previous record is. With the help of Ed Clark, Thede Tobish, David Sonneborn, and Brad Benter, we’ve tried to piece together the Alaska Big Year history, and here’s what it looks like:
The record Big Year for a long time was assumed to be an effort by the late Tim Schantz who reached 275 in 2000. In 2013, Scott Schuette reached 273 and Brad Benter hit 272. Ed Clark then reported that he had been told that the late Pete Islieb once hit 287 in his Big Year. Both Thede and Dave replied that they weren’t aware that Pete “kept track of his year list,” and Brad Benter says “the rumors I heard about Pete had him at 280 in a year.” So the highest recorded Big Alaska Year has some doubt attached to it. Unfortunately, there’s probably no way to verify that number at this point.
But during this fact-checking, Thede reported that HE had once logged a year with “281-ish” birds although he didn’t have his records immediately at hand.
SO……Lynn Barber reached 287 yesterday with the Rose-breasted Grosbeak in Ketchikan. If the Pete Islieb story is true, Lynn has tied the all-time Big Year record. If the Pete Islieb story is not accurate, Lynn has surpassed the Alaskan Big Year by as many as 6 birds, and once again there are still 5 months left.
In either case, huge congratulations are in order for Lynn Barber! I personally want to thank her for providing vicarious excitement to my otherwise pathetic little life!
Another factor in this saga is that Lynn is probably the first of the top Alaska Big Year participants who has actively, purposely, and intentionally CHASED birds. Tim, Brad, Scott, and Thede were all working and/or guiding while they did their Big Years.
Also, please bear in mind that there may be inaccuracies on my part. I don’t think the possible inaccuracies in the numbers would change the final standings except possibly for Pete Islieb’s tally. As far as I can tell, it looks like the history is:
- 287 Pete Islieb (possibly)
- 287 Lynn Barber (definitely)
- 281-ish Thede Tobish
- 275 Tim Schantz
- 273 Scott Schuette
- 272 Brad Benter
- 264 Dave Sonneborn
Each of these phenomenal birders has posted astounding Big Year numbers, and we salute them all! If there are other records lurking out there, we’d love to hear about them.