Tuesday 5 December 2023

My love affair with birding in the USA

I really like America. Partly it is my heritage but mostly it is just a magnificent country. Think of a habitat and it is likely to be found somewhere in America. The grandeur of its National Parks, the sheer size of the landscape, the brilliant birds and yes, the people, who are for the most part delightful. I know plenty of people here who have zero desire to go anywhere near America but they are missing out. It is undeniably weird in many ways, and downright backward in others, but taken as a whole it is just superb. I go there as much as I can, I feel a part of it, I am just at ease there. My trips are about birding, sure, and especially lately, but I go for plenty of other reasons. 

I've been every year since 2014, something like 30 trips in all between then and now. I've not been birding on all of them, but the majority have seen me break out the binoculars. The map below is adapted from my eBird profile and very much appeals to the obsessive part of my personality. Yellow, orange and red are where I have been birding and recorded lists of birds, with the depth of colour indicating density - i.e. red States are where I have seen the most birds, light yellow the fewest, and orange somewhere in the middle - the darker the shade the more birds. I've now been birding in 27 States. California has the most, with New York and Ohio second and third, whilst Georgia and Nebraska languish at the bottom. As you can see I have now shaded in the top eastern corner of the map which was one of the aims of the trip in May 2023. The green ones are States that I have definitely been to but failed to record any birds. Oregon and Montana were when I was 11 years old, and no doubt I did see some birds, but at that point eBird was but a twinkle in some developers eye, and as an 11 year old I failed to assiduously keep lists. I have on my to-do list to go through the family photo albums from that road trip, maybe I'll find the odd Gull or whatever, or a Bald Eagle, but it's a pretty poor way of going about it. This is how I managed to stick one species onto Georgia - a Mockingbird. Nebraska I drove through in the dark, hearing a Mallard and jamming a Snowy Owl. Anyone who knows me will understand how irksome I find this, and will also know that I intend to do something about it. I mean bloody hell, my Aunt lived in Maryland for years, and I visited several times yet I have no records in any medium that show a single feathered creature! Ditto a family road trip that took in Pennsylvania and Kentucky, and a week-long trip to Utah with my son.

So where next then? Well it is already booked. That big blank space to the right of Texas, that's where I am going. Louisiana, Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi, Missouri and Tennessee. And I might just squeeze in an hour in Kentucky for good measure. If I can manage all of those that will take me 34 States birded and 40 visited. I should just go and live there. I could. Maybe I will one day, but for now I'm restricted to short trips. Pointless? Very much so. Pleasing? Oh yes.


  1. I could afford to do all of this as well, but in these days of general impoverishment, your travel tales border on the crass.

    1. I thought about deleting this Ric, much as I think about deleting a great many of your comments actually. I've never come across anyone who seems to revel in essentially insulting writers on their own pages (which in my view you do regularly here). One you made about my son going off to school some years ago and your views on my parenting still amazes me to this day.

      I make no apologies for how I live my life and I don't have to justify it to anyone. You don't like it, me, or what I do? Don't read it.

    2. Whilst I couldn't easily afford to do these trips I've never found the write ups to be crass. They are like a form of escapism for me, reading about places I might never go to (like reading a Bill Bryson but online). If you work hard then I see no reason why you shouldn't enjoy your downtime how you see fit. As my old Auntie used to say there's always some p-Ric-k who just wants to moan.

  2. As you know I really enjoy reading your trip reports and as I don't do long distance travel anymore I think I am balancing you out!!

  3. There will come a day when I can't do it either. Ditto countries in Africa with poor sanitation and various nasty diseases. I'd rather visit now as a young(ish) person than an old man. The issue I have is that I have the money but not the time, but conversely when I eventually have the time I expect to have no money. So travel now as much as I can.