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  • Writer's pictureGregg Severson

2019 Biking Big Half Year - It's On!

I'm excited to announce that in 2019 I'm going to be doing a Green Big (Half) Year - one where I try to see as many bird species as possible, but using only self-propelled transport: walking, biking, canoeing, etc. I'm excited to do tons of birding, and to challenge myself to do it without the aid of motorized transport, and to raise money for important causes. This will be a "hub-and-spoke" big year; lots of short birding trips from my house, returning to that hub each time. To count for the Green Big Year, a qualifying trip must be entirely non-motorized. I will still be using motors during the year (taking the bus to work, or driving up to the Bog for guiding there), but any trip where I take motorized transport won't count for my Green Big Half Year totals.

For this Big Half Year I will be raising money for two causes that are near and dear to my heart: the Friends of Sax-Zim Bog organization, and the MS Society. I will get my fundraising links active so I can collect the donations I'm working for - probably something that I should have figured out at the end of 2018, but I'm relying on all of you to be patient and wait for me to get that part figured out!

The Sax-Zim Bog is a wonderful place and very valuable to MN speciality birds, and the Friends group has done a lot to both protect the habitat and connect people to the habitat; hosting educational and scientific events, as well as building and staffing the visitor center. They also have an ongoing program encouraging people do Big Half Years to support the Bog, so part of the reason to do this as a Half Year is to align with that series of fundraisers.

Kellie and me at the MS tRAM 2018 finish line
Kellie and me at the MS tRAM 2018 finish line

The MS Society has been on my radar for a while, both as a reputable non-profit organization, and for their many bicycling events! Then, a year and a half ago, Kellie's sister was diagnosed with MS, providing additional imperative to get involved and raise money. So last summer Kellie and I participated in the 5-day Ride Across Minnesota event. We really enjoyed the sense of community, the feeling of supporting Jess in her fight against this disease, and the fun of biking across a swath of Minnesota and being tourists in a bunch of small towns. This year we are doing the Ride Across MN again (enlarging our team!), and I want my fundraising efforts from this Green Big Year to flow into my fundraising for that event. That provides another reason to make this a Big Half Year, so that my Big Year fundraising will be finishing up before the event occurs in July.

I have to acknowledge that after intensively chasing birds for 6 months, I am not likely to be able stop chasing them, knowing that it is still part of a calendar year and thus would count for a standard Big Year! For now, my goal is to see as many species as I can in the first 6 months of 2019, and to be raising money for the above fine non-profits. In July I'll reevaluate, and see what I want to do for the rest of the year, birding-wise.

It's easy to get overwhelmed by the scope of a Big Year; I'm keeping thing manageable by staying within 30 miles of home. 30 miles "as the crow flies" still leaves a lot of room for birding, but it reduces the temptation of long, multi-day bike trips. While doing an all-out Big Year with long distance biking is tempting, I think that is too much for me to do in 2019 with all of the other stuff I have going on. I will still be working my full-time job as an Attorney Editor and a part-time gig as a birding guide during this time - so that will significantly limit my Big Year birding time (and energy). I might do a couple of overnights here or there, but my main plan is to just bike and bird pretty close to home.

I'm excited to tackle the challenge of a big year and I hope you will follow along with my progress on this blog!

Black-crested Titmouse on my hand, with bikes in the background
A Black-crested Titmouse visiting us on our 2018 bike trip in the TX Hill Country! (Note: This wouldn't count for a Green Big Year, since we flew down there. But I wanted to share this picture of one of my most memorable bike birding experiences!)

A picture of me biking in my Norwegian flag jersey on the MS tRAM trip in 2018
Enjoying the wooded and sun-dappled Sakatah Singing Hills State Trail through the Sakatah Lake State Park, on the bikeMS tRAM 2018. We heard a nice Wood Thrush along this stretch!

People with bikes looking through binoculars
At the November 2018 Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival, on the Biking for Birds field trip with green birding legend Dorian Anderson! In 2014 he did a continent-wide Green Big Year and recorded 618 species of birds using no motorized transport!

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