Australian Big Years

Hi birding-aussers,

Since Ruth and I completed our “VicTwitch” Big Year in Victoria last year, I am interested in the history of Big Years in Australia. I can’t find that much information – presumably because Big Years are not pursued particularly vigorously in Australia. Here is what I have:

Australian Records:

????: 535 Species: John McKean

1979: 545 Species: Roy Wheeler

2002: 703 Species: Sean Dooley

(All information from Sean Dooley’s book, “The Big Twitch”)

Victorian Records:

2006: 336 Species: John Harris

2009: 345 Species: Tim Dolby

2010: 389 Species: Paul Dodd & Ruth Woodrow

South Australian Records:

2010: ??? Species: Kay Parkin

Local Records:

2010: Hunter Valley: 343 Species: Mick Roderick

Does anyone have any other information, history or other details on birding records in Australia?

Paul Dodd

Docklands, Victoria


To unsubscribe from this mailing list, send the message: unsubscribe (in the body of the message, with no Subject line) to: ===============================

4 comments to Australian Big Years

  • paul

    Thanks for this detailed information, Sean.

    710, eh?

    Paul Dodd Docklands, Victoria

  • "David Andrew"

    Just to add my bit – I attempted a Big Year in 1992 which I wrote up in the first edition of Australian Birding as ‘The Mother of All Twitches’. I may have been the only person to have attempted to reach the worthy goal of 600 birds in a year while working full time; unfortunately this left me a bit time-poor and I abandoned the quest after 545 spp (but still managed to travel 46,000 km in Australia that year, 26,000 km of which was by plane and air travel cost a LOT more then). Happy to scan the article if anyone is interested. Cheers

    David Andrew

  • "SeanDooley"

    G’day to all,

    In my book, “The Big Twitch”, I outlined the list of Australian Big Years as I understood it up until my record attempt in 2002.

    As far as I am aware, John McKean was the first to publically declare a Big Year when in a competition with David Stewart in 1975 he saw 535 species, although Roy Wheeler who broke john’s record with 545 in 1979 mentioned that Arnold McGill had seen 490 species some time in the early 70s.

    Kevin Bartram broke the 600 mark with 607 species in 1982. Roy tried to take back the record in 1983 but fell just short. It was interesting that neither Roy nor Kevin had a license and so did all their birding either getting lifts with other birders or in Kev’s case, hitchiking.

    Englishman Mike Entwhistle then saw 633 species. In The Big Twitch I saod he achieved this in 1989. Several people have queried whether it was this year or it was 1986. As Mike is not around to ask (having been murdered by Shining Path guerillas in Peru a couple of years later. If anyone can definitively let me know which year it was, I can rectify it in the next edition of The Big Twitch.

    I reported that my Big Twitch list was officially 703 species. (There were three others I saw but didn’t count because the views were too poor: Streaked Shearwater, Grey-headed Albatross and Carpentarian Grasswren.) The list total has actually changed since then. Firstly, I was finally able to identify a duck I saw (and videoed) on Lake Moondara near Mt Isa on 13 December, 2002- an eclipse plumage male Northern Pintail. I will be submitting this record along with accompanying photographic evidence to BARC but all the experts I have spoken to about this bird are 100% convinced it is a Northern Pintail.

    So this takes the list to 704. But I was following the 1994 checklist. With the new Chrisitidis and Boles checklist coming out in 2008, some species were lumped and some subspecies that I had seen were promoted to full species. Following the new checklist, my Big Twitch list now stands at 709. The birds I lost were Gould’s Bronze-Cuckoo and Lesser Sooty Owl. The birds I gained were: Variable Goshawk, Short-tailed Grasswren, Kalkadoon Grasswren, Kimberley Honeyeater, Western Wattlebird, Pacific Robin and Buff-sided Robin. (7 additions and 2 subtractions to a list of 704 equals 709.)

    The worst dip I had on subspecies promoted to full species staus was on my last day in Darwin in the second half of December. I had heard that both the local Rufous Fantail and Grey Whistler might be split but I only had time to look for one. I chose Grey Whistler which was remained lumped while the one I didn’t look for, was togo on and become Arafura Fantail. D’oh!

    So Paul, if you and Ruth are planning on having a crack at my record, you’ll have to aim for 710!


  • "Jeff Davies"

    G’day Paul,

    I suspect Kevin Bartram was the Australian Big Year record holder prior to Sean, can’t remember his total but hopefully he will respond to this post with the answer. He did his without a car or drivers license, not suggesting however that “without car” should become a separate category, but Roy Wheeler would also fall into this cohort.

    Cheers Jeff.