Ethan Kinsey Safaris

Adventures in East Africa

My Big Year


2012 might to me be a year of milestones. I for instance turned 30, my dad turned 60, my safari and guide training business is entering its 5th year… and the Tanzania Bird Atlas Project reached its goal of 1 million records.

I’ve decided in celebration that I’m going to do a Big Year starting Nov. 7th. Many people will know what a big year is from the Hollywood movie that came out last year. I don’t watch a lot of movies, but my girlfriend convinced me to watch this movie because it’s about birds. It might also be a coincidence that is the second year that I organized the on-the-ground logistics for a 23 day

Tanzania endemic trip run by Birdquest in the UK, where they routinely score 490 ± 3 species of birds.

Now Tanzania is one of the most diverse countries in the world, one that boasts 11% of the world’s bird species. If you have a bit of experience with birds and try, you can easily get over 100 species in a day. Friends of mine (Daudi Peterson, David Moyer, Jon Simonson, Mike Peterson), also mentors, recorded 318 species in a day, and when I was 14, I used to challenge myself to get over 60 species in a day just in the backyard.

Some of my friends and guests who have been on safari with me think I know every bird, but that’s the way I feel when I go birding with serious birders who know their LBJs. LBJs are Little Brown Jobbies or the little brown and grey birds that are really hard to identify. If it were up to me, I might have used slightly different language to describe those little things.

As much as I love birds, I hit the wall with those LBJs and there’s too much other stuff out there that is so intriguing that I’ve pursued some of them instead of challenging the wall, but… maybe it’s time to face it and break it.

It took me a while to find the world record for a world big year, but apparently it stands at 4,372 species. The couple who hold the record have their own blog Now, I’m not going to sell my house to fund around the world trip, and I had to promise my girlfriend I wouldn’t be the Bostiks guy. I haven’t spent hours strategizing, I don’t have an audio playback system to call rarer birds in, I really struggle with LBJs, but I do have a lot of friends who love birding and my work takes me to many different parts of Tanzania. My real motivation to do a big year is for fun. It’s a challenge and I’m going to need to focus (but not too much), but I’m not going to twitch (well I might a bit). I’m going to hope to get a lot of help from friends around Tanzania who know where to find local species… but ultimately I’m hoping to get a chance to learn a whole lot.

Lilac-breasted Roller (Ndutu)

So, if you’re keen, follow me on this celebration of Tanzanian biodiversity- here…

Ethan KinseyBirds