Route and Strategy

Here is a rough map of the planned/idea route. This route is exceptionally ambitious, so I imagine that many alterations will made to it over the course of the year.

UPDATE: Today is December 31, 2014 and I have just finished my year! Here is a map of what I actually did this year. It is amazing to see how similar it was to the preliminary route that I originally posted before the year even got started!

OK, Everything below is once again written from before I started. Just the map above was inserted after the fact.

I have identified 7 key areas that must be visited in order to maximize my species total. These are:

1) The Northeast in January - The focus of this month will be gulls, ducks, and alcids. Target birds include red-necked grebe, great cormorant, long-tailed duck, mute swan, american black duck, common eider, king eider, harlequin duck, barrow’s goldeneye, rough-legged hawk, purple sandpiper, glaucous gull, iceland gull, lesser black-backed gull, greater black-backed gull, black-headed gull, little gull, black guillemot, razorbill, thick-billed murre, dovekie, short-eared owl, snowy owl, northern shrike, snow bunting, lapland longspur, rusty blackbird, white-winged crossbill, common redpoll. 

I am starting here for 2 reasons. First I have a great support network in the northeast, and second I think it would be VERY hard to muster the strength to make it to the northeast at the end of the year (i.e. December). This month will be miserable from a weather standpoint, so doing it while I am physically fresh is my plan. January is also a better time to visit this area than December.

2) Florida in March - Since most of the Florida birds are resident, it really doesn't matter when I visit. I will most certainly miss gray kingbird, black-whiskered vireo, and antillean nighthawk and mangrove cuckoo could be really hard out of breeding season. However, I really need to be be in Arizona in June so I must sacrifice these birds at this time of year.

3) Texas Coast April - Non-negotiable. This is where I must get all eastern neotropical migrants since I will not be in the east at all after this. This will also be a good chance to rest my legs as I will stay put around Freeport/Galveston/High Island for up to 2 weeks. I will also spend a fair amount of time shorebirding during this stretch.

4) Arizona in June - Loads of Arizona specific birds here at this time of year. Yes, July or August might be better for rarities, but the heat would most certainly be a bigger challenge during these times. Arizona must be hit during this time since so may of its specialty birds are breeders that head south during the winter months.

5) Mountains in July/August - This is the least well defined segment of the trip at the moment. There are a number of breeding species that might be best found here, but if I got lucky they might be found elsewhere as well. I will need to get at least some gamebirds during this leg as well as species like three-toed woodpecker, black-billed magpie, american dipper, and black swift.

This segment of the trip will be most sensitive to fitness level and fatigue. Most of the riding elsewhere will be on relatively flat terrain where I am confident that I can make decent distances day after day. There is just no way I can prepare for what the mountains might require and what the exact route will be required. The most important thing is that I end in Northern California in Early September.

6) California in September/October - Like Florida, many of California's speciality birds are resident so I can get them at any time (yellow-billed magpie, tricolored blackbird, wrentit etc). My best shot at seabirds, either from shore or by kayak, will be the central coast in late september. This is also a great time for migrating land birds and shorebirds so I should find a ton of new species. At least some of the winter birds will have settled in by early October, so I might be able to turn up a few additional species this way. I will certainly miss some specific wintering species, ancient murrelet for example.

7) Lower Rio Grande Valley In Winter - Again, many of the LRGV birds are present year round, and winter is the best time to find some mexican birds such as clay-colored robin and brown jay. Again this leg of the trip will be heavily dependent on fatigue. Towns are spaced far part in West Texas and it will require a LOT of riding to get to the best birding areas in the south. If I had any remaining energy after the LRGV, I could shoot north into Oklahoma to pick up birds I may have missed up until now (Smith's longspur).

I will clearly have LOTS of time in between these 7 key areas, and I full expect to find many of the birds I will need en route. It is imperative, however, that I maximize time in these keys areas for birding (and resting!), so I will probably focus very hard on riding versus birding during these transitions.

As far as rarities are concerned, if they show up within 50 miles of me, they are possibilities. Otherwise, my focus will be on getting the expected and key species. If they show up and stay put, like barnacle goose and pink-footed goose tend to do in the northeast, then I can alter my route to see them. Backtracking to find rarities or missed key species will not be an option.


  1. Dorian, I can't wait for your adventure to begin! I will be following your blog! I remember you first talking about your conceptual adventure while scoping Peeps from the Bill Forward Blind this summer. I am glad your adventure is about to take off. Please let me know when you will be around Cape Ann and on Plum Island as I would love to bird with you at the onset of your journey!

  2. Good Luck to you! I am really impressed with your venture & will be following with interest & envy. I wish there were a film crew following you, I would love to see the documentary afterward. Although I am disappointed you won't be coming to the upper midwest, I understand the complexity of your route and your time constraints. If you detour to SE Michigan for some reason, you have a place to stay! Jessica Bright

  3. Dorian, I am excited to hear about your endeavor. I did a big year by bike in 2008: . I stayed confined to Northern California and saw 295 species with Josiah Clark.

    You are more than welcome to stop and stay at my house in Logan Utah (Northern Utah). It might be a good spot for you to pick up some more mountain birds... although I can't really imagine you'll need many at that point. Look me up at Utah State University if you need my e-mail. I can put you in touch with some great biking birders in the Bay Area of California too.

    Also are you closing the loop? That is are you going to bike back to your starting point at the end of the year?

  4. Hello Dorian,

    We would be happy to house you when you come through Norfolk and tell you about the hot birding spots. We have plenty of room and would love to support what you are doing. Please drop us a note and let us know if we should expect you I have friends in the Outer Banks of North Carolina that may be interested in housing you if you are going through there. Chris

  5. Just make that December line continue north to Minnesota and you could visit Sax-Zim bog in the winter to get some northern specialties! And Duluth, MN for some gull rarities! Just kidding, that is a long way north and lots of very cold riding!

  6. Enjoyed visiting with you at Anahuac NWR the past several days. I have a much better picture now that I've seen your intended route. Since I'll be in Jackson Hole all summer maybe you'll detour through there. Jim