Sunday, 6 January 2013

Fur and Feathers 5000

My name is Brian Elder and I am a bird and mammal watcher living in Calgary, AB, Canada.  In 2012, I did a bird and mammal Canada big year with three friends.  Some of you may have followed our Fur and Feathers 500 blog at:
Photo of me in Qinghai, China - June 2011 (photo taken by Phil Cram)
So what does “Fur and Feathers 5000” indicate?  Well, it is certainly not a big year though it would be a worthy target for anyone with enough time, money and energy to do a worldwide big year (an English couple did a birding big year in 2008 [] and recorded 4341 bird species).  The fur and feathers represent my interest in mammals and birds and the 5000 represents my target for the next 10 years.

I’m not starting from scratch – my current total is approximately 4000 though the mammal portion is just an estimate.  I have lists of mammals I’ve seen on various trips but have not consolidated them.  As was the case for the Canada big year, I intend to pursue my goal in a relaxed fashion with many secondary goals.
Quest for Bird Families and Unique Birds
Some of my secondary goals are to see as many bird families as I can (currently 198/227), to see some unique birds (this ties in well with the bird family objective) and to visit interesting places.  For an example, I’ll use a Thailand golfing trip that my wife and I snuck in during my Canada big year.  In Thailand, I made 3 day trips in search of birds and the highlight was seeing Spoon-billed Sandpiper and Nordmann’s Greenshank. 

Spoon-billed Sandpiper with Curlew Sandpipers, Red-necked Stints and Terek Sandpipers
At the end of the trip, we spent a couple of days in Singapore and I made arrangements with some friendly expat birders to go look for the Malaysian Rail-Babbler in southern Malaysia.  This is a bird in its own family and is my bird of the year for 2012.
Malaysian Rail-Babbler
My sighting was made more memorable by the effort required to find the bird.  Usually, this bird responds to a recording and is easily seen.  For whatever the reason, it wasn’t so cooperative and we had to track it down a swampy forest.

North America
As my budget doesn’t allow for unlimited international travel, I will be spending most of my time in Canada.  Apart from chipping away on various lists (e.g. I need 2 more birds for 300 in BC, 50 more species to get my lifetime ATPAT to 2000), I’d like to get my Canadian mammal list to 100.  We saw 76 species in 2012 and I’d seen a few others previously so I’ve got 15-18 more to go.
My ABA total is at 693 so, if the opportunity presents itself, I’d like to go for 700.  I thought I might get there with splits but (fortunately) bird taxonomy seems to be stabilizing.  If I make any trips, chances are that I’ll be with one or more of my big year team mates – Ray, Phil and Mike; maybe I’ll even have them make a guest blogging appearance.

Urban Birding
After living in Venezuela and China, my wife and I moved backed to Calgary in 2004.  I was hoping to find a house near one of Calgary’s natural areas but house design, view and accessibility won out and we bought a home in the northwest area of Calgary.  I didn’t have great expectations for a birdy yard but I’m pleased to report that I’ve seen almost 150 fur & feathers species in the neighbourhood.  There will likely be a section of the blog devoted to neighbourhood birding in suburbia.
My home patch in northwest Calgary
I’m also a keen photographer (but still a birder first, photographer second so no tripod for me!) and will keep working to improve my photos for each species.  I’ve posted photos for a number of trips on Picasaweb at:

Here are three of my favourite photos from past years:
Willet - Calgary, AB
Long-tailed Weasel - Calgary, AB
Approaching storm near Brooks, AB
I will try to make regular posts but they won’t be as frequent as were the big year posts.  Your comments are appreciated and the interaction helps establish a connection with the readers (if any) of this blog.

In 2013, my wife and I will be traveling to Argentina.  This is not a birding trip but the binoculars will always be close at hand.  Argentina has a bird list of over 1000 species and we will be traveling to most regions of the country so I am hoping for 100+ lifers.  Of greater interest is the possibility of 3 new bird families- Magellanic Plover, seed-snipes and diving-petrels.

Good birding and mammaling,




  1. Glad you are doing this blog Brian; it will be great to still see your excellent photos and reports (especially like the Willet shot and the Rail-babbler). Here's hoping you have some great journeys and experiences; good luck!

  2. Good luck with your future adventures, Brian. Sharing the Fur and Feathers 500 adventure with you was fabulous and I look forward to many more excursions together, at home and away! I'm looking forward to your new blog.

  3. Hi Brian, Good to see that you are continuing with a blog to keep us updated on all your sightings... I hope we get the chance to join forces again at some future time. Good luck in Argentina.

  4. Hi Brian, nice to read about your birding experiences. We are still chasing birds here, my list is around 950 and its hard to find something new in Zulia. See you
    Jose Gustavo