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Dear Surfbirders,

In keeping with Tom Hince who posted his team's press release on their record-breaking Big Day, here is the release on our day. I must say the state will be filled with teams trying to break this record next year ! I can almost hear Victor Emanuel cranking up that airplane again...

Good Birding,

Ron Weeks
Lake Jackson

New Birding "Big Day" Record Set for North America

On April 24th 2001, Ron Weeks, Bob Kemp, Giff Beaton, Adam Byrne and Dwight Peake teamed up to set a new North American record for most bird species found during a single calendar day. Weeks, a polymer researcher from Lake Jackson TX; Kemp, a homebuilder from Cincinnati, OH; Beaton, commerical airline pilot from Atlanta, GA; Byrne, an entomologist from DeWitt, MI and Peake, a physician from Galveston TX completed their "Big Day", as it is known in birding circles, tallying 258 species along a south Texas route.

Big Days are governed by a set of rules developed by the American Birding Association. Birds may be seen or heard; 95% of the bird species must be tallied by all team members. Ethical guidelines are also set ensuring that the events themselves do not harm the birds being counted.

In the end, all rules are enforced by the honor system. The sighting of 258 species beat the old Big Day record of 233 species also set in south Texas just seven days earlier (click here to read the Canadians' story) by a team from Canada.

In addition, it topped the previously longstanding record of 231 species set in 1978 by a California team in their home state. The team was able to break the record in such grand fashion due to an innovative route developed by Weeks last summer. Weeks stated, "No one before had ever successfully linked the Hill Country of Texas and its unique birdlife, including the endangered Golden-cheeked Warbler and the Black-capped Vireo, with the Coastal Bend and its rich saltwater habitats and migrant-catching abilities."

After developing the right route, Weeks' next task was to surround himself with some of the best birding talent available. All told, his experienced team has logged over 100 previous Big Days, represented bird record committees from three different states and authored numerous books and ornitholigical journal articles. According to Weeks, what truly makes their team unique from their competitors is that they are all employed in areas unrelated to birds and the outdoors. In addition, three of the members also have families with children under the age of 10. "This is definintely more of a testimonial to our wives", adds Weeks.

The team's efforts not only set records but also raised nearly $1000 to be donated to the Friends of Brazoria National Wildlife Refuges and the Friends of Aransas-Matagorda Island National Wildlife Refuge. "Friends" groups are volunteers that help the refuge system with many projects not covered by normal budgets. These include projects allowing more and better public access to these national treasures.

Weeks' goal for next year is to improve the conservation impact of their efforts. He states: "My hope is that our and other efforts to raise the North American record to even greater heights will be incorporated as part of the Great Texas Birding Classic thereby benefitting that important annual event." Texas Parks and Wildlife's Great Texas Birding Classic involves teams from around the country in Big Day competition for the right to donate $50,000 in prize money to worthy habitat conservation projects along the Texas coast.

click here to read all about the Canadians 7-day record.