Recovery Big Year Update – October 2015

Kelley NunnRecovery Big Year

Me With My New Zeiss Bins!!

RBY Sponsorship News


First and foremost, I have some very exciting news about my Recovery Big Year– in addition to the Delmarva Ornithological Society, I am now being sponsored by Carl Zeiss Sports Optics!!! Zeiss will be my RBY sponsor this year AND in 2016! They’ve sent me a pair of Zeiss Conquest HD binoculars, and will be sending a scope for me to use for MMB outreaches and for documenting the species I see in my RBY through digiscoping. I have to say, these binoculars are incredible– they’re even better than I expected them to be! It’s like I’m seeing birds for the first time again, the image is so sharp. I’m already starting to plan my 2016 RBY– there are plenty of new challenges I’d like to meet. Thank you to the wonderful people at Zeiss for considering my mission and goals worthwhile!

RBY Progress Report

We’re 5/6ths of the way through the year, and I’ve officially reached two of my big year goals, so it’s time for an RBY update! While I did think I’d be doing better health-wise by now, I am thrilled with the milestones I’ve reached and the things I’ve accomplished!

On August 29th, during a DOS Shorebird Field Trip, I accomplished the ‘Add 10 New Species to My Life List’ goal with sightings of a Marbled Godwit and Western Sandpiper (species #10 and 11 respectively)! Other life birds for the year were: Snow Bunting, Alder Flycatcher, Red Knot, American White Pelican, Brown-headed Nuthatch, Prothonotary Warbler, Northern Bobwhite, Long-billed Dowitcher, and Stilt Sandpiper! I also added Upland Sandpiper to my life list as a Nocturnal Flight Call migrant I heard over my rooftop microphone on September 13th!

  • Western Sandpiper at Bombay Hook NWR

    Western Sandpiper at Bombay Hook NWR

  • Northern Bobwhite, Bombay Hook NWR

    Northern Bobwhite at Bombay Hook NWR

  • Red Knot (with Laughing Gulls, Ruddy Turnstone, Dunlin, and Semipalmated Sandpipers) at Port Mahon Road

    Red Knot (with Laughing Gulls, Ruddy Turnstone, Dunlin, and Semipalmated Sandpipers) at Port Mahon Road

  • Prothonotary Warbler - Photo taken by Hannah Greenberg at Lums Pond State Park in Delaware

    Prothonotary Warbler – Photo taken by Hannah Greenberg at Lums Pond State Park in Delaware

  • Stilt Sandpiper amongst Dowitchers & American Avocets, Bombay Hook NWR

    Stilt Sandpiper amongst Dowitchers & American Avocets at Bombay Hook NWR

  • Snow Bunting

    Snow Bunting at Fort DuPont State Park

The Upland Sandpiper brings my total number of life birds for the year to 12! Reaching this awesome goal of adding over 10 species to my life list is so exciting for me. To put this in perspective, I only added 1 bird to my life list while bed-ridden in 2014– a Barn Owl I heard fly over my Nocturnal Flight Call microphone while laying in bed (I still have yet to actually see a Barn Owl).

The other goal I’ve completed so far is submitting over 500 checklists to eBird! To date, I’ve submitted 523. This number is absolutely amazing to me, because it means I was able to go birding over 500 times this year! 500 times! That’s more than once per day. Of course, the vast majority of these checklists were submitted from my yard (126 of them) or less than 10 minutes from my house, but regardless, I still find the number significant. When I was at my sickest point, there were many days where I couldn’t even sit at my window to watch the bird feeders. Or, if I tried to sit out in the yard for a few minutes, I would become unbearably dizzy for hours or even days afterwards. Now, I can go birding just about every day! What a remarkable improvement.

Another milestone that I didn’t describe in my Recovery Big Year list of goals, but that is still of importance to me, is that I’ve birded in over 92 locations this year! I’ve been to tons of new locations– many of which have been along the Delaware coastline, like Little Creek WMA and Cape Henlopen State Park. At the end of this year, I plan on making a map of all the places I’ve been in 2015. I can’t wait to see how far I’ve come from only being able to go 15-30 minutes from my house as a passenger in a car (and only on my ‘good’ health days)!

Little Creek Wildlife Area - View from Observation Tower

Little Creek Wildlife Area – View from Observation Tower

In regards to my other Recovery Big Year goals, I’m on track to see at least 250 species of birds (currently at 240, so I only have 10 more to go), and to complete all eBird monthly challenges for 2015! Unfortunately, I won’t be able to bird in at least 8 states around the U.S. or to go on a pelagic birding trip. I just haven’t made it far enough in my recovery to be able to accomplish these goals.

Me With My New Zeiss Bins!!

Me With My New Zeiss Bins!!

When I came up with the parameters for my 2015 RBY, I was still mostly bed-ridden and had absolutely no idea what the future of my recovery would hold. On one hand, I couldn’t possibly imagine being healthy again or ever stop feeling like I was spatially detached and floating. On the other hand, I believed that when I found the right treatment protocol, I could be back to normal within weeks. Reality has ended up somewhere between those two imagined situations; I’m feeling immensely better than I used to, but I’m still not nearly as healthy as I’d like to be. My recovery has progressed far slower than I imagined, but I’ve been able to partake in activities that I never thought I’d be able to again. It’s absolutely crazy to think that back on January 1st, 2015, walking a few hundred feet to see a flock of Snow Buntings was a terrifying struggle and now, I can drive myself to birding just about any day of the week!

Thank you to everyone who’s been following my Recovery Big Year! I’m looking forward to completing my remaining RBY goals, and to coming up with a whole new set of possibilities for my 2016 RBY! Who knows what life will be like in 2016, and what sorts of physical milestones I’ll be able to surpass.