I don't expect to hear from John while he is on the boat at Attu. There is email, but limited and costly. If the wind is coming in from the west there might be some good birding, if they can find the birds. They are going ashore each day and riding bikes around. Blisters and callouses? Without military stationed there or over-night visitors allowed, roads and trails are slowly disappearing. Z Tours (Zugunruhe Birding Tours) worked hard to set up this trip and the one they did two years ago. Attu is still the gold standard for a big year attempt, even if it will never again be like it was in 1998, 'The Big Year'.
They are due back to Adak Sunday, May 27th, for an evening flight to Anchorage. John starts an Alaska tour with Wings the next day. I won't blog until then unless John emails from the boat.
Families. That was John's goal before he started his big year, to see a member of each bird family in the world. Unfortunately, the definition of what is a bird family is more artificial than bird species these days. An isolated species on a little atoll might be its own family, or not. Do you make the huge effort logistically and financially to see that bird? It gets a little silly, even sillier than a big year.
For a big year, you use the ABA list of North American birds, and ABA geographical boundaries. You decide if you saw or heard the bird well enough to tick off. Only accidental birds need to be verified by committee. If you claim you saw a hoopoe in Seattle in December, you will need witnesses and photos, otherwise, your list is up to you, the honor system.
John hopes to be over 500 by the end of June. 500 birds in 6 months. 6 months more to go, but a lot more work to get each new bird.