Ron Beck’s Big Year (and one for Friends of the San Pedro River)

Ron Beck, a resident of Cochise County in Arizona, is an expert birder and supporter of Friends of the San Pedro River. Ron recently completed a record-setting Big Year, which for birders is the incredible accomplishment of seeing and identifying more than 300 bird species in one year.  Ron’s achievement is record-setting because he did it carbon-free, completing his Big Year on bicycle and on foot.

Ron was interviewed about his “Bicycle Big Year” on January 2nd for the American Birding Association’s blog. In the interview, he recounts the number of miles he rode (3,067), miles he hiked (500 to 600), the number of flat tires he had to repair (21), and of course, bird species he saw. By December 19th he had identified 301 species, with # 301 being a common goldeneye.

Bird images borrowed  from www.sanpedroriver.org

Bird images borrowed from www.sanpedroriver.org

And he did it in part, as a fundraiser for Friends of the San Pedro River (members of the Friends Grassroots Network). Members of the group are stewards of the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area, 57,000 acres between the border with Mexico and St. David, Arizona, and a place where Ron saw many of his bird species. The river’s stretch is home to more than 80 mammal species, more than 40 species of amphibians and reptiles, and 100 species of breeding birds. It also provides invaluable habitat for 250 species of migrant and wintering birds and contains archaeological sites of human occupation from 13,000 years ago.

Bird lovers from around the world visit the San Pedro, one of the west’s most important rivers for migratory birds, and Friends of the San Pedro River volunteers lead weekly guided hikes for visitors. In addition, the group runs a bookstore, presents educational programs to local schools and community groups, and provides volunteer assistance to BLM staff. The group is also participating in the BLM’s revision of the Resource Management Plan for the area. Here’s a short excerpt from the interview:

TOM [the interviewer]: Could you share your thoughts regarding the fundraising aspect of your year-long effort?

RON: Friends of the San Pedro River needed to raise $15,000 to win a matching grant from the Conservation Lands Foundation. Two thirds of that sum had to be from people who had never before donated to the nonprofit. People can sponsor my effort by pledging either a flat amount or pay on a per-bird basis, from 25 cents to $1. I believe that I’ve raised somewhere around $4500 so far. I am kicking in $2 per species tallied, because I believe in FSPR’s mission and wanted to give money in addition to my physical effort. I’ve been told this is FSPR’s largest fundraiser ever. When friends come to visit, I take them to the river, then ask them for support.

Be sure to read the rest of the American Birding Association’s interview. Ron talks about his encounters with other wildlife, including seeing a twin-spotted rattlesnake and a black bear and cub, as well as those bird species that remained elusive. And you can still chip in your financial support for his great achievement and for Friends of the San Pedro River.


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