Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Noah Strycker: 5,000 Species? Check!

He did it. After 299 consecutive days of birding his way around the globe, Noah Strycker has achieved his second objective of seeing 5,000 species of birds in a single year. His first objective, which he achieved on September 16 (259 days of birding), was breaking the world record for number of bird species seen in a single year. So now what?

It appears Noah has no plan to halt his birding adventure after achieving this incredible record, so as he continues, with just 66 days remaining, the question remains, what will his final tally be? Since I began tracking Noah's progress on March 12 I've predicted, through the use of regression analyses, that Noah will see more 6,000 species by the end of the year. While my final-tally predictions have gradually decreased over time, largely as a result of diminishing returns, the prediction as of today is still on target. But let's take a closer look at the law of averages...

In the figure below, the average number of new species Noah has added per month, and the running monthly average of number new species added, is provided. Using a power function to assess trend, there has been a gradual decline in the number of new species added. This average however is well-explained by time (months), with an R-squared value of 91.6%. Therefore, we can reasonably predict the average number of new species that Noah will see in November and December, which will be added to his finally tally. The functions work out to 16.47 species per day in November (494 species), and 16.24 species per day in December (503). As there are 4 days left in October, and his current long term trend up to October 27 is 16.73 species per day, he could also reasonably add another 66 species in the remainder of October.

Summed together, Noah has a reasonable chance of adding 1,063 more species to his October 27 total of 5,014. That would land him at 6,077 species. If I use the daily counts, and the linear trend analysis that I have been using throughout the past 7 months, his predicted year-end tally will be 6,141 (see lower figure).

All things being equal, Noah has a strong chance of hitting 6,000 species, even if he averages one species less per day than his current average of 16.73.

Regardless of his final tally, I've enjoyed tracking his progress and wish him all the best in his endeavours. His achievement to date is nothing short of remarkable, and at this point, every new bird is icing to the 5,000 species cake.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Noah Strycker's Global Year: World Record, Broken

This post is by no means breaking news, but Noah Strycker broke the Global Big Year world birding record on September 16. His record-breaking bird, bird number 4342, was Sri Lanka Frogmouth.

To me, the writing was on the wall very early in the year (see earlier posts); the record would easily be beaten given the pace Noah had set for himself. Perhaps, however, the most impressive element of breaking the record is the actual date in which he broke it...leaving a full 106 days in 2015 to widen the gap, making it increasingly difficult for a potential record challenger to be successful.

Noah set a personal goal for himself to see 5,000 species in 2015. Since I've been tracking his progress, the data has consistently indicated that he is very likely to break 6,000 species. The updated stats below still support this prediction, even though there has been a gradual (but hardly significant) decline in return over time.

Up to the end of September, the updated predicted date of when Noah will achieve seeing 5,000 species is Oct 19. On average, this depends on Noah seeing 22.8 new species per day, every day. On October 1 he added none; on October 2 he added 14. Birding is not without its surprises and challenges.  

I love this next graph...the sheer magnitude of the difference between previous global record holders and Noah's tally. On September 29th, Noah was 1,330 species ahead of previous-record holders at that same time of year. That is an impressive gap!

In this figure, each dot represents the number of new species Noah has added every day to his year total. There sure is a lot of variation in these data, and if this data says anything about predicting the future, it is that it will be difficult. The amount of variation in the daily tallies is very poorly explained by time, as R-square is only 3%. This is not terribly surprising, as the biggest factor contributing to the variation in number of new species is likely related to geography and the amount of time spent in an area (see my first post on this topic).

With all of this new data, the updated predicted year-end total for Noah is now 6,196 species.