2019 5MR Challenge Wrap-up

Now that it's a couple weeks into 2020 I thought I'd look back at the 5MR birding challenge last year and share some of my favorite things.  Let's start with the birds!  I saw a lot of great birds in my 5MR in 2019 including some I was not expecting.  Time for a top 10 of my personal favorite self-found birds!

10. Sora

Found in September at a small water quality facility tucked into a dense residential area.  One of those places I stop at on the way to or from somewhere with very low expectations.

9. Swamp Sparrow

Found in late October when I was checking out a park I had never visited before.

8. Barn Owl

There are quite a few Barn Owls in my 5MR but this is a list of my favorites and I still love them so much. 

7. Northern and Loggerhead Shrikes

Both found at my "Walmart patch" which was quite productive for me this year.  The Northern was in February and the Loggerhead in March.

6. Western Kingbird

I actually had two WEKI's in my 5MR this spring but this one above was my favorite.  Found while walking our three dogs at the local cemetery in early June.  One of my best cemetery birds.

5. Horned Larks

Found in February on a walk at the same cemetery as the WEKI.  Very unexpected away from the river.

4. MacGillivray's Warbler
No photo.  Found during my spring Big Day for the 5MR Challenge at Biddle Lake.  Definitely one of the harder warblers and it was completely new for my 5MR list.

3. Olive-sided Flycatcher

Also found on my Big Day along the Burnt Bridge Creek Trail.  Complete shocker as I've never seen one away from the mountains or at least hills (like Mount Tabor).

2. Mountain Chickadee

Found in mid-December completely unexpectedly along a weird part of Burnt Bridge Creek.  One of four county birds I picked up in my 5MR this year.

1. Green-tailed Towhee

My biggest holy shit moment of birding this year!  Way out of range and possibly only a second county record.  When Jim Danzenbaker came to see it he was looking around at the area and made the comment, "I don't even know where I am right now!"  This was kinda the whole point of 5MR birding for me. Birding those weird places no one pays attention to and realizing they have great potential.

So yeah, the birds were obviously a big part of why I loved birding my 5MR this year, but there was a lot more to it.  Sharing my finds with a community of other people birding their 5MRs was pretty fun.  Learning what other people's normals are and how birding changes for them throughout the year.  Check out this graph Jacob made for me:

A lot of people did not submit results every single month but I picked out 20 people from around the country to compare their trajectories.  Just seeing that spike in April-May makes me excited for spring birding!  Here's another version with fewer people:

Seeing the numbers that came in during the early months of 2019 made me so grateful for the quality birding we have here in the Pacific Northwest year round.  100 species in January is not a particularly difficult feat yet for those colder climates 100 was a number more likely to be achieved during spring migration.

When I started planning this challenge and a lot of people started signing up Jacob asked me: "Do these people think there's gonna be a prize?"  Hope not!  But I do want to share the top birders in this completely unfair challenge. 19 birders broke 200 species!

1. Birdingbyrv had the highest 5MR patch total in Texas with 271 species!
2. Shyloh Robinson (Utah) 253
3. Jerald Reb (New Jersey) 245*
4. Jay Desgrosellier (California) 240
5. Phil Pickering (Oregon) 239
6. Gavin Platt (Ontario, Canada) 229
7. Aaron Maizlish (California) 226
8. Rob Fowler (California) 221
9. Caroline Poli (Florida) 220
10. Ann Marie Wood (Washington) 218
10. Jim Sparrell (New Hampshire) 218*
12. Aaron Stutz (Wisconsin) 216
13. Nick Mrvelj (Oregon) 215
14. Steve Hampton (California) 213
15. Kevin Lapp (California) 211
16. Benham (California) 209
17. Cynthia Bridge (Wisconsin) 207
18. Joel Barrett (California) 205
19. Dylan Pedro (Connecticut) 203
*last known total, did not send final results for the year

California and Oregon are represented heavily here which I think has much to do with the skew of participants in general.  Gavin, Jim, and Dylan showed that the northeast has great 5MR potential as well as the more obvious Texas and Florida.  Oh and don't forget about Wisconsin!  Who knew?!

Thanks again to everyone who participated!  Hearing your birding tales and more was a highlight of the challenge for me.  Check out the complete list of results here.  Those that submitted year-end totals are highlighted in dark orange.

One last thing.

Dear eBird, I'm sorry I have permanently fucked up your patch lists with hundreds of 78.5 square mile patches in violation of your Patch list definition.

Perhaps it is time to create a separate list section for 5MRs like the Oregon Birding Association has done.

Hopefully the good that comes from many people birding locally outweighs the blatant abuse of patch lists.  I think it does.

Happy New Year!  Cheers to more 5MR birding in 2020!!


  1. Nice graphs! And nice bird highlights!

    Thanks again for hosting and motivating throughout the year!

  2. Hi Jen, it was so much fun to participate in the challenge, and I learned a LOT about my radius...Name a bird that should be here and I can take you to see one! That's the beauty of it. Great top 10.

    1. I agree, you get to know your area so well this way. You need meadowlarks? I can show you meadowlarks!


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