On Nov. 23, naturalist Mark Kudrav saw a Painted Redstart while on a bike trip to the East Bay. While that alone might not seem super significant, the fact is that at that moment he was tying the North American Green Birding Record at 318 species. He would go on that day to see two new birds for the year, the Barrow’s Goldeneye and the Tufted duck, setting the new record at 320 species.
A Green Big Year means trying to see as many species of bird as possible without using any fossil fuels. If you've seen the movie “The Big Year,” the concept is the same except no cars or airplanes are allowed.
According to Kudrav’s blog, the first thing he felt was relief when he saw the tie-breaking bird. After biking 4,781 miles, the pressure was finally off, and he could relax. He had known the record was within his grasp for a few weeks, but how or when he broke it was still up in the air.
The first time he did a Green Big Year was in 2011, and he saw 276 species while riding close to 2,500 miles.
At a Thanksgiving potluck in Loma Mar last week, he expressed how happy he was to be with friends, rather than “alone in a tent somewhere in the Sierras.”
Kudrav has been a fixture in Pescadero for a number of years. The sight of the bearded man on the bike with the spotting scope on his back is a familiar one along Gazo’s Creek Road or headed to Pigeon Point on a weekend morning.
This past year though, he was pedalling with a little extra "umph" and actually spent a lot of time birding in places other than the coast.
Those close to Kudrav were especially touched to hear that his 318th bird was the Redstart.
“Redstart” was the name Kudrav chose for himself when he began his internship at San Mateo Outdoor Education (SMOE) 10 years ago, and most community members in Pescadero know him as just that, or “Mark Redstart.”
He often wears a fleece jacket with a hand embroidered Redstart on it that his mother made him. Kudrav now runs the educational garden at SMOE as a teacher, naturalist, and gardener, and the staff has been rooting for him all year. His boss even gave him a week off for birding this fall when things started getting close.
I bought Kudrav a beer at Duarte’s recently, and we talked about all of the support he’d received and the congratulations that were streaming in.
A few weeks ago, he checked his e-mail to find a note in his inbox from the then current record-holder, Jim Royer.
Royer told Kudrav he was setting an incredible pace, and that he would surely see more than 318 species by the end of the year. Kudrav recently wrote him back and thanked him for his encouragement, and said he hoped his own record would be broken one day. He was happy to know he and Royer were on the same page, wanting to motivate others to see birds without consuming carbon.
For more on the Kudrav’s year of chasing birds by bike, check out his blog here.
About Hope Swank
Hope Swank works for a number of local outdoor education and nature awareness programs including Vide Verde Nature Education, Pigeon Point Environmental Education Program, and Riekes Center Nature Awareness. She has taught about redwood ecology, goat milking and cheesemaking, and the life and times of the Northern Elephant Seal. In the summers she has lead backpacking trips for teenagers in the mountains of Virginia and the rainforests of Costa Rica. Hope loves the California Coast and enjoys exploring in the tidepools, walking in the redwoods, and eating the delicious local organic produce.