Friday, 26 August 2016


TO record more than 700 species of bird  in a single year is a remarkable  feat - one only achieved by a handful of enthusiasts (the so-called 700 Club).

Take a bow Neil Hayward who, in 2013, travelled the length and breadth of the USA to  notch no fewer than  different 749 birds, including two - the rufous-necked wood rail and the common redstart - that were first records for the USA.

Other species that will probably always live in his memory include the mourning warbler, the Kirtland's warbler,redbilled tropic bird, Cuban vireo, marsh sandpipiper and Layser albatross.

The Oxford-born 41-year-old biotech consultant has written an enthralling  book, Lost Among The Birds,  describing his experiences, some of which he also recounted  in an immensely  entertaining and dry-humoured presentation at the Birdfair

Florida and Texas are known birding hotspots but he also did surprising well in many of the other 28  states he visited - for instance on the seaboard of Massachusetts.-

Although American birds regularly turn up in the UK, such are the prevailing winds that very few European species reach the States which is why the redstart was special.

During the year, he drove 51,758 miles, sometimes in his own car (the only time he had a prang) but often in a rented car - no fewer than 55 rentals on total. (To save on accommodation costs, he sought to hire vehicles in which he could sleep.)

He made15 pelagic trips and spent 147 hours at sea, and he took 177 flights (flying a total of 193, 758 miles) from 56 different airports. 

His 749th sighting, making him the world record holder, was of a great skua.

Since he was away from home for more than half the year - what did girlfriend Gerri Buck think of it? At least in his Birdfair talk, the author did not say.

Following postgraduate work at Cambridge University, Neil moved to the US 11 years to become head of the life sciences company, Abcam plc, subsequently leaving to become a biotec consultant.

He decided to become a US citizen before embarking on his birding marathon.

"What better way  to acquaint myself with my new homeland!" he ended

* More about the trip is on Neil's blog:

 * More about Neil Hayward's book is on the website of Bloomsbury Publishing:

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