eric-moore-ownerI love Arizona. I love its amazing geologic and biologic diversity with its deserts, grasslands, forests and mountains. I love the climate, the abundance of sunshine and the spectacular sunsets.

I love the flora and fauna. I am absolutely enthralled with the Sonoran desert, the amazing adaptation of the plants and cacti, how they survive the heat and the absence of water. I love all of the snakes and lizards and other things that creep and crawl. But, most of all, I love the birds that occur in this great state.

Of the 48 continental states, Arizona has the third-highest bird species richness in the country! As of August 2011, 550 species of birds have been accepted by the Arizona Bird Committee. Only two states – California and Texas – have a wider variety of birds, and both have extensive coast lines.

In less than two months, Arizona will be celebrating its centennial. I have been working on developing ideas on how I can encourage people to get out and explore the wonder of Arizona in 2012. Today I would like to present to you my vision for what I am calling the Jay’s Bird Barn Centennial Challenge – Celebrating Arizona.

My vision of the Centennial Challenge is to give people an excuse to wander the state with a purpose. My challenge to you is to set a personal goal to see as many bird species in Arizona as you can during the Centennial year. The Centennial Challenge starts this Sunday, Jan. 1, and runs through Dec. 31, 2012.

I am challenging you to have your own “Big Year” in the state of Arizona. Here are some general guidelines: First, it is free to participate. Second, the challenge is open to everyone, from the casual backyard birder to the hard-core field birder. Third, there will be two divisions, a youth division (up to 18) and an adult division for 19 years old and up. Fourth, there will be incentives to participate, with prizes at the end of the event.

The challenge is a contest with the primary goal to see as many bird species as you can in the state of Arizona during 2012. After accurately identifying each species, you will need to record when and where you saw it. Everyone will be expected to adhere to an honor system when it comes to reporting species observed.

Combining the hobby of bird watching with exploring Arizona will allow you to see the state. My suggestion is to visit all 15 counties in Arizona during the course of the year, with a goal of seeing at least one species in each county.

As a part of the Centennial Challenge, I encourage you to attend one or more of the birding and nature festivals that take place in various locations around the state. The first birding festival of 2012 is Jan. 13-16 in Willcox. See for more information.

One of my roles in the Centennial Challenge is to lead by example – by participating. I will also lead bird walks, and I will communicate the location of birding activities, festivals and rare bird sightings statewide through my weekly column.

Your assignment this week is to visit the website and print out an Arizona Field Checklist. Also, don’t forget to call the store (443-5900) if you would like to sign up for one of our free guided bird walks in January. We will help you get started on your bird list for 2012.

In next week’s column, I will present more information on the Centennial Challenge.