Birder's Guide

NOV 2013

Birder's Guide is the American Birding Association's newest publication. Each issue focuses on a key subject, providing tips from experienced birders on a wide variety of topics like Travel, Listing & Taxonomy, Gear, and Conservation & Community.

Issue link: http://bg.aba.org/i/205710

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As darkness fell over Bolivar Flats at 8:30 p.m., just after we found Red Knot (our last species in daylight hours), we were out of breath and high on adrenaline. But none of us knew our total. Had we broken the record? We had seen so many species in the previous three hours that it was hard to even estimate. Years of Big Day disappointments taught us to temper our expectations. On our drive north along the Bolivar Peninsula, we began to tabulate in one of Marshall's famous Excel spreadsheets. When all was counted, our total rested at 291, and the vehicle erupted with cries of disbelief and elation. With so many species under our belts, fnding a few more would not be easy. We managed to add a calling King Rail, heard a nocturnal migrant Gray-cheeked Thrush, and fnally, at 11:41 p.m., heard a grunting Virginia Rail that would be our fnal bird. We had theorized that such a successful day might be possible under perfect conditions, but we never really expected it would all work out. With 294 species, there obviously were not a lot of misses, but Belted Kingfsher, Greater Roadrunner, Chihuahuan Raven, and Least Grebe are four memorable ones that eluded us, even though we had excellent chances for them on the route. If we had gotten those, plus migrant Canada and Baybreasted warblers, our wildest dreams of a 300-species Big Day in Texas might have been realized. Countless individuals helped us reach this lofty total, and we cannot thank them all here. You know who you are. Just as important, the huge community that uses and supports eBird must be recognized. We used eBird constantly in our scouting and in planning leading up to the day. Without the submissions from the eBird community, this day would not have been nearly as successful. Generous support from our team sponsor, Carl Zeiss Sports Optics, ensured that all funds raised went directly to the cause. Finally, we offer a very special thank you to everyone who pledged to support Team Sapsucker, enabling us to also reach an all-time high fundraising record. Big Days stoke our competitive spirits, but more importantly, they highlight bird diversity and the conservation threats birds face. When thinking how we might have reached 300, perhaps it is appropriate to refect on the species that we could have seen if we had run this day in the late 1800s. Eskimo Curlew, "Attwater's" Prairie-Chicken, Whooping Crane, Ivorybilled Woodpecker, Carolina Parakeet, Bachman's Warbler, and Passenger Pigeon might all have been routing considerations. On the other hand, we know that species populations respond to legal protection and management, and that we can bring them back. This same Big Day in the 1960s likely would have missed Peregrine Falcon, Bald Eagle, and Brown Pelican— all species that we saw and all conservation success stories. Finally, it is worth remembering that bird ranges are constantly changing; even as some species contract their range, others expand. A number of tropical birds are pushing their ranges north into Uvalde, which put White-tipped Dove, Green Jay, Elf Owl, and Great Kiskadee in the cards, considerations that would not have been possible even 10 years ago. Our Big Days provide an opportunity to refect on the incredible diversity in North America and the dynamic nature of bird populations. We hope Big Days inspire citizen scientist involvement with eBird, which helps document and understand these changes, and raises critical funds to help ensure that North America's exceptional bird diversity and migration spectacles will exist for the enjoyment of generations to come. SUCCESS! After years of planning, the exhausted and elated Sapsuckers celebrate 294 as the new ABA Area Big Day record. November 2013 | Birder's Guide to Listing & Taxonomy 35

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