Birder's Guide

OCT 2014

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/392347

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Photo Big Days 28 Birder's Guide to Listing & Taxonomy | October 2014 Antelope Valley at 84 species while raising money for conservation. Our congratula- tions to Dessi! What's so amazing about photo big days is that you can share the experience with everyone by posting your images on the internet. We predict that photo big days will be a fun pursuit for all kinds of birders for many years to come. Special thanks to the ABA and New York City Audubon, as well as Zeiss Sports Optics for generously donating scopes and digiscop- ing gear for the day. We fervently hope that our experience in Texas will inspire others to join us in photo big days, and that at least a few people will take a shot at our record— although we plan to break it ourselves next year! With the ever-increasing excitement around digital photography and birding, it makes perfect sense that this kind of competi- tion will become the birding game of the fu- ture. Let's get shooting! at the end of the day. The ABA has been very involved in this project, and is working to be- come the body of record for photo big days in the future by adding a photo category. The association added a photo category to big day records. If you're an ABA member, you can offcially register your efforts on the ABA website. Additionally, New York City Audubon has created a website that allows photo big day teams to eas- ily register and raise money for the charity of their choice. One of the appealing aspects of a photo big day is that it really levels the playing feld for all kinds of birders. You don't have to be a known expert for your results to be believable. Even a begin- ner working with a camera can produce verifable results. Because there is an identifable photo of each species, the results can be accu- rately judged by a competent third party. That makes these contests more resistant to "loose" sightings. Also, a photo big day can be done by anyone at any time. It would be great to see photo big day events in which teams start at the same time and place and pick their routes. But we're also excited to see individuals set photo big day records for their yard, local park, or state. Because photo big days involve a verif- able and level playing feld, we've found that the idea appeals to young birders. For example, Dessi Sieburt, an 11-year- old birder from Montrose, California, got excited about doing a photo big day, and went out and set the record for useful for a photo-based team. With this past experience in mind, Tom, Sam, and I started mulling over the idea of setting a photo big day record for the whole U.S., and promoting this idea as a valid and exciting event nationwide. We decided we needed a new set of rules specifcally aimed at photography. For example, why not have the 24-hour period start at any time of the day, which would allow the contestants to divide up the shooting between two different kinds of habitats, using the dark hours to drive between the areas? We wanted to make sure the checklist was fnalized at the end of the 24-hour period, so we decided to photograph the checklist with the same time and date stamp used by the photos. Then it would be okay to take more time to organize and name the photos—up to a week. Any bird discovered later in a photo and thus not on the checklist couldn't be counted. If a photo of a bird turned out to be unidentifable, then that bird had to be removed from the count. Lastly, if a bird was listed on the checklist but not actually photographed at all, there would be a one- bird penalty. This prevents a contestant from submitting a list with many possible species and then trying to fnd those spe- cies later in the photos (the "shotgun" ap- proach), as within a large group of shore- birds or gulls. In other words, contestants need to know what they've photographed Our frst bird of the day: Red-cockaded Woodpecker. Note that the photos don't have to be pretty to count! Photo © Cameron Cox Shooting from the sunroof during the World Series of Birding in 2009. Photo © Tom Stephenson

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