Birder's Guide

OCT 2016

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.

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20 Birder's Guide to Listing & Taxonomy | October 2016 exas is a hub of avian diversity in North America. Its central location in the continent, diversity of landscapes, and extensive coast- line provide the perfect arena for competitive birding. Indeed, Texas has a long history of Big Days (see table). The attempts by Victor Emanuel and company (including Roger Tory Peterson) using airplanes are firmly embedded in birding lore. The game changed in 2011 when one team set the highest land-only re- cord with 233 species, only to be bested a week later by a team with 258 species. Recently, Cornell Lab's Team Sapsucker mustered 264 species in 2011 and then proceeded to surpass its own record in 2013 with an astonishing 294! Our team, the self-styled Anous Birding Syndicate, comprised five determined Canadians who are life- long birders and wildlife biologists. For Yousif Attia from Vancouver, British Columbia; John Brett from Toronto, Ontario; Christian Friis from Toronto, On- tario; and Stu Mackenzie and Ross Wood from Camp- bellville, Ontario, the lure of a Texas Big Day and the potential to reach the coveted 300-species benchmark was tantalizing. Anous is the noddy genus, and, while it is Greek for "stupid", we like to think we repre- sent their mysterious splendor. Most of the team was relatively new to Texas, but we were an experienced, well-oiled Big Day machine: In 2011, we set current- standing Big Day records for Ontario (205) and Al- berta (226, the highest in Canada). The Route Texas offers an abundance of potential routes for the Big Day enthusiast, but the tried, tested, and true "Hills to Coast" is the route of choice. It begins in the Hill Country of Uvalde County and finishes on the Gulf Coast. Relatively minor individual team varia- tions make every Big Day unique and special. Our attempt window of April 14–19, limited due to real-world commitments, was about a week too early for prime time in the region. This left us with six days to scout the route, familiarize ourselves with Texas and the specialties, and make one solid attempt. We enlisted the aid of a critical planning tool: eBird. We collated countless checklists along the route, mapped species densities and detection probabilities across the state, and weighed species accumulation against time, trying to squeeze out every drop of effi- ciency that might give us an edge. During the planning T n From left: Ross Wood, Christian Friis, John Brett, Stu Mackenzie, and Yousif Attia at Bolivar Flats. Photo © John Brett Closing the Gap to 300 A TEXAS BIG DAY H

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