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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Page 49 of 61

48 Birder's Guide to Listing & Taxonomy | October 2016 Big Day World Record As I watched, the four team members deployed along the road, stretching out 50m (165 ft.) with two team members operating playback devices, one using a floodlight, and one staying far away from the playback devices so that he could hear the birds. Twelve of the 16 species were identified by sound only. At 5:23 a.m., the group arrived at river island habitat in the Amazonian low - lands, where bird species were encoun- tered much more rapidly. During the next two hours, driving through different forests and degraded habitats, more than 140 species of birds were identified, an average of about one species each 51 sec - onds—20 times the rate experienced in the darkness of the early morning hours. During daylight, I could see that team members were keenly interested in en- countering flocks. In the Neotropics, 10 or more species can be found in the same flock of birds—a great way to quickly in- crease one's tally. On more than one oc- casion, the vehicle was halted abruptly when someone yelled excitedly, "There is a flock here! Stop and back up!" The weather was of utmost con- cern. Participants viewed the weather as the factor which, above all oth - ers, would make or break their effort. A 30-minute downpour could mean detecting just one or two species in- stead of 10 or 20. But if, on the other hand, the weather was too sunny, the birds could be inactive. At about 11:30 a.m. on the Big Day, the sun started to come out, which led to furrowed brows and general demoralization. But then it clouded up again, and thereaf- ter it remained relatively good birding weather for the eastern slope of the Ecuadorian Andes. Favorable weather was a big reason a new world record was possible that day. By 6:09 p.m., the team had already identified 392 species, surpassing the existing Big Day record of 354 by 38. With record in hand, the group flew to the coast. Upon arriving in Salinas at 8:30 p.m., the team jumped in a truck and drove to the ocean and adjoining salt flats to begin identifying a new palette of birds. The last bird, a Snowy Plover, was seen at 11:50 p.m. With 39 new spe - cies recorded on this last leg of the Big Day, a final total of 431 species was set as the world's new Big Day record. This surpassed the longstanding 1982 mark by precisely 100 species and the then- extant world record by 77 species. Conclusion: A Virtual Army for the New Age This was my first Big Day. I wish it had allowed for some birding, but that was not to be. On this particular day, the participants were not birding in the normal sense of the word anyway. Once they recognized a species, they sought out a new one at lightning speed. And, obviously, I was not birding, either. I was an observer not of birds but of men. What did it all mean? For me, it had been a geologic experience of sorts. Birds—that riotous florescence of

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