Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Some initial reflections on Bird A Day

Towards the end of 2013 the convenor (? I'm not sure quite what the right title is - facilitator, guru, deity are all appropriate) of Birding-aus mentioned a website in which folk attempted to find a different bird every day through a year.  A few people made it right through 2013!

This seemed like good fun so I signed up to Bird A Day.
There is a first set of bird reflections, taken at Kelly's Swamp, Fyshwick, on 7 January.  It includes a reflection of my bird of the day, a Black-winged Stilt.  Its the little blighter in the foreground - the bigger birds also have black wings but are:
  • a lot bigger; and
  • Australian Pelicans.
Hopefully, Australian Pelican will become bird of the day some time round about Christmas 2014.  To stand a chance of my "completing the year" Australian Magpie will be Bird of the Day on 31/12/2014.

It is obvious that to have a chance of completing the year one has to start off nominating the rarest bird you see on the day.  To get some advice on the rarest birds around our house I used a database I have compiled of 183 species of  birds seen in our neighbourhood (by myself and some other local residents) over the last 7 years.  That provided a probability of seeing a bird in the area - ie the proportion of past months in which the species was reported.  After 7 days the mean proportion of species I have used is 0.10 (19 species have a value of 1).

The "game" seems pretty open with, as far as I can see, the only requirement that you observe - and my ethics include 'heard' as well as 'glassed' - a species within a 24 hour period.

A first bit of complexity - and in fairness so far the only one - was when the 24 hour period started.  It seems that the Bird a Day clock is based upon the West Coast of the USA (since it seems to allow me to enter a record only after 8pm Australian Eastern Summer Time).  A very mild annoyance which I have dealt with.  (It also means that if I score a Barking Owl (fat chance) or Nightjar of any sort (obese chance) overnight I should be able to enter it during my first on-line period around 0530 the next day.)

It wasn't completely clear to me if one was supposed to stick to the area "sort of near" where one lives or if a heavy travel schedule would assist one's participation.  The latter made life easier so I adopted it and of my first 7 reports 3 have come from the area covered by my database, 3 others from Canberra (about 40km away and 1 from Young (200km NW).  I have since noted A N Other whose first record came from London UK, second from Heathrow and third from Colombo Airport!  My foray to Young is trivial by comparison.

The choice of birds to report can be tricky.  When we went to Young I had been hoping to score a Superb Parrot - perhaps as we passed through their spiritual home of Boorowa.
Sorry: all parrots seen on the trip turned out to be Eastern Rosellas or Red-rumped Parrots.  However when we swung into the Chinese Tribute Gardens in Young I quickly spotted a juvenile Little Friarbird.
Woo, and also Hoo: never seen one of them in Carwoola, so an obvious BaD contender.  Then drat me: a Blue-faced Honeyeater swung by.  Only one ever seen in the COG Area of Interest (far wider than Carwoola).  So the latter was rarer and got the tick.

A couple of days later I went to Kelly's Swamp on the outskirts of Canberra, wondering if a Pectoral Sandpiper or Painted Snipe would present themselves.  Nah.  However 2 Caspian Terns did front and made a class 6 entry.
A Black-winged Stilt was also present, but that was saved for later (as it turned out just 2 days later, when I dipped on an ephemeral flock of Red-necked Avocets).

I do not intend to turn this into a entry for every day (that information is on the Bird A Day website if your boredom threshold could handle that) but will note that thanks to help from other COGgies the 8th of January was Singing Honeyeater on the North-Western edge of Canberra: an addition to my ACT list and my first Category 7 bird.  It was a rather aggressive bird as seen in this truly appalling quality image of it having a go at an innocent (?) House Sparrow.

Overall I am finding it great fun.  There is clearly mental effort required in choosing which species to pick the day and how to save ones for later.  (At least in the Southern Hemisphere we get two spells of migrants (miss 'em by March and try again in September whereas in the North if you have missed by September they have gone for the year.)  There is also a bit of planning required to assess how to minimise:
  • the transfer of my hard-earned to sundry greedy oil; companies; and
  • my carbon footprint (perhaps one should score a bonus day for species seen without starting up a car?)

4 comments:

Ian Fraser said...

This is fun - I'm looking forward to following this one. But if you're going to see 365 spp in Australia you'll be doing a lot of travelling, carbon footprint notwithstanding! Good luck.

Flabmeister said...

Thanks Ian. There is some prospect of a 2 week OS trip and a somewhat longer one to Queensland which should give a few easy extra birds but it will take a bit of effort to still be going in October.

The Singing Honeyeater at Dunlop today was a help!

Martin

Ian Fraser said...

Excellent - I'm impressed. Last Sunday at Nowra I saw a Grey Gos and Baza on the same day. I wonder how you'd have dealt with that? (Not sure how I would!)

Flabmeister said...

I think my approach would be that
1) Grey Gos are reasonably common as far South as Moruya (or at least used to be when we had a place at Congo in the 80s); while
2) Baza are rather uncommon this far South.

So, unless I was planning a lot of time further North and very little on the South Coast I'd say Baza my be my only chance while Gos could plug a gap later in the year.

We have just had a couple of days in Wagga. First three birds seen there: Blue-faced Honeyeater; Singing Honeyeater and Little Corella. Fortunately Dollarbird turned up as a reasonable gap filler, while today had a choie like yours: Pied BB vs Cockatiel. Pied BB are generally easy while driving so Cockatiel got the nod.