Monday, 22 December 2014

Son of Bird-a-Day bites the dust.

I have posted a couple of times about my effort to repeat the bird-a-day exercise starting on July 1, to give the same effect as our North American colleagues who start on January 1.

In my original effort beginning on that date in Australia I ran out of bird after 162 days, giving me a ranking of 6th Australian.  For this second effort I flunked on December 21 or 173 days.  I will add to this post to analyse the second go - when I have worked out what form the analysis should take.

In the main competition there is only one birder still standing: Brian Johnson of Queensland.  Well done Brian: I hope your message of 15 December ...
"I'm feeling quietly confident. I should just about make it - unless something catastrophic happens."
...comes good!  It is now December 22 and you have added category 1s every day since your message!

Back to analysis of my feeble efforts.

This first chart compares two measures of my progress in the second effort.
 The blue line is the average code (where 1 is "give up your bins if you don't see it" and 7 is "Casual/Accidental in area seen at this time of year").  It is a tad subjective since there:

  1. is no objective measure to bound the various categories; and
  2. there isn't much data around to actually assess the occurrence in most areas.

The flattening out around code 3 is to be expected as that represents birds that should be seen 50% of the time.

The red line is the average of a score derived from eBird for New South Wales indicating how many observations of the species were recorded.  As such it is pretty objective (in that it doesn't rely on any judgement by me) but it is biased by the coastal location of most observers most of the time.  Thus the early plummet reflects up spending quite a proportion of July in Western NSW where there aren't many birders (nor, come to that, other people).

This second chart compares the codes for the January effort (blue line) and July (red line).  In case readers are worried about the apparent different shape of the July line in the two graphs, I'd suggest you settle down: its an outcome of the reduced scale in the second graph giving more detail.  (If only News Limited could be that open in interpretation the graphs with which they litter their rags!)

I am quite impressed with the overall similarity of the two lines.

An obvious comparison is the number of times I gave the various codes.  That is summarised in the next Chart.  (NB I have used two vertical scales to adjust for the different number of observations.)
Overall I reckon I was pretty consistent between the two exercises.

In the July series I counted the number of my observations in the area covered by our local community newsletter "The Stoney Creek Gazette".  That is illustrated in a mud map in a post in another blog but could be pretty much summarised as a 20km radius around our house.  82 of the 173 records came from within that area.  I didn't keep comparable records in Jan 2014.

Looking at the species recorded in either study, 50 were recorded in the July start but not in the  January start.  Of these 50 species:
  • 23 came from our Northern trip; 
  • from Mallacoota trips; 
  • 6 from other camping trips 
  • 4 from the Gazette area; and
  • 10 from here and there in the Southern Tablelands.
40 species were recorded in January but not in July.  Three of these were definitely add-ins from a trip to Adelaide.  I shall return to these 40 below.

This means 212 species were spotted in total with a split up as shown below.
In summarising the January exercise  I rated Elegant Parrot as best bird for the reasons given in the post.
For the July event my best bird in Grey Falcon about which I say no more (and I didn't get a photo of it).  That was followed by a Black Falcon seen in Jerilderie (and again no photo).  The podium is completed by a Pied Butcherbird: these are an 'every fence post' bird out West but rather unusual in the Canberra area.  I had been pursuing the species for years and finally got one in the middle of ANU.  Here is the photo!

The big Dips

For the Gazette area I don't believe I dipped too badly as there are no birds which I regard as common in the area on which I missed out.  The worst offender was Satin Bowerbird but that is only common in a garden close to the edge of the area.  A Banded Lapwing was seen while we were away, but it had gone by the time we returned (and I think we got a Grey Goshawk for that day whih was a "better bird" anyway.  

For the Southern Tablelands I'd have to regard Darter and Silver Gull as unfortunate misses but see comment about carbon footprint below.

The other broad area where I have done quite a bit of time is around Mallacoota and while it is surprising that I wasn't able to count Little Wattlebird, Lewin's Honeyeater or Eastern Whipbird - all of which would be be code 1 it was purely a matter of there being 'better" birds around on the days we were there.

Carbon footprint and $ prevented me from driving to Kerang (about 8 hours each way to twitch the Long-billed Dowitcher.  I guess I am just not a dedicated twitcher!

Towards 2015!

When I mentioned to a keen birding friend that I was embarking on Bird-a-Day his reaction was almost immediately "I can't afford that."  Given that:
  • his work takes him to many interesting parts of Australia and 
  • he is located in bird-rich Canberra rather than 30km away as I am
 I reckon he is - quite possibly justifiably - seeking for an excuse to avoid another obsessive activity. 

Had I been able to find on a countable day the 40 species I missed in July, most of which are around the Canberra area most of the time, I would have got well into February.  However I couldn't justify - on carbon footprint or $ grounds- driving in to the City every day to tick waders at the Fyshwick poo pits or rarities in ANBG.

I have also noticed that there are a number of bog common coast birds which I didn't include, because there was always something 'better' and they might turn up in Canberra!

I shall hope to use this experience - especially my list of dips from 2014 - to plan a bit better for 2015.

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