Saturday, 9 May 2015

A worldwide birding Big Day

Cutting to the chase: here is a report from eBird on 19 May.

I currently use the eBird facility from Cornell U to record my birding observations (other than around our garden where the COG Garden Bird Survey is the record of record).  They decided to have a Worldwide Big Day on May 9th, with a hope of recording 4,000 species on the day.

That is really a huge ask as it is about half of the species of birds known to exist.  To put it into approximate context the all-time lists for a number of countries are as follows:
  • US/Canada about 800 species;
  • Australia about 800 species
  • UK about 500 species
Allowing for overlaps I'd be surprised if those three countries get to more than about 1000 species on the day.  So it must get to countries in Africa (eg Tanzania with about 1200 spp.) South America (eg Peru 1800 spp) and India (about 1300 spp) to do some heavy lifting.

Hooley, and also dooley!  By 1303 on the 11th of May the total was 4524 species.  US had 630, Australia 446, Peru 342 Brazil 920  and India 342.  The ongoing totals are here

To encourage punters to participate eBird had the Big Day as their challenge for the month of May, with everyone who puts in 5 complete lists going in to a draw for a nice pair of Zeiss bins.  That convinced me to give it a go.

I started by recording the birds seen on our dog walk along Whiskers Creek Rd.  I scored 11 species this morning getting the total for the hotspot up to 29 species.

My plan for the other 4 sheets needed was to go to Bungendore for three watery sites and then to look down into the Queanbeyan Water Treatment Plant (ie the sewage ponds).  Before getting there I was pleased to encounter a paddock full of Australian Magpies: by 'full' I mean 127 of them!  I have subsequently found this was the Big Day High Count: so I saw the biggest flock of Magpies anywhere in the world!!

The first stop at Bungendore was the Meadow Dam where there were a few Australian Shelduck evident near the dam and a few Little Ravens.  Moving round into Trucking Yard Lane a further ~30 Shelduck were visible hiding from the wind behind a cattle feeder (a few of the Little Ravens are visible in the background).
Within the Trucking Yard Lane paddock more Shelduck were present hunched up to shelter from the gale.
The expectation was to find a few Plumed Whistling Ducks on the dam, and they did not disappoint, with 21 present.  This is the first year that the birds have still been seen in May: they have moved off in April in previous years.

I'm not sure why they are all standing on one leg: perhaps they are finding the ground a bit cold?

The two poo pits (Bungendore and Queanbeyan) were both very light on for birds.  Possibly this was because of the wind which was now very strong (and cold).  All that was around in any number at Queanbeyan were 111 Eurasian Coots.
Note the choppy surface of the water!

However I had got my 5 sets of observations so will now just wait for ebird to do the right thing and ship me off some nice bins!  (As there were 8321 participants, I am not holding my breath.)

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