“This day gives us a great opportunity to all unite behind the cause of birds and bird conservation” – eBird.org
During a break in our old time fiddle music jam, I reminded my husband I needed to be home by midnight, so I could get up the next day to participate “Big Day.” My fellow musicians looked at me with blank faces, and I realized saying I needed to leave, so I’d be fresh for my “Big Day” tomorrow sounded rather silly. I wasn’t even sure Bruce would take my request seriously, but as the clock passed 11 p.m. he, thankfully, called for one more tune.
“Big Day” is really Global Big Day a worldwide birding event sponsored by eBird and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. eBird is “a real-time, online checklist program” that allows you to keep track of all the birds you see (eBird). I have been documenting birds at Mule Springs Farm since 2011, and eBird lets me archive my sightings and then print out “visual data” such as charts and graphs, so I can compare bird populations on the farm from year to year (eBird).
The goal, of the ninth annual Global Big Day held on May 9th is “to go out and count birds in support of global bird conservation, . . . to record more than 4,000 species of birds through eBird in a single calendar day, and to raise 500,000 for bird conservation” (eBird).
I completed two counts on May 9th. The first began at 830 a.m. and ran 90 minutes, and my second count began at 3:45 p.m. and lasted for a little over an hour. I saw 28 species, and the highlight of my “Big Day” at Mule Springs Farm was seeing an Ash-throated Flycatcher. I’ve never seen this bird here before, so I got pretty excited when I spied it sitting perched on the fence that surrounds the farmhouse. Because I could look at what other birders were counting in my area by checking in at eBird, I discovered not one but three Ash-throated Flycatchers had surprised someone else. This birder documented the behavior of these three birds, and he surmised two of the flycatchers might be a breeding pair. I enjoyed knowing a birder not far from my farm had seen a special bird – in fact my special bird–and like me had been participating in Global Big Day.
After my morning count, I went online and looked at what other birders around the world were doing for “Big Day.” Elliot Leach from Queensland, Australia entered the first checklist consisting of one bird—the Bush Thick-knee (eBird).
I scanned other entries, and checklists had come in from Taiwan, Israel, India, Tanzania, Iceland, Argentina, and Brazil.
The checklists of birders from regions outside the United States revealed names of birds I didn’t recognize. Bird watching, for me, has always been a provincial activity. And, indeed, almost all of my 293 checklists submitted in the past three years were made from bird watching on our two hundred acre farm along the Columbia River Basin in Oregon.
So, for fun I looked up some of the birds listed on the checklists and found images online for the Speckled Pigeon (Africa), Rufous Babbler (India), Eurasian Eagle-owl (Portugal), and the Crimson Chat (Australia). These birds are all unknown to birders in North America, and what whimsical names they have in comparison to our familiar species such as the American Robin, House Finch, and White-crowned Sparrow.
I’m not sure how much money was raised for avian conservation, but by the morning of May 12th the eBird website reported 5,794 species had been counted, 38,561 checklists entered, and 12,418 people had participated in Global Big Day.
Author Note: Photos from Wikimedia Collective Commons