Friday, April 10, 2015

Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology World Big Day!

The Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology has announced a worldwide Big Day to be conducted on 9 May 2015, with the goal of getting as many as possible of the world's bird species recorded in eBird. Our two-state region can offer a couple of species unavailable almost anywhere else, Gunnison Sage-Grouse and Brown-capped Rosy-Finch. It also provides access to a number of bird species that can be difficult to find on demand, but which can be difficult elsewhere, including Trumpeter Swan, Harlequin Duck, Barrow's Goldeneye, White-tailed Ptarmigan, Dusky Grouse, Lesser Prairie-Chicken, Black Rail, Mountain Plover, Flammulated Owl, Northern Pygmy-Owl, Boreal Owl, Broad-tailed Hummingbird, Williamson's Sapsucker, Sage Thrasher, and Green-tailed Towhee. Alas, Black Swifts will not be in by then.

Brown-capped Rosy-Finch - Snowy Range, Albany Co., WY © Shawn Billerman
White-tailed Ptarmigan - Rocky Mountain National Park, Larimer Co., CO © Shawn Billerman

I encourage the region's birders to assist the Lab in this endeavor by getting out and birding on 9 May and entering the resultant data into eBird. However, I have a couple of cautions for those doing so. Entering data at a local level, such as at an individual park (though not one the size of Yellowstone N. P.!) is much more useful than is a checklist covering the birding of half a day at a large number of locations. County-level lists are particularly inappropriate, especially in counties with large elevational ranges, which often result in high-elevation species being mapped at low-elevation sites and vice-versa. I particularly encourage those with the interest and/or easy access to any of the above-listed species to make an effort to find these species as, who knows, your detection might well be the only one in the world that day! Other owl species are also of particular interest, particularly the more-difficult species: Long-eared, Short-eared, and Northern Saw-whet Owls. (A caution about heard-only Boreal Owls -- winnowing Wilson's Snipe are often mistaken for Boreal Owl.)

Other states are taking part in this endeavor, with some considering informal competitions between/among counties. Perhaps the host of Boulder County birders could challenge the Larimer County birders or Wyoming birders in/near Natrona County could challenge those in/near Fremont County. Another type of challenge might be to bird some poorly-known county or portion of a county, as data from such areas is even more valuable due to the relative paucity of existing data from them. As a Colorado example, there are very few data in eBird from Hinsdale, Mineral, or Pitkin counties from the second week of May, while there are NO data in that week from either Lake or San Juan counties! (As something of an aside, check out how many weeks have NO data in eBird from these counties: Costilla, Dolores, Hinsdale, Mineral, Rio Blanco, and San Miguel counties.)

Challenge or no, I encourage all of the region's birders to get out on 9 May and enter the resultant data into eBird!

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