This year, we participated in our very first Global Big Day. This event is organized by eBird and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. It condenses a “big year” style bird count checklist into one amazing day, on a global scale. If you are new to birding, and you haven’t already used eBird, we suggest checking it out. But first, here is some background information for those who aren’t familiar with eBird before we launch into this exciting day.
What is eBird?
eBird, managed by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, is the world’s largest biodiversity-related citizen science project, with more than 100 million bird sightings contributed each year by eBirders around the world. The idea of connecting local, national and international birders is pretty incredible, and the data collected is used in decisions around conservation, in peer-reviewed papers, students projects and to help inform bird research worldwide.
When using the website, or more recently the mobile app, eBird has mandatory fields that are required in order to provide accurate and quality data. For example, birders will enter when, where and how they went birding, and will then fill out a checklist of ALL the birds seen and heard during the outing.
As a result of having citizens log their checklist of bird species, eBird identifies certain locations as birding hot spots. These can be helpful when you want to check out some new birding locations nearby, or when you are traveling and you aren’t familiar with the area. eBird also provides a map of recent sightings, which can be particularly useful if you are looking for a location to visit with the potential to see a particular species. We utilize this feature quite often during the migration months to try and catch some rare sightings.
Our Global Big day
Global Big Day is hosted by eBird and is essentially a ‘big year’ condensed into a ‘big day’ – a 24-hour birding binge. The idea of a big day shifted from individual teams to include everyone in the world logging their sightings in eBird to create one glorious ‘Global Big Day’.
On May 5th, we joined the more than 20,000 others to become part of this day!
We didn’t break any records for number of birds seen, rare species sighted, or checklist submitted, but we participated in our area, provided some valuable data, and had some fun.
We selected our locations for the day over dinner the night before. Some of our go-to locations and hot spots for birding, particularly for spring and fall migration. Two of the locations were also included in a previous video of birding in Niagara, that video can be seen here.
Green Ribbon Trail
This small trail is a nice little oasis for birds tucked off a main road. This was our first stop of the day, in hopes of catching a Blue-winged teal that had been hanging out in these waters for a week or more. We were hoping to have a chance to see him at a closer distance, than where he typically hangs out, near the far shoreline.
There was no Blue-winged teal but we were able to log a few other interesting species among the Canada Geese and Red-winged blackbirds in our area, including:
- Caspian tern
- Spotted sandpiper
- Great blue heron
- Belted Kingfisher
- Red-bellied woodpecker
- Northern flicker
- Tree swallow
Port Weller East
Moving along to another good location in our area, also featured in the previous video. It is the beginning of the historic Welland canals here in Niagara, consisting of 8 locks that assist ships in their ability to ascend/descend the Niagara Escarpment and connect Lake Ontario to Lake Erie in order to bypass Niagara Falls.
There is a good mix of vegetation and we are very familiar with the species of birds that are seen here, which is a good way to get ahead of your bird list and know the types of birds to add to your list. This day was no different, and there were no real surprises or rare species to report, but we did add quite a few new taxa to bump up our day’s list, including more waterfowl and warblers:
- Red-breasted merganser
- Horned grebe
- Bonaparte Gull
- Common term
- House wren
- Blue-grey gnatcatcher
- Yellow warbler
- Yellow-rumped warbler
- Song sparrow
- Baltimore oriole
Happy Ralph’s Bird Sanctuary
This would turn out to be our final location to get home and walk our furry lab mix, Rudy. We already felt guilty enough being out at some of his favorite spots without him, but birding with a part Hound just doesn’t work – we’ve tried.
This is another great spot for woodland birds, with sparse evergreens scatter throughout the park. One of the first species we saw – with excitement was a Black-throated green warbler. We came up short in getting a great photo, even after getting a second chance as we continued throughout this site.
We were even fooled by their familiar song, one that we had heard many times before, but we could not place it nor could we see the culprit, until he finally showed himself in the evergreen we were searching. A Black-throated green singing the buzzy – zee, zee, zoo, zoo, zee. We will be sure to remember that one for next week!
Added a few new species here, including:
- White-breasted Nuthatch
- Coopers Hawk
- Black-throated green warbler
There was also a species we were not able to identify, which we kept off our list, but we remain curious about the type of species.
Bird Nerds Global Big Day
Overall, we had a great time participating in Global Big Day in support of bird conservation and educational opportunities using the data collected.
This was the first time we logged our eBird sightings in the app, as this option was also available. The app made for a great and effortless experience in logging our sightings. In the past, it would require estimating and remembering species counts and logging them on your desktop once you returned from your trip. And if you happened to go to more locations than one, it could prove difficult to keep the locations separate.
The app also tells you how long you were at your site and how many kilometers/ miles you traveled. Be advised though, to review and submit your log before traveling to your next location, otherwise, the distance will be included in your unfinished list.
As part of our day, we traveled just under 8 kilometers (4.97 miles) and saw a total of 47 taxa, falling just 3 short of our 50 species goal. There were a few unknowns we didn’t include that may have put us at our goal but we are confident in our list of 47 species.
The biggest flock we saw consisted of roughly 40 Bonaparte Gulls and our most special find of the day would have to be the Spotted Sandpiper. Not the rarest or unusual but they didn’t stick around this area particularly long so it was nice to catch him for our list.
Global Big Day Stats
As of May 6, there were a total of 6,484 species logged, 56,787 checklists submitted and 23,417 participants. The top 3 species leaders were Columbia, Peru, and Ecuador and the top 3 checklist leaders included United States, Canada, and Columbia.
Well done everyone!
How can you participate?
If you are interested in joining the birders of the world in logging your sightings for Global Big Day 2019, here are some tips.
- Create an eBird account
- Make things interesting – consider setting a goal for the number of species seen
- Pick a location – this can be as simple as your backyard, or your favourite birding hotspot. Need some help deciding? Check out the hot spots logged in your area on eBird
- Go watch some birds – bring along your trusty field guide for some added assistance, and to help you identify any rare sightings.
- Enter what you see and hear on eBird – log your sightings right into the app while you are out in the field or go old school and bring a pencil and paper.
Its the most wonderful time of the year!
Spring in Ontario means the dull days of winter are behind you, and you can embrace the warm weather, beautiful colors and blooming plants. This year, the cold weather didn’t want to see to leave us, with an ice storm as late as April 15.
For us, it also means training our eyes and ears for the expected migrants after months of not seeing certain species. Global Big Day was a nice way to welcome back spring, warm up for spring migration in Point Pelee, and be a part of something much bigger in the name of bird conservation all over the world.