Wednesday, May 4, 2011
Some Big Day Birding
Each year I pick a 24h period to do a Big Day or Baillie Birdathon. I have always done them at Rondeau or around Rondeau, with the exception of one time I did one up on the Bruce Peninsula with Sandy Dobbyn.
They have never been an exhausting effort like some people do, but it is always an interesting and fun experience.
Numbers of birds will depend on weather and timing and sheer luck.
In the earlier years, we would start late in the day north of Wallaceburg to get the pasture birds, then end up at St. Clair NWA in the evening to get marsh birds. Early the next morning we would do Rondeau Park and area. Those were the days when there were lots of pastures and no shortage of birds there!
I did the first one in 1991 and we ended up with 148 species.
Eventually, we just did the Rondeau (Circle) birding area. It is surprising the number of birds you can get just in the Rondeau area. Some that do Big Days, go all over the southern part of the province and don't get all that much more. It is impossible for one party to get all possible birds, but it is interesting to figure out how many birds are in the circle in a given 24h period. In 2006 for example, we calculated there were 178 species seen in the Rondeau Circle in one 24h period.
On a decent day, I would usually end up with something in the 140's.
Rondeau Park has had a Big Day competition since 2003. It started out using the Rondeau Circle, but the last couple of years or so it has just been within the park boundary. A number of teams have done the competition, but every year Steve Charbonneau and Mac McAlpine have have won the event with the exception of 2009 when I tied them at 132 species.
We find the best time to do a 24h birding event is from noon to noon. In the evening, we do Rondeau's Marsh Trail to get the marsh stuff and anything else that comes along. As well, we get species such as Woodcock and Whip-poor-will just as it is getting dark. One year we had a chance at a Chuck-will's-widow, but got there a tad late!
There are always some surprises, but I have never come across something really rare. I have located Worm-eating Warbler twice on a Big Day.
Rondeau's Big Day is this coming weekend, so it will be interesting to see what happens with this late spring.