BirdsEye Nature Apps http://www.birdseyebirding.com Passionately supporting citizen science projects Fri, 30 Aug 2019 01:06:57 +0000 en-US hourly 1 August Birder of the Month: Rene Valdes http://www.birdseyebirding.com/2019/08/27/august-birder-of-the-month-rene-valdes/ Wed, 28 Aug 2019 00:12:48 +0000 http://www.birdseyebirding.com/?p=30142 Birding and Conservation in Mexico with Rene Valdes By Amanda Grennell One thousand. That’s how many birds in Mexico Rene Valdes aims to identify before he turns forty. He’s got two more years and only 31 species to go — and after learning that Rene basically lives and breathes birding, we won’t be surprised when […]

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Birding and Conservation in Mexico with Rene Valdes
By Amanda Grennell

Rene Valdes: field ornithologist, conservation consultant, photographer, and birder extraordinaire. Photo: Antonio Hidalgo

One thousand. That’s how many birds in Mexico Rene Valdes aims to identify before he turns forty. He’s got two more years and only 31 species to go — and after learning that Rene basically lives and breathes birding, we won’t be surprised when he hits his goal.

How did Rene get into birding? In high school he volunteered to develop nature trails in an estuary preserve in Mazatlán. The lead on the project, a birder from the Netherlands, lent Rene his binoculars and challenged him to find “Woody Woodpecker” out on the estuary. That first bird, actually a
Pale-billed Woodpecker, got Rene hooked — soon he was identifying all the birds in his hometown, and a little later began photographing birds. Little did he know that there are about 1,100 bird species native to Mexico.

Pale-billed Woodpecker (Campephilus guatemalensis). Photo: Rene Valdes

In college, Rene chose to study biology, but specialized in ornithology by joining in research projects, sometimes at other universities, to study birds and conservation. At one point he put his formal studies on pause to spend four months in Peru, studying parrots in the Amazon. That experience led him to research parrot conservation in Northeast Mexico for ten years after graduating college.

Maroon-fronted Parrot (Rhynchopsitta terrisi). Photo: Rene Valdes

During this time, Rene focused on the Maroon-fronted Parrot, an endemic species to Mexico that is endangered. While living and studying in Northeast Mexico, Rene started guiding in his free time. He just couldn’t get enough of birds. He started leading tours in Mazatlán and the Pacific Coast, but branched out to new spots he learned about from his personal birding trips — Chiapas, the Yucatan Peninsula, and Monterrey, where Rene now lives. “Chiapas is one of my favorite places,” Rene said.

One of Rene’s many guided tours. Photo: Rene Valdes

In 2011 Rene stopped doing academic research, switching to consulting with private companies. But he’s always watching birds, and studying their behavior for fun. “Last year I was studying a nesting colony of terns and gulls,” Rene said. Now he works with wind farm companies to do bird surveys on the Yucatan Peninsula to better understand how building windmills will affect bird populations. His studies aim to minimize the effects of wind farms on birds.

For the past six years, Rene has also guided tours for the Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival, which focuses on birds living along the border. It’s a huge affair with almost 100 guides — well worth checking out if you want to add more than 30 new birds to your life list. (This year’s festival is Nov 6-10, so there’s still time to plan a trip!)

Another guided tour with Rene. Photo: Rene Valdes

Disclaimer: Rene also works for BirdsEye, developing content, uploading new content, approving photos on birdseye.photo, and coordinating citizen science projects. He’s worked on creating Birds of Ecuador, Birds of Peru, and Birds of New Guinea — some of our apps that streamline guidebooks into excellent smartphone apps. And he reviews eBird sightings for three states in Mexico.

Like many birders, Rene is also a photographer. I might be biased, but Rene’s photos are stunning. But he’s never had lessons or taken any classes. So how did he hone his skills? “It was just practice.” Rene said. “I made a lot of mistakes. I started with a film camera, so I learned from my mistakes and tried to fix them.” Rene did get help from a friend to jumpstart his editing skills in photoshop, but after that he says he learned by himself, again, through lots of practice.

You can view many of Rene’s best photos on his birdseye.photo page.

Rene’s favorite bird may not be what you expect. In a country filled with vibrant birds in a rainbow of colors, Rene’s pick is a simple black and white: the Tufted Jay. “Very endangered species, but it is beautiful. There are no more than 1,000 birds left in the wild. It is gorgeous,” Rene said. Rene’s favorite tours are to the Mexican states of Sinaloa and Durango, where groups of up to twenty Tufted Jays can be seen.

Tufted Jay (Cyanocorax dickeyi). Photo: Rene Valdes

Rene is also partial to the Horned Guan because of the effort required to find its territory. You have to hike 5-6 hours to the top of a cloud forest in Chiapas to reach one of the only places it is known to live.

Horned Guan (Oreophasis derbianus). Photo: Rene Valdes

It’s hard for Rene to pin down exactly why he loves birding. “It’s addictive actually,” Rene said. “I travel a lot in Mexico to find birds that I have never seen before.” His Mexico list sits at 969 bird species identified, though Rene says he’s only snapped photos of about 600-700 different species from Mexico. “Discovering a new bird that is awesome, colorful, just beautiful birds. That helps people get into birding,” Rene added.

“As I say to my friends, when you have very few birds left, it is very expensive to get them. You have to travel a lot for only one bird sometimes. The first 200 or 300 species are for free.” 

Even still, Rene saw five new birds on a recent trip off-shore of Baja. Yep, he’s going to have no problem getting to 1,000. Go Rene!

Rene loves birds, and they love him. Photo: Rene Valdes


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Best Bird Photos From July http://www.birdseyebirding.com/2019/07/30/best-bird-photos-july-2019/ Tue, 30 Jul 2019 16:23:41 +0000 http://www.birdseyebirding.com/?p=28829 Every day, BirdsEye users submit beautiful bird photos from around the world. The images are verified and incorporated into our apps to help our users better identify species as they birdwatch. The following images are a collection of our staff’s favorite pics submitted to our BirdsEye.photo site in July 2019. Have a favorite image in our […]

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Every day, BirdsEye users submit beautiful bird photos from around the world. The images are verified and incorporated into our apps to help our users better identify species as they birdwatch. The following images are a collection of our staff’s favorite pics submitted to our BirdsEye.photo site in July 2019.

Have a favorite image in our apps that you’d like to see featured? Email us at info@birdsinthehand.com.

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Photography Contest: Birds of South America http://www.birdseyebirding.com/2019/07/23/photo-contest-south-america/ Tue, 23 Jul 2019 18:51:17 +0000 http://www.birdseyebirding.com/?p=26875 Enter your best bird photos taken in South America to birdseye.photo by September 31st, 2019 for a chance to win Amazon giftcards and birding apps!

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Announcing the Summer 2019 BirdsEye Photo Contest!

Thanks to users like you, BirdsEye Nature Apps has amassed one of the most complete and high-quality photo collections of birds, odes, and butterflies in the world! Our company is dedicated to acquiring a comprehensive photo library for our nature apps, and we rely on our users for many of these brilliant images.

To celebrate the summer, we are delighted to announce our second BirdsEye Photography Contest. This time, our contest will feature the beautiful birds of South America. The contest is designed to bolster our South American bird collection and highlight accomplished birders and photographers.

So if you’ve been birding in South America, or are planning a trip this summer, consider snapping a few shots to share with the BirdsEye community.

Enter today—for free—for a chance to win the following prizes.

First Prize: $100 Amazon giftcard

Second Prize: $50 Amazon giftcard

Third Prize: One free download of the Birds of Peru app

Additional Prizes: A one-year membership to BirdsEye Worldwide will also be awarded to the first 25 contestants who submit high-quality photos of any species on this list. These photos may be featured on our recently launched Birds of Ecuador app!

Photo Guidelines:

We are looking for photos of birds native to South America depicted accurately in their environment. These photos will feature in our apps and marketing campaigns to help users identify birds when they are in the field. We always give proper credit to the photographer.

Judges are looking for clean, unobstructed photos of birds in a natural environment. Extra consideration will be given to pictures of rarer birds or photos depicting unique bird behaviors.

Contest Rules:

Photos for this contest should be submitted to birdseye.photo/submit anytime between July 23, 2019 and September 31, 2019.

If you don’t already have a BirdsEye photo account, create one at birdseye.photo/create_account/.

All photo contest submissions must include the hashtag #photocontest2019 in the caption section of the submission page. This hashtag is the only way we will identify contest submissions.

Following #photocontest2019 in the caption, please include a short description of the bird. To verify photos were taken in South America, all submissions require location information.

Photos should be submitted as .JPGs and should be under 5 MB in size. We prefer to receive photos that are 576 x 720 pixels or larger.

Potential winners may be asked to provide higher resolution photos, and/or .RAW files to help in judging.

All submitters must agree to the BirdsEye Terms of Service.

Eligible Regions:

SOUTH AMERICA
Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Galápagos Islands, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Uruguay, Venezuela



If you don’t have an BirdsEye photo account, create one now!


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Who Shot it Best? http://www.birdseyebirding.com/2019/07/20/who-shot-it-best-red-knot/ Sat, 20 Jul 2019 17:20:30 +0000 http://www.birdseyebirding.com/?p=28949 We are happy to announce the winners of our most recent Who Shot it Best photo contest. Congratulations to Tasha DiMarzio whose photograph of a Red Knot garnered the most votes from over 1,300 entries! And congratulations to Wendell Gilgert, the new owner of a free pair of Zeiss binoculars! Wendell was selected at random […]

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We are happy to announce the winners of our most recent Who Shot it Best photo contest.

Congratulations to Tasha DiMarzio whose photograph of a Red Knot garnered the most votes from over 1,300 entries!

And congratulations to Wendell Gilgert, the new owner of a free pair of Zeiss binoculars! Wendell was selected at random from over 1,300 entrants who voted in the photo contest, winning a pair of TERRA ED 8×32 Zeiss binoculars.

Wendell Gilgert enjoys his new Zeiss binoculars, compliments of the BirdsEye Red Knot photo contest.

Check out our current photo contest, featuring the birds of South America, ongoing until September 31, 2019!

BirdsEye would like to thank Zeiss for sponsoring our contest.

Zeiss Sports Optics

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Taylor Páez is a Dirtbag Birder http://www.birdseyebirding.com/2019/07/01/taylor-paez-is-a-dirtbag-birder/ Mon, 01 Jul 2019 23:49:32 +0000 http://www.birdseyebirding.com/?p=26422 643 bird species, 44 states, two trips across the country and back, one 2002 four-cylinder Ford Ranger  – all Taylor Páez needed to complete her Big Year on the road. By Amanda Grennell After seven months on the road, living out of her truck and tracking down as many bird species as possible in the […]

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643 bird species, 44 states, two trips across the country and back, one 2002 four-cylinder Ford Ranger  – all Taylor Páez needed to complete her Big Year on the road.

By Amanda Grennell

In 2017, Taylor Paez road-tripped her way across the United States, at times zig-zagging from one rare bird sighting to another. Her goal: complete a Big Year with 700 birds species identified. Photo credit: James Adam Taylor.

After seven months on the road, living out of her truck and tracking down as many bird species as possible in the lower 48 states, Taylor Páez was tired. It was November, and she’d already identified several hundred birds at wildlife refuges, parks, and landfills across the country. Almost all of them were new to her, outside the range of her native California. And now there were just a few rare birds left on Taylor’s list.

Based on a tip from fellow birders she’d met at the dump, Taylor drove to the National Butterfly Refuge in search of one of those rare sightings – the Audubon’s Oriole. She had already visited this popular birding spot earlier in the year, a beautiful swath of the Rio Grande valley nestled at the border of southern Texas and Mexico.

Amidst the butterflies, and the butterfly watchers, Taylor scoured the early morning landscape for her bird, but came up empty.

“By that point I had learned what Altamira Orioles sound like, so I could hear them chattering down the trail a little bit,” Taylor recalled. “I thought, maybe I’m not going to get the Audubon’s, and I guess that’s okay. I did try my best.”

About to leave as the afternoon heat took over, Taylor’s ears pricked up.

 “I heard this really beautiful, kind of sad Oriole call in the distance: a-choo-choo-choo,” Taylor said, “I had never heard an Audubon’s Oriole before in my entire life, but I knew this had to be it!”

Tip-toeing around a corner as quickly as she could, Taylor found the Audobon’s Oriole, a beautiful black and yellow bird, stealing from a basket of rotting fruit that’s technically there for the butterflies.

“I was so delighted. I didn’t expect to see it there, I didn’t know what it was going to sound like, but I was somehow right. It was a reaffirming moment for me,” Taylor said.

That affirmation gave Taylor the motivation to get through the last couple months, ending 2017 with a total of 643 bird species identified. She ended up ranking 8th on eBird, the site where most Big Year “competitors” track their sightings.

Taylor’s sighting of the Audubon’s Oriole at the National Butterfly Center. Taylor kept friends and family updated on her Big Year adventures via Instagram, @needsmorebirds.
Photo credit: Taylor Páez.

Taking on a Big Year

A Big Year is not a formal competition – there are no prizes, no trophies, no money, little fame. Instead, it is a challenge that birders take on to see as many bird species as possible in a certain area during a calendar year.  In February 2017, Taylor hit the road without much thought of the competition – just her own goal of finding 700 species in the lower 48 United States by New Year’s Eve. She was 26.

Before her Big Year, Taylor had what every Millennial craves– a decent job with benefits, a future where she could stay in one place, supportive friends and family, a good, comfortable life. But she also felt discontent brewing.

Taylor worked at a credit union, and between a frustrating work environment and the great big windows in her office, Taylor longed to be outdoors. In a moment of frustration one day, Taylor jokingly dreamed about quitting her job to live out of her truck and watch birds. But her joke stuck.

“I just couldn’t get it out of my head from that moment on. I was like ‘What’s stopping me?'” Taylor recalls.

Taylor started talking about her idea with friends, who she credits with giving her the confidence that she could actually do it. There wasn’t anything to stop her but herself – except the fear of telling her parents. But with the promise of daily phone calls, they were on board with Taylor’s dream.

So Taylor saved money and planned how to live out of her truck – something easy to find online these days due to a surging movement to build out vehicles, like vans and trucks, into livable spaces. Taylor bought a shell, or canopy, so she could sleep in the bed of her truck and store lots of gear. She started looking at blogs about living out of her truck, and was inspired by the lifestyle of “dirtbag” rock climbers, who pioneered the idea of taking time off to do something you love, while also living a low-cost life on the road.

“I met a couple of climbers who were dirtbags,” Taylor said, “And I thought I could do that, but I really like watching birds. So why don’t I just be a dirtbag birder?”

The benefits of dirtbag birding: excellent vantage point. Featuring Taylor’s Ford Ranger, the truck she lived out of for 10 months. Photo credit: Taylor Páez.

Dirtbag life

In January 2017, Taylor committed to becoming a dirtbag birder: she put in one month’s notice at work and began final preparations to live on the road in search of birds she’d never seen before, in places she’d never been.

One issue we can’t get around is, of course, safety. Though Taylor met many other young women travelling alone, she fielded lots of questions from concerned strangers about the dangers of a woman doing something completely by herself. But Taylor said her top safety issues were the weather and the prospect of meeting a mountain lion — only rarely did other people make her feel unsafe.

“You should be prepared. You should always be mindful. But we don’t have to live every day in a state of panic that someone is going to attack us,” Taylor said.

Just like anyone else adventuring outdoors alone, Taylor made sure someone else knew her plans. She told her parents where she would be, and for how long, usually checking-in with them every morning and again in the evening. Her mom looked up her location using the “Find my Friends” app, which sometimes lead to confusion when Taylor spent a few days at sea.

Taylor’s route was a road trip of epic proportions. Starting in Northern California, Taylor looped down South through Arizona, Southern Texas, around the Gulf of Mexico, then sped North to New Hampshire and Maine. She then hit New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Michigan and the upper peninsula, and Wisconsin. Next up was back to the West: Colorado, the Great Plains, Washington, and back to home base in California.

Getting a taste of home made it tough for Taylor to get back on the road. It was July, about five months into Taylor’s experiment with dirtbag birding. But after a month-long break Taylor pressed on, into the “zig-zag” phase of her Big Year – Southern California, Montana, Arizona, a boating trip off the coast of Maine, New Jersey, Ohio, Minnesota, Nebraska, Mississippi, Texas, and finally back to California to finish the year.

“Toward the end of the year it gets pretty crazy because it’s less about the common birds and more about the rare ones,” Taylor said, explaining her zig-zag pattern.

A beloved birding spot threatened with destruction

After her sweeping survey of the country, Taylor has a tough time picking just one favorite locale — the country is filled with amazing biodiversity, and she loves it all. But if she has to answer, Taylor picks the subtropical region of Southern Texas.

In one day at the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge she identified 35 new birds — the most she ever checked off at once. But plans for a border wall, intended to curb illegal immigration, could destroy the habitat that allows wildlife to flourish.

While funding for construction through Santa Ana, the National Butterfly Center, and Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park has not been passed, conservation leaders are still concerned.

“All bets are off,” says Marianna Treviño-Wright, the Butterfly center’s executive director told Audubon Magazine. “The heavy equipment is literally next door.”

Taylor recalls fondly several birds she saw for the first time in South Texas: Roseate Spoonbills, Green Jays, Kiskadees, and of course, the Audubon’s Oriole.

“It’s such a treasure that I think a lot of Americans don’t know about or don’t understand. It would be just a devastating loss to bulldoze it,” Taylor said.

Taylor’s favorite birds

To bag as many birds as possible, Taylor relied upon sighting reported on eBird, Audubon Society listserves, and local birding groups on Facebook. Sometimes she’d even learn of rare bird sightings on Instagram, or word-of-mouth at popular birding spots.

Here are a few of Taylor’s favorite sightings.

Audubon’s Oriole, National Butterfly Center, Texas
“I probably cried at the Butterfly Center.”

Audubon’s Oriole. Photo credit: David Hollie.

Green Jay, Santa Ana Wildlife Refuge, Texas
“I remember looking at bird books at thinking I’m never going to see this bird. It’s just so beautiful and vibrant, I can’t believe this thing exists,” Taylor said. “But, like Crows and Ravens and Blue Jays are on the East Coast, they are just everywhere and they are obnoxious.”

Green Jay. Photo credit: Dan Tallman.

Roseate Spoonbill, Santa Ana Wildlife Refuge, Texas

Roseate Spoonbill. Photo credit: JC Knoll.

Common Greenshank, Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge, New Jersey
Taylor spent four days on the same 13-mile, one-way loop to spot this rare bird. An update on a birding message board before Taylor entered the refuge on her last morning pinpointed the bird at mile marker 4. “If you see a bunch of birders and they’re all looking in the same direction, that’s a really good sign.”

Common Greenshank. Photo credit: Richard Lowe.

Lessons from a Big Year or birding

After spending a year in the outdoors and nearly reaching her 700-bird goal, Taylor did not go back to a stable office job. Instead, she turned to opportunities in the natural world: working as a park naturalist and then on hummingbird surveys.

“I realized I not only wanted to be outside, but I wanted to make a positive impact on people. I want to bring accessibility to nature and the outdoors. We need it now more than ever,” Taylor said. “I never thought I would do what I did. Before that I played everything safe. I didn’t take risks, ever.”

Taylor’s next adventure is a 220 mile, 20-day through-hike on the John Muir Trail, which she’s planning with her best friend for this August. Such a long backpacking trip is a new challenge for Taylor, but after her Big Year, Taylor knows the risks are worth the payoff.

The view from Taylor’s truck-bed and home for ten months. Slab City, California.
Photo credit: Taylor Páez.

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How Bird Watching Could Be Incredibly Beneficial for Your Mental Health http://www.birdseyebirding.com/2019/05/08/how-bird-watching-could-be-incredibly-beneficial-for-your-mental-health/ Wed, 08 May 2019 10:47:14 +0000 http://www.birdseyebirding.com/?p=23986 By Adelina Benson There seems to be a mental health epidemic happening right now around the world. With Western populations averaging affected rates of around 18%, according to WHO, even higher when it comes to younger generations, many people are looking for treatments and ways to help manage the way they feel. From mindfulness meditation […]

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By Adelina Benson

There seems to be a mental health epidemic happening right now around the world. With Western populations averaging affected rates of around 18%, according to WHO, even higher when it comes to younger generations, many people are looking for treatments and ways to help manage the way they feel.

From mindfulness meditation to medication, there are many solutions out there, but we want to focus on a tried and true pastime—birdwatching!

Today, we’re going to explore the mental health benefits that birdwatching can have, detailing everything you need to know in the event you wanted to help yourself or a loved one. Let’s jump right into this!

Recent Studies Suggest:

Three combined studies carried out by the University of Exeter (UK), the British Trust for Ornithology (UK), and the University of Queensland (AUS), have discovered recently that people who are exposed to more natural environments have significantly fewer feelings of stress, depression, and anxiety.

The studies defined nature as “more birds, trees, and shrubs.” The studies included 270 people and contained a diverse range of people of all ages, ethnicities, and genders.

Using Birdwatching as a Remedy

Perhaps one of the most interesting results of the studies was the fact that even if people rated their depression/stress/anxiety levels high in the mornings, several hours of birdwatching were seen to consistently raise these feelings and helped people to feel much happier in themselves and the world around them.

What’s more, it didn’t matter what kind of birds were spotted; whether these were native birds or all different species and varieties or lots of the same species, the benefits seem to remain the same.

Nature and Mental Health

This study is interesting because so many people have long described the benefits that nature has on us as human beings, and how we are somehow connected on a mental, psychological, and sometimes even spiritual level; this research is another step in confirming it.

So many of us have refined ourselves to office tower blocks, flats and apartments, and metal box vehicles, meaning some of us might not have contact with nature for a prolonged amount of time; maybe even for several weeks.

While the study sample is small, these studies could partly explain why there is an increase in mental health conditions around the world, and why people seem to be becoming increasingly unwell.

Steps for the Future

If you find that you’re suffering from a mental health condition such as stress, anxiety, or depression, while it’s not recommended you cut out or stop taking any medication or treatments you’re currently using, it may be a good idea to get outside to see what kind of birds you can see.

Whether you’re simply investing in a bird feeder and setting it up in your back garden or you’re going for a walk in nature to see what you can see, the act is beneficial to your mind and body, even if you don’t see something.

You can do this in a nearby rural area or even in your local park or wildlife reserve. Once you become mindful of these natural areas, you’ll soon realize that birds and wildlife are present throughout society, even in built-up areas.

All you need to do is become mindful and watchful for their existence, and already you’ll start to see the benefits. Birdwatching is renowned for being a meditative exercise and can help nurture your connection with nature.

Instead of allowing your mind to run free on crazy tangents and mad thought patterns, which usually result in anxious or stressed out thoughts, allowing yourself to focus on something like looking for birds can help keep your mind present and those pesky thoughts at bay.

Of course, this is a practice that takes time to develop and nurture, but with regular practice and focus, you’ll be there in no time at all.

Adelina Benson is a lifestyle blogger and writer at PhDKingdom and Academicbrits. She develops mindfulness practices, edits and proofreads wellness articles. In her free time, she loves to blog to help people reach their full potential at OriginWritings.com.

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Breaking the Big Day World Record in Ecuador http://www.birdseyebirding.com/2019/05/02/big-day-world-record-in-ecuador/ Thu, 02 May 2019 19:30:21 +0000 http://www.birdseyebirding.com/?p=23971 As the clock struck midnight on October 8th, 2015, four birders set out from Cabañas San Isidro, Ecuador, to try and set a birding world record. Specifically, they intended to break the record for most species identified in a single day—a Big Day.

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By Don Henise – Cabañas San Isidro scenery 2015-06-12, CC BY 2.0.

As the clock struck midnight on October 8th, 2015, four birders set out from Cabañas San Isidro, Ecuador, to try and set a birding world record. Specifically, they intended to break the record for most species identified in a single day—a Big Day.

Big Days are usually conducted under strict guidelines, and the Ecuador team followed the American Birding Association (ABA) rules. As such, their Big Day consisted of a single-team effort in which the primary objectives are “(1) to identify as many bird species as possible during a single calendar day and (2) to strive to have all team members observe and identify all species recorded.” To qualify as a Big Day Count, all counting must be conducted within a single 24-hour period, on a single calendar day. There are no guidelines on where the count can be performed.

The Ecuador team—Dušan Brinkhuizen, Rudy Gelis, Mitch Lysinger, and Tuomas Seimola, all professional bird guides—had long planned for their Big Day. Rudy had attempted a Big Day in southeastern Peru on foot only in the early 2000s with Patrick O’Donnell, and they fell short by well over 100 species. Dušan and Tuomas had dreamt of the chance of a Big Day in Ecuador for years.

Interview of Dusan Brinkhuizen from George Paul on Vimeo.

In the months leading up to the count, Rudy promoted the team with a GoFundMe page, raising money to support their efforts. During the week before the count, Dusan coordinated with Rudy and Tuomas to go birding every day from 3 am to 2 pm; Mitch showed up as a pinch hitter the day of the event. During their preparation, the team honed their bird identification techniques, went through the ABA rules with a fine-toothed comb, and planned their route in excruciating detail—every minute counts during a Big Day.

The team’s goal was simple: break the Big Day world record set by a group of scientists from Louisiana State University in 2014. The target? 355 species—in a single day.

The Big Day

A black-throated mango (Anthracothorax nigricollis) was among the 431 species identified during the 2015 Big Day count. Photo courtesy of Francesco Veronesi via BirdsEye.photo.

The team chose Ecuador for their Big Day location for two reasons. First, they all love the country and have extensively documented birds there for many years. Second, and most importantly, was Ecuador’s incredible biodiversity. With coastal rainforests, the daunting spine of the Andes Mountains, and a vast Amazon forest in the east, Ecuador is home to a stunning elevation gradient and range of habitats.

The count kicked off looking for owls in the heart of Ecuador’s cloud forest, about a two-hour drive from Quito on the eastern slope of the Andes. By dawn (around 5 am), the team had driven into the Amazon, looking for birds wherever they could find them. Shortly after arriving in the Amazon, things really started to pick up with the onset of the dawn chorus. By this time, the team was on the Napo River, detecting species left and right, by sight and sound.

Eventually, the birders returned to the cloud forest and continued to the high Andes. Near sun-down, Dušan, the official recorder, knew they had already bested the record (with over 380 species already on their list), but he kept this secret from his teammates to keep everyone’s energy high for the day’s final big jump: a short flight to the coast.

Most teams complete a Big Day using only a car while others avoid motors and only use canoes, bicycles, and their feet. There are no rules against flying, however, and the team used that to their advantage. That evening, after catching a commercial flight in Quito, the team added another 39 birds from a wetland near salt flats on the Pacific coast.

The Final Count

White-throated toucan (Ramphastos tucanus). Photo courtesy of Kevin Berkoff via BirdsEye.photo.

By the end of the Big Day, the Ecuador team had identified 431 countable species of birds. The total shattered the previous record by more than 70 species. Of the 431 species identified, 305 (70.8%) were seen, 126 (29.2%) were heard-only, and 415 (96.3%) were observed by all four team members.

In total, the team covered 239 miles (385 kilometers) by car and 233 miles (375 kilometers) by plane. They traversed 12,960 vertical feet (3,950 meters).

“It was brutal,” Rudy recalled. “Over-the-top energy, crazy adrenaline. It was a frenzied mix of jogging, running, walking, driving, all while visually searching and listening intently for 24 hours.”

Interview of Rudy Gelis from George Paul on Vimeo.

Big Day Advice

If you’re planning on doing a Big Day this year or in the future, here are some of Rudy Gelis’ tips for success.

  • Don’t eat much, just snack.
  • Know where things are sleeping so you can find them when they wake up.
  • Determine what time of year has the highest diversity for your locale. When you do, pinpoint the date with the highest probability for shorebirds and warblers.
  • Contact someone in one of the ornithological societies and enlist their help (eBird, Audubon Society, etc.).
  • Try to include young folks however you can.
  • Be honest: If you make things up, you’ll get burned. Remember that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.
  • Don’t compare yourself to the global Big Day efforts. Test yourself locally.
  • Think about the weather and thermals to get soaring raptors and think through when owls are vocalizing.
  • Make it fun as well as challenging. Whether that is traveling without motors—Ted Parker and Scott Robinson accomplished the incredible feat of observing 331 species in a single day by foot and canoe—or testing yourself in new habitats, use the opportunity to push yourself.

More Resources

Ecuador Big Day data report

eBird Global Big Day

ABA Big Day Count Rules

Interview with Dušan Brinkhuizen

Interview with Rudy Gelis

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Northern Spotted Owl Population Continues to Decline http://www.birdseyebirding.com/2019/04/26/northern-spotted-owl-population-decline/ Fri, 26 Apr 2019 22:30:15 +0000 http://www.birdseyebirding.com/?p=23520 Twenty-five years after the implementation of the Northwest Forest Plan, northern spotted owl populations continue to decline, according to a new study in the journal Ecological Applications. In fact, the species’ population is decreasing faster than expected.

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A northern spotted owl peers down from an old-growth forest in the Pacific Northwest. Photo courtesy of Charles Yackulic/U.S. Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Research Station.

The Northern Spotted Owl (Strix occidentalis caurina) was first listed as a federally threatened species in the late 20th century. The species found itself on the Endangered Species List after decades of overlogging and forest mismanagement in the Pacific Northwest severely degraded and restricted its available habitat. In 1994, the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management adopted the Northwest Forest Plan, a controversial management plan that was intended to protect spotted owl habitat by preserving old growth forests.

Yet 25 years after the implementation of the Northwest Forest Plan, northern spotted owl populations continue to decline, according to a new study in the journal Ecological Applications. In fact, the species’ population is decreasing faster than expected.

According to the study, the reason for the continued decline is not logging or recreation, but rather competition with barred owls (Strix varia), a forest competitor that began to invade the northern spotted owl’s range 50 years ago.

A barred owl photographed in Portland, Oregon. Photo courtesy of Skip Russell via BirdsEye.photo.

“We have known for some time that northern spotted owls are reliant on older forest as habitat, that recovering northern spotted owls would require recovering this habitat, and that this process of recovery would take many decades,” says lead author Charles Yackulic of the U.S. Geological Survey. “Twenty-five years ago, however, we did not anticipate the increases in barred owl abundances would lead to a second major threat to northern spotted owl recovery.”

Barred owls challenge northern spotted owls for prime nesting spots and hunting areas in old growth forests. However, because barred owls are considered invasive species, they do not play the same role in the ecosystem and are causing ripples throughout the food web.

In response to these findings, the authors of the study recommend removing barred owls from the forest, which they identify as a viable forest management strategy. Combined with continued habitat protection and restoration, the authors hope the northern spotted owl population trend will turn around soon. Without any action to remove barred owls, the northern spotted owl could go extinct within decades.

Journal Citation: Yackulic, Charles, et al. 2019. “The past and future roles of competition and habitat in the rangewide occupancy dynamics of Northern Spotted Owls.” Ecological Applications. DOI: 10.1002/eap.1861.

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Who Shot it Best? http://www.birdseyebirding.com/2019/04/23/who-shot-it-best/ Tue, 23 Apr 2019 16:50:40 +0000 http://www.birdseyebirding.com/?p=22990 We are happy to announce the winners of our Who Shot it Best photo contest. Congratulations to Kristy Leigh Baker whose photograph of an American Goldfinch garnered the most votes from over 3,000 entries! Congratulations are also in store for Pia Niewoonder, the new owner of a free pair of Zeiss binoculars! Pia was selected […]

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We are happy to announce the winners of our Who Shot it Best photo contest. Congratulations to Kristy Leigh Baker whose photograph of an American Goldfinch garnered the most votes from over 3,000 entries!

Congratulations are also in store for Pia Niewoonder, the new owner of a free pair of Zeiss binoculars! Pia was selected at random from over 2,400 entrants, winning a pair of TERRA ED 8×32 Zeiss binoculars. Upon winning, Pia remarked, “Wow—these are so awesome!! Thank you, I’m really enjoying them!”

Stay tuned for more photo contests like this—you too could win a free pair of binoculars or other cool swag.

BirdsEye would like to thank Zeiss for sponsoring our contest.

Zeiss Sports Optics

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The Lost Tinamou http://www.birdseyebirding.com/2019/04/19/the-lost-tinamou/ Fri, 19 Apr 2019 23:59:46 +0000 http://www.birdseyebirding.com/?p=23142 This month we’re spotlighting a birder who’s doing wonderful things for bird conservation in Central America. Heidi Pasch de Viteri, born and raised in Guatemala, manages The Lost Tinamou, a nature preserve that takes up one-third of her family’s farm, Finca La Gracia. Located on the Pacific slope of Guatemala, The Lost Tinamou sits on […]

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This month we’re spotlighting a birder who’s doing wonderful things for bird conservation in Central America. Heidi Pasch de Viteri, born and raised in Guatemala, manages The Lost Tinamou, a nature preserve that takes up one-third of her family’s farm, Finca La Gracia.

Located on the Pacific slope of Guatemala, The Lost Tinamou sits on what was once a coffee plantation.  This land was set aside for conservation thirty years ago by her husband, Pedro Viteri.  The preserve is now a humid secondary growth forest that experiences both rainy and dry seasons throughout the year.  It’s nestled among the rubber tree copses, hay fields, and grazing dairy cattle of Finca La Gracia, and surrounded by the pineapple and sugarcane fields of neighboring farms.

Because of Heidi and Pedro’s efforts, the preserve has become an oasis for a wide variety of wild animals amidst many hundreds of surrounding acres of sugar cane plantations that blanket the countryside. And the birds? They’ve flocked to the Lost Tinamou for refuge during migration, nesting during mating season, and even year-round roosting. 

Birders can visit Lost Tinamou by making reservations for a day visit. The preserve offers visitors spectacular looks at birds that are otherwise hard to get in the area. Plumbeous kites, groove-billed anis, numerous orioles, and white-throated magpie jays have all been discovered nesting on the property. Yellow-naped parrots roost in the trees at night. Ferruginous pygmy-owls call out, and Bat falcons and lesser nighthawks put on excellent aerial-acrobatic shows as they glean the nearby fields for meals at dusk. Colorful birds, like turquoise-browed motmots, rose-throated becards, long-tailed manakins, green-breasted mangos, masked tityras, green shrike-vireos, and gartered trogons (among many others) paint the forest. And after nightfall, northern potoos and mottled owls can be heard calling across the reserve. To check out a complete list of the ever-growing number of species sighted at the Lost Tinamou, check out the Finca La Gracia eBird hotspot and checklists.

If you’re visiting Guatemala and looking for a unique birding experience hosted by a genuine lover of birds and conservation, visiting Heidi at the Lost Tinamou is just for you. For more information, please see the Lost Tinamou Facebook page.

A few birds mentioned in this post:

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