my Big Day
May 16, 2016
Western Grebes at Barr Lake State Park. Aren’t they pretty?
So I was one of over 14,000 birders who submitted checklists for eBird’s Global Big Day. Pretty cool, huh?
The day did not go as I originally planned. I have three really great birding spots within an hour’s drive of me, and I did a triangle between them, plus a stop at the Boulder County Fairgrounds to visit the ospreys. Which seems a little like cheating, but hey, they’re there. You can see them too via this bird cam.
First off, Saturday was seriously mucking cold for this time of year. Temperature never got much above 50 F. The day started out at 38 F, with a misting rain, at the Pawnee National Grasslands. I left when my hands were shaking too much for me to look through the binoculars. And that was with gloves! But I saw some great birds like a lazuli bunting, brown thrashers, a western tanager, and some cool warblers and vireos. I want to go back to this spot. When it’s sunny and warm.
Then I hit Barr Lake State Park. It stopped raining by then, so yay! And saw some more great stuff like orioles, warblers, western grebes, a nuthatch, spotted sandpipers, and so on. Then Ty called me from the airport — he was stuck on a 6 hour layover and did I want to come have lunch with him? It just so happens that Barr Lake is about 20 minutes away from the airport, so of course I went to have lunch with him.
I almost hit a jackrabbit on the way there. Like, not a little cottontail bunny like we usually see, but a honking big mutant-legged giant jackrabbit. Whew.
After hanging out with Ty it was getting pretty late. I headed over to Walden Ponds in Boulder and was rewarded with a snowy egret. That was nice.
I just barely hit my 50 species goal. But this is not an exact science — there were a couple of species I just couldn’t ID. Like flycatchers: hey, that’s a flycatcher-shaped thing that’s kind of grayish with yellow underneath! *checks ID book* *discovers that all flycatchers are grayish with yellow underneath* *curses* I also probably spotted a couple of things that I could have counted, that I’m pretty sure on, but didn’t get a good enough look at to be sure. Like those black-capped chickadees.
I also managed to go the whole day without seeing a plain old pigeon, which is just weird.
I also got tired. Part of this was the cold, part of this was the unexpected side trip to the airport. I got to a point where I just didn’t want to look through the binoculars anymore. I probably could have chased down those pigeons and chickadees and a couple of others besides. But by the end of the day I was cold and tired and wanted to go home.
And I only did about 12 hours. eBird’s pro team was also in Colorado, birded the whole 24 hours, and got 232 species. Wow. I need to hang out with those guys just to learn from them.
I think next time (I’ll probably do this again), I may focus on just one or two spots instead of trying to cover a quarter of the state. I may try to get the scope out and really search one area rather than trying to cover a lot of ground. Take frequent breaks. Eat more and drink more water. Get better about IDing things.
Wait for a sunny day. Heh.