Posted May 5, 2020
Written by Mike Perrin
For the past five years, eBird (a citizen science database run by the Cornell University Lab of Ornithology where birdwatchers report species observed while birding) has pushed birders from all backgrounds and experience levels to participate in eBird’s Global Big Day. This year, the eBird 2020 Global Big Day will take place on May 9th. Given the COVID-19 crisis, eBird is discouraging unnecessary travel and encouraging participants to follow recommended health and safety guidelines and to bird at home or at their local natural area.
A traditional “Big Day” can range in intensity, but the theme remains the same: observe and document as many bird species as possible in a 24-hour time period, usually from midnight to midnight (2:00am for owls and 5:00am for warblers). Some serious birders turn Big Days into a competition, trying to observe more species than other teams or individuals, or beat a previous personal record. These highly involved Big Days require preparation: planning out locations, chasing rarities, and brewing as much coffee as possible, as birders will search for owls at 2:00am and then search for warblers at 5:00am. Obviously eBird expects that the majority of participants will not be dedicating this much time and commitment, but many birders do make an effort to bird for multiple hours and at multiple locations. All of these observations are compiled into eBird “checklists” by the observers that outline all species seen or heard at a specific location (i.e. list of 15 species at Marks Cove Natural Area). These checklists are then uploaded to the eBird database, where eBird will take the data and keep track of the number of species reported, which can be a rewarding and/or motivating figure.
The Global Big Day is not simply a competition or challenge, but this event provides important data about birds. Global Big Day happens biannual, once in October during fall migration and once in May for spring migration. Encouraging as many birders as possible to go birding on the same day provides a collective snapshot of the species composition and abundance, theoretically anywhere on the globe! Ornithologists will use this data to track trends in population sizes of species and migration patterns related to weather and climate change. For these reasons, eBird encourages birders of all levels to participate in Global Big Day, as long as the birds reported are positively identified. Even if checklists are mostly common birds and the overall species count is low, the data is useful for researchers.
As a birder and citizen science enthusiast, I highly encourage anyone interested in birds to participate in Global Big Day. The event provides endless learning opportunities and your observations are appreciated by birds, birders, and ornithologists alike, so get out and bird on May 9th for the 2020 Global Big Day! To learn more about eBird’s Global Big Day and learn how to participate, visit their website at https://ebird.org/news/global-big-day-9-may-2020 or email our Land Stewardship Coordinator, Mike Perrin, at Stewardship@warehamlandtrust.org. Happy birding!