The 2015 Bird-a-thon is complete! This is the second year of participation by our team, the Sub-adult Twitchers, which formed last year as an attempt to involve a team of [mostly] youth birders. This year we were able to beat our past record but still fell short of our competitors, the Mighty Marsh Muckers.
Below is a summary of our day with a few of the highlights:
The proper preparation for a Big Day (Bird-a-thon), a day in which you plan to spend 24 hours seeing as many species as possible, is to get as much sleep as possible… we didn’t do that. Instead we led an “Owl Prowl” for the Freeport Birding Festival from 8:00-10:00pm at Maine Audubon’s Mast Landing Sanctuary. This did turn out to be an indicator of how our owling would go during the Bird-a-thon: quiet and owl free.
Owlless, we made it to Biddeford Pool just in time for sunrise and then we were on fire. Shorebirds were roosting along the edges of the pool so we could easily tick them off from the side of the road — efficiency is key during big days. The dawn chorus and newly arrived neotropic migrants kept our tally rising. A quick check of the north end of Biddeford Beach added some seabirds and a surprise pair of Piping Plovers — further north than any known pairs on this beach.
We then went towards Portland to make quick stops at Evergreen Cemetery and Capisic Pond Park to clean up some migrants we missed and also tick some stake-outs like Orchard Oriole and Warbling Vireo. While we were at Evergreen, the Might Marsh Muckers (MMMs) found a Summer Tanager just around the corner from us but we missed it by minutes. We probably spent too long trying to relocate this rarity but we got back on track with a good list for the morning.
After cleaning up our targets in Scarborough, we pointed north and quickly stopped at Gilsland Farm. While there we got word that the MMMs had found a Little Gull back in Scarborough — at the beach we had just left! This would have been a life bird (a new species) for some of our members so we broke a Big Day ‘rule’ and went back for this rarity. Long story short, we just missed the bird (again) and then wasted a lot of time trying to relocate it. With our route now completely askew, we detoured to ‘The Dairy Corner’ for a much needed ‘Purple Piping Plover’.
We made some impromptu stops at local hotspots for a few of the species we were missing. As the sun was getting low in the horizon, we made our way towards Kennebunk Plains for the specialty birds that can be found in that unique habitat. Prairie Warblers, Field Sparrows and Upland Sandpipers helped lift our spirits, but the highlight of the day was as probably when we got to observe American Woodcocks and Eastern Whip-poor-wills calling and displaying over the plains as the sun went down.
The wind was the most limiting factor of the day, keeping us from hearing a number of common species. We ended the day with 124 species, a new record for our team! And despite falling short of the MMMs total, I feel like we won in terms of having the most fun.
Another fun part of the Bird-a-thon this year was teaming up with a class of middle schoolers from Windham that were doing their own Big Day on Friday, May 22. Their teacher, Ryan Rumsey, introduced his class to birding via Project Feeder Watch, and our collaboration was a huge success! I can’t wait to work with him, his classes and hopefully more schools in the future. Rumsey’s class put together a great video summary of their day:
Thank you very much to everyone who supported our team this year! Your donations help to improve and expand the work Maine Audubon is doing to support wildlife and habitats around the state.
A Maine native, Doug grew up in Hollis and graduated from the University of Maine in 2011. Throughout college Doug worked at Scarborough Marsh Audubon Center and was hired as Maine Audubon’s staff naturalist in the summer of 2013, a long time “dream job.” In his free time, Doug volunteers as one of Maine’s eBird reviewers, is the owner and moderator of the ‘Maine-birds’ listserv and serves as York County Audubon board member and Secretary of the Maine Bird Records Committee.