Just a few days left until a fair percentage of the birding public participates in Global Big Day. It’s easy enough to do, you just need to watch birds on May 5th for any amount of time, count those birds, and submit the information to eBird. In these days of instant social media, you can also post your successes, failures, or pictures of your favorite birding snacks in real time. Did you admire a Scarlet Tanager or two in breeding plumage? Hear the winnowing of a snipe in the cold of the dawn? Compare the virtues of high-quality organic chocolate to crumbly, sugar infused doughnuts? And, most of all, have any run-ins with interesting non-birders? Post it on Facebook to make the day that much more memorable!
A tree decorated with Scarlet Macaws would be memorable.
Here in C0sta Rica, we seriously got our birding game on. At least it seems that way at our Whatsapp group for GBD (that’s what we call it around here). Lots of people have signed on and we will have birders in most corners of the country, many of which will be focusing on key species. For example, a few Tico birders will be looking for the elusive Red-throated Carara in the Osa, others will be slinging the bins at El Copal and Tapanti in search of specialties of that birdy zone, and some of us will be hoping to add tough species like Blue Seedeater, and Unspotted Saw-whet Owl to the results. There’s lots of good vibes going on, it’s going to be interesting to see what we all find.
During these final last hours of preparation, although I’m not sure what others are doing, this is what I will be up to:
Checking eBird: One last check to see if and where certain target species have been seen. I also checked the bar charts today to see which migrants can be expected. Most warblers and viroes are gone, but flycatchers are still in the house as well as shorebirds.
Making the coffee: I really should mention that no one has to do GBD like a birding machine whereby you start at midnight and focus on birds for the next 24 hours. In fact, you probably shouldn’t. But, you might want to start earlier than usual, or at least be out right before dawn. Whether you go that midnight route or start the madness after the rise of the sun, just make sure to brew more than enough coffee the night before because the last thing you want is to be lacking on the caffeine when the birding gets fierce. Just in case I need an extra influx of natural stimulants, I’ll be rolling and ready with my coffee and chocolate covered coffee beans.
Making a pizza: Yeah, you read that right. I often make a pizza before a bird count because what can I say, I love good pizza and I love birding; it makes for a perfect combination! So, I plan on making one or two, I’m not quite sure about the toppings but it’s still gonna be good! Cold slices of course but when the pizza is fresh, the flavors are always fantastic. Hopefully, I will be enjoying a slice as I see a Solitary Eagle! Well, actually, no because then I would end up wasting the pizza slice after spitting it out in shock, or choking on it, or accidentally throwing the pizza on the windshield of the car in my race for the camera, or sauce up the camera lens or something. It would be tough for it not to be a bit of momentary birding pandemonium. Hopefully, the eagle will show at a more opportune time…
Not a Solitary Eagle but Hook-billed Kite would still be a great find for the day! Not enough to drop the pizza but still good.
Studying obscure bird sounds: To maximize results, we gotta be ready for the calls of flyover Upland Sandpipers, a super rare singing Black-whiskered Vireo, vocalizations of rare Black and white Becards, and whatever else might fly our way on GBD. The vireo probably won’t show but it’s all about being ready for anything, so now is the time for a last minute check of possibilities and making sure you know their respective calls.
Getting stuff ready on May 4th: Do this to avoid any nasty last minute surprises like no gas in the car, a lack of gourmet snacks, forgetting the sunblock (although to avoid wasting time, I suggest putting it on before you leave the house), charging whatever batteries are needed, or putting on the wrong shoes. Trust me, these and other SNAFUs can happen in the dark of the blurry-eyed night, especially when you got the focus on birds and are straining the ears for the faint bubbling call of an Upland Sandpiper.
Checking yourself before you wreck yourself: Um, what I mean by this in my personal birding terms is to curb the enthusiasm, and be honest with yourself. For example, don’t mark down an Upland Sandpiper if you may have actually heard some odd sounding, distant motorcyle (likely in Costa Rica). Are you sure that distant hawk-eagle was an Ornate and not a Black? Sorry, but if the doubt is there, just leave it off the list. I know, it hurts but we gotta keep things real on GBD! If Ice Cube were a birder (I would love if he were), I think he would be checking himself.
Black Hawk-Eagle silhouette.
Don’t forget the Jedi Zen state of being!: In other words, focus on seeing and hearing birds in the present, challenge yourself but do enjoy the experience (because, like, if you don’t enjoy something, why do it?). Stay focused and the birds will show! Don’t worry about the ones that refuse to play, try and refrain from referring to them as “asshats”, they got their own agendas and plenty other birds will be seen. Who knows, maybe they’ll make an appearance later on, and you would have to take back that you called the previously absent Barred Hawk “eco figlio della puttana”, “sargeant major f$%kf#ce” or (gasp!) a glorified Black Vulture. Keep the peace with the birds and lots will show! If it makes you feel better, keep in mind that thousands of other birders are also watching birds pretty much around the world as part of Global Big Day.
Ok, I think I’m ready, I’ll be rocking the birds in Costa Rica as part of Team Tyto! Based on our name, our main goal is putting Barn Owl on the list but we also hope to add a few others here and there as we bird through lowlands, highlands, and coastal habitats. Not sure if I can update from the field but if it doesn’t get in the way of my attempts to maintain a Zen-Jedi birding thing, you might see a post or two on Facebook, most definitely if we see a Solitary Eagle. Hope to see you out there with the birds! If I have any cold, left over pizza, I just might share a slice.