The Big Day is happening soon. We’ll dress for the occasion, strive for a Zen birding mindset, and brew an ample supply of coffee. On a deeper level, some of us have already been studying up on nocturnal flight calls, pondering over the brief modulated calls of Wood Thrushes and the slightly clearer and upward inflected whispers of Scarlet Tanagers.
You know, just in case they happen to call in the pre-dawn while we’re cupping our ears to the night sky because on Saturday, the detection of each and every bird is coveted, warranted, and necessary. Soon, more than any other day, every bird identification will count and the quicker you “get” them the sooner you “got” them.
No, October 14th isn’t some anniversary or other noted event. Well, at least not for the non-birding world. It’s something much more monumental. On Saturday, we collectively mark and celebrate eBird’s 2023 October Big Day and check it out, up here in Costa Rica, we are ready to rock the birding house.
This is some of what birders in Costa Rica have been up to.
Local Birding Teams
In Guanacaste, Team Northwest will be scouring windswept fields, and checking rice fields for Spotted Rails and Paint-billed Crakes. They’ll be birding forests in Rincon de al Vieja and other sites, finding rare migrants, and checking off the dry forest birds.
Chambita and others will be counting birds in the Cano Negro area, and other teams yet to be announced are surely getting ready to show what they can find.
If past Big Days are any indication, the owner and guides of birding lodge Hotel Quelitales will do their best to show how incredibly diverse their corner of Costa Rica is.
The many women birders that make up the Jacanas Team will also be birding in various parts of the country, and hundreds of other local birders will participate too.
This local team will also be in the field. Comprised of moi and my partner Marilen Palacios, all I can say is that we will be counting birds somewhere in Costa Rica. This is one of the few October Big Days when I won’t be working and I plan on taking full advantage of it! We have a rough plan but we’ll see how it goes, see what we find. It’s gonna be good, it always is when you let yourself get carried away with the birding flow in Costa Rica.
eBird Sightings and Whatsapp Groups
In preparation for October 14th, we have been checking the local sightings, seeing who should target which species. However, even more so, local birders are in constant touch with Whatsapp groups. This instant access to bird gen is light years ahead of how it used to be!
I mean, even if I can’t go chase a Black-throated Blue Warbler or Chipping Sparrow (I know but this is Costa Rica), at least I know where they were found.
Due to lack of high coverage and misidentifications, eBird in Costa Rica isn’t perfect but it can still provide some good ideas for your Big Day plan. I know I’ve been checking it out and making plans!
Food and Drink Shopping
Yes, this is part of the Big Day birding equation, a very important part of it. October Big Day isn’t just about seeing birds, about focusing on birds and listening for the quiet sputter of a high-flying Upland Sandpiper. This day is also a celebration, a time to mark the collective enjoyment of bird observation.
Yeah, that’s what it is but not quite either. The deal is more like “bird merging”, feathered nature connection, or maybe exploring the sacred link between us, each other, and the marvelous beauty of life and ecosystems on Earth.
A day like this merits more than a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Make or get your favorite food! When you check out the chocolate aisle, do yourself a favor and get the good stuff. Buy appropriate beverages to accompany this day of focused birding, get enough of everything you like to keep you in the field, to maintain your focus on the birds.
Don’t forget to buy celebratory drinks too, or at least schedule a visit to the best spot to end your October Big Day.
As in studying. Yeah, it all depends on how you want to watch birds but I believe that the more you prepare yourself for birding, the better it will be. Whether you just check out some pictures of raptors in flight or attempt to tune the senses to nocturnal flight calls, studying birds will help you celebrate October Big Day.
And, if your Big Day goal is going above and beyond with bird identification, you better do some last-minute studying. Recheck those jaeger field marks (as subtle and confusing as they may be), think about odd possibilities like Common Ringed Plover, and look into little known flight calls. Keep it in mind, you just might need that extra bit of neural stuff!
Yes, October 14th is almost here and yet, with horrible and heart-wrenching situations happening in so many places, it’s easy to wonder how we can possibly celebrate anything?
Especially when the worst of situations affect people we know and care about along with so many others whom we would love to know. Bird celebration suddenly seems trivial. However, birding can still act as a mental refuge, and what better way to focus on peace and communion that birding together in so many places, all at the same time.
As I listen for Gray-cheeked Thrushes in the night sky (just one will work!), call for quetzals on Poas, and scan rainforest canopy for cotingas, I’ll be thinking about all the birders who won’t be able enjoy birds as much on October 14th. I’ll be thinking of birding friends, acquaintances, and their families, and striving for calmer, better days when we can meet again and enjoy birds together.
Take care, watch birds on October 14th, and make to treat yourself to the good chocolate.