Journal archives for May 2019

06 May, 2019

My Global Big Day 2019

For those who are big birders, knew that yesterday (May 4th) was Global Big Day, a worldwide event where birders try to find as many species of birds in one day. Out of the several years this event has been done, the record was last year with over 7,000 out of the 10,438 species of birds were spotted.

Now, enough talk about what Global Big Day, I'm writing about how my Global Big Day went. I went birding across multiple regions in Union County, Oregon, a great place for all species. In the month of May, I have good chances of seeing over 172 species. I knew from the beginning I wasn't going to get close to seeing that many, but I wanted to see at least a hundred, just like in 2018 when I went across Walla Walla and Columbia counties. So with me, my father and my brother as a group, we explored the county's secrets with a dozen other birders.

We started out at six thirty in the morning and drive along the backroads from Union to Hot Lake, Oregon. In a course of an hour, we saw over 43 species, highlights being Wilson's Snipes winnowing, a feeding Golden Eagle and dozens of Common Yellowthroats singing. These two roads proved to me once again that birding is best in the morning, especially when I explain later on.

Next stop was Ladd Marsh WMA, a place where birds are cooperative and a great place to see all marshland type birds. Spending a considerable amount of time there, we were able to add 14 more species to our list. I especially enjoyed all the calling Sora, my first ever close experience with them. Though I never did got my photo, I got beautiful audios of their keweee calls. I also had one run nearly by my feet! Other highlights include rails, Marsh Wrens and swallows. We even got harassed by a pair of Red-tailed Hawks and Northern Harriers because we got too close to their nests. Finding the harrier nest was a first.

After Ladd Marsh, we started our way to La Grande and heading up into the hills. On the way there in a flooded cattle field was a Greater Yellowlegs, my first sandpiper of the year (excluding the snipe). We climbed up to one of the hidden gems in La Grande, Oregon. A pair of watering holes named Morgan and Twin Lake. Recreation was in high demand at the larger, more accessible Morgan Lake, so we decided to hike the quarter mile to the lily pad covered Twin Lake. We were the only people there besides a pair of canoes. The lake's pristine habitat allowed us to see a hummingbird, nutcrackers and various diving ducks. A Spotted Sandpiper was also spotted along with several MacGillivray's Warblers.

Our next birding area was up along Spring Creek in the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest. The place has been famously known for over forty years now as the place with the highest concertation of Great Gray Owls in the world, about 2 pairs per square mile! However, because the species is extremely sensitive to human interaction, so we are looking one of over 11 nesting platforms in over 5,000 acres of possible habitat. I'm not sure about you but it sounds like finding a needle in the world's largest haystack. Needless to say, we didn't find any owls after three long hours and eighteen miles of driving and hiking. On the bright side, we saw jays and crossbills. Chipping Sparrows were also in full force. We even saw a meadowlark and a pair of Barn Swallows, the last place I thought I'd ever see them!

The next couple mountain roads were kind of a letdown. We crossed the interstate and worked our work to Mount Emily in the east. We saw our first Mountain Bluebirds and juncos but nothing more. We worked our way back into the valley and we took several ranch roads heading to Elgin. However, it was nearly five in the afternoon now and we hadn't seen much in the past two hours.

Our last and final stop was at the Cove Sewage Treatment Plant. There we saw many goslings, a bufflehead and a Ruddy Duck. A female Great Horned Owl on a nest also greeted us. As much as I thought my day was over, I still saw something new. I was heading back into La Grande to finish off the day with a movie when a pair of Vaux's Swifts chirped and flew over my head. Over the course of the day, we saw 87 species and some of those birds I will never forget. I may have come short of my goal by thirteen (man, unlucky for me) but it was still a great day. I am not patiently waiting for October Big Day this fall.

Posted on 06 May, 2019 04:01 by birdwhisperer birdwhisperer | 0 comments | Leave a comment