eBird Team sets birding record for Alabama

By Ken Hare

Larry and eBird team leader Chris Wood plan a birding strategy in Washington County. (Photo Ken Hare)

On Global Big Day (May 4), the Cornell Lab of Ornithology dispatched teams of staff members to bird in three counties along the Gulf of Mexico — one in Florida, one in Texas, and one in Mobile County, Alabama.

The Cornell Lab’s Team Sapsucker finished 24 hours of Big Day birding with a cumulative list of 242 species in the three states, exceeding its goal of 225 species.

Team Alabama consisted of four outstanding birders, led by Chris Wood. He was joined by Andrew Spencer, Kathi Borgmann, and Tayler Brooks. The team did an outstanding job on the Saturday Global Big Day, and I’ll write more about it below. But first I want to write about another birding field trip three of the four members of Team Alabama took while in the state — in rural Washington County, just north of Mobile County.

On the Tuesday prior to Saturday’s Global Big Day, three members of Team Alabama (Chris, Kathi and Andrew) joined with me and six other members of the Alabama Ornithological Society for a morning of birding in Washington County. The other Alabama birders were Larry Gardella, Sue Moske, Barry Fleming, Judy and Don Self, and Frank Farrell.

The joint birding effort was in recognition of the Alabama Ornithological Society’s 20-month effort to increase eBird records in 16 rural Alabama counties that were dramatically under-reported on eBird. Washington County is one of the original 16 counties targeted by the AOS/eBird Project, which managed to raise the number of species in each county to more than 150 and the number of complete eBird checklists to a minimum of 150 in each county.

The effort actually got under way the evening before when four of the AOS members heard a Barn Owl over a field near a marsh in northeast Washington County.

The Team Alabama members from eBird met the AOS birders at 6:30 a.m. Tuesday, and the team split into three groups to cover more of the county. By the end of the morning, the group had raised the number of species reported on eBird from Washington County from 158 to 165, adding the Barn Owl, a Philadelphia Vireo, Black-bellied Whistling Ducks, Swainson’s Warblers, an Ovenbird, a Northern Waterthrush and a Solitary Sandpiper.

The group got together at Jake’s in Chatom for lunch after the birding to share notes, get better acquainted and to enjoy down-home cooking, the highlight of which was breaded fried potatoes.

It was awesome to get to bird with these members of Team Alabama, each of whom was an outstanding birder. So I was not surprised when they had a record day the following Saturday for Global Big Day in Mobile County.

Team Alabama recorded a whopping 191 species in Mobile County on Global Big Day. See the full report at: www.allaboutbirds.org/bigday2019/

The first bird of the 24-hour span was an Eastern Screech-Owl at 2:22 a.m.; the last for the combined list was a Green-winged Teal at 4:56 p.m.  AOS member Larry Gardella said the 191 species recorded on Global Big Day by Team Alabama set a record for the state for birds seen in one county in one day, and is the second highest one-day total ever recorded in the state.

“The team was lucky to have such a good fallout on Dauphin Island in the afternoon, but mainly they did a great and incredibly efficient job finding the birds in Mobile County,” Gardella said. “I am very glad to have been able to meet three members of the team and bird with them in Washington County just north of Mobile a few days before the count.”

So congratulations to Team Alabama, and thank you for allowing AOS members to be part of your visit to our state.