Some time this week a team from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology will attempt to beat the world record that they set last year of seeing the most North American bird species in a day. Last year they set a record of 264 species in Texas and that’s where they are based now.
It’s not really putting it in any sort of context but I saw 283 species of birds in six weeks in the USA last spring crossing the continent from Atlantic to the Pacific – so I clearly didn’t have my eyes or ears open.
I met two of the team, Chris Wood and Jessie Barry when I visited Cornell in late May last year and was very pleased to see them both again at the Bird Fair last August. I wish them and their team-mates well. And if you’d like to contribute to their fund-raising you can do so here.
I should think that there are many years when I have seen fewer than 264 species of birds but I’ve never been to Texas in April (or any other month) and so I’ve clearly not had the right opportunities. One of the things that was brought home to me in the USA was the reliance I put on my ears to ‘spot’ birds. About 40% of the birds I identify on my local patch of Stanwick Lakes are first recognised by sound and in the USA I felt severely handicapped by not knowing more than a handful of songs. Maybe I should have spent lots of time listening to tapes before I set off – although I’m really not sure whether that would have worked.
I must admit that I’ve never been on a bird race and I quite fancy the idea although I am possibly more attracted these days to something called a bioblitz – have you heard of them? Bioblitzes are 24-hour events in a location such as a park or nature reserve where expert scientists and members of the public like you and me get together and try to find and identify as many species of plant and animal as possible. They are a mixture of fun and useful recording.
I’ve often wondered how many species of animal could be found in my garden through the whole year – maybe 30+ bird species and half a dozen butterflies (at least) and one bee-fly to start with but how many earthworms are under the lawn? and how many flies and spiders are there? I wonder.