Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Global Big Day Birding Expedition

Global Big Day

Birders uniting around the world

You probably know by now if you’ve read this blog very often that we’re big birdnerds! This year we thought it would be fun to participate in the Global Big Day, sponsored by The Cornell Lab. They describe the Global Big Day as “a single day, uniting birdwatchers worldwide across political boundaries and language barriers, all brought together by our shared passion for birds.”

It sounded like it would be right up our alley. After a week of very warm temperatures, the Big Day morning brought low clouds and chilly temperatures to Portland, but it was great weather for birding!

Global Big Day

Intrepid birders ready to roll!

We headed out to a trailhead at Portland’s Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge. Oaks Bottom is a floodplain along the east bank of the Willamette River, and for many years it was used as a landfill site for construction debris, destroying important bird habitat. In the late 1960s, the city of Portland acquired the land, but they continued to use it as a landfill, this time for debris from the I-405 construction project. They planned to further develop the area, but there was strong outcry from the Audubon Society, the Nature Conservancy, and other groups. So in the late 1980s, the city finally designated it as a wildlife refuge and restoration began.

The park has a paved trail through much of it, meeting up along the river with the Springwater Trail, and has several side paths that are gravel-covered. We took the main paved path with one short detour around Tadpole Pond (where we saw a gorgeous Wilson’s Warbler and a deer but no tadpoles) and then walked along the Springwater Trail to The Pond. The Pond is a very large pond, and in it we saw 18 Great Blue Herons (Portland’s city bird, in case you’re wondering)! There is a rookery nearby on East Island, so we figure they must come from the rookery to the refuge to spend their day.  It was crazy to see so many Great Blues at once! Usually they’re pretty solitary. We were also lucky enough to see a Bald Eagle come in over the pond, dive down to catch a fish, and spend some time eating. As we walked back past the South Wetland, we saw a male and a female Wood Duck and their nine little ducklings. If you have never seen a Wood Duck, they’re pretty amazing.  They almost look fake, they’re so fancy!

Global Big day stats as of Sunday 5/15

Global Big day stats as of Sunday 5/15

We looked up any unfamiliar birds using our favorite birding app iBird Pro and recorded all our sightings using the eBird app from Cornell. People around the world were doing the same thing all day on May 14, and when each person or group finished their count, they submitted the eBird report. 11,000 people around the world (probably more because we were counted as only one person, for instance) have submitted 32,426 lists so far and accounted for sightings of over 51% of all bird species in the world (126 countries reporting so far). 

We saw 18 species in just under two hours, but some folks birded for hours and hours (one Tweet I saw said they had been birding for nearly 24 hours on the Big Day), and many groups I saw had 75-100 species for the day. That’s pretty remarkable, and it was exciting to be part of a global group that’s helping scientists gather information about which birds are where. Yes, it’s true, we’re total birdnerds, but as we’ve said before, birding is a fun and budget-friendly hobby, and we highly recommend it.

If you want more information about birding or if you participated in the Global Big Day, let us know in the comments. Enjoy your next nature (or birding!) adventure, whether it’s for a week or a weekend.


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