Global Big Day at Macaw Lodge – May 9, 2020

Marco Umaña, Santiago Adaniz, Hugo Santa Cruz and Beto Guido (from left to right) / Birding Guides in Costa Rica

My name is Hugo Santa Cruz and I’m excited to write about the Macaw Lodge Global Big Day outcomes. As I’m new to the La Paz Group site, let me introduce myself. I’m a birdwatching and neotropical ecology guide in the Central Pacific of Costa Rica and Bolivia. I’m also a nature photographer and consultant for ecotourism projects and management of protected areas. 

The Global Big Day is an initiative of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology that has been held since 2015, to raise awareness about the conservation of birds and their habitats. Birdwatchers and photographers from around the world contribute to the census of birds through the eBird platform; an increasingly popular citizen science management tool among birders.

Birders across the globe persisted with the Global Big Day despite the crisis caused by COVID-19, surveying birds either in literal “backyard birding“, or carefully enjoying the fresh air of parks and natural areas within access.  This year’s event had record-breaking participation with more than 48,500 registrars and more than 15,000 submitted lists.

In this edition of the Global Big Day, Costa Rica registered 676 species, obtaining the seventh place worldwide among 172 participating countries.  The Macaw Lodge Private Forest Reserve stood out among the best hotspots in the country, achieving the eighth place with 137 species of birds registered in a single day, inside our Ecological Sanctuary.

Our team of expert guides and birdwatchers began our Big Day census at 00:00 hrs., starting the first records with species of nocturnal birds. We then continued the count at dawn, moving through the different micro-ecosystems of Macaw Lodge. Continue reading

Spoonbills Dream Team @ Macaw Lodge, Global Big Day 2020

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Macaw Lodge dining room observation deck, January 29, 2020

Three years ago today, a few countries north of where I type this, Team Sapsucker had excellent results on Global Big Day 2017. Today I am reporting on the efforts of one part of the Spoonbills Dream Team.

MacawChocThis team’s dream is spread across multiple geographies and results will be shared later. I will share what I know from Costa Rica. A few months ago, in a world that now seems far, far away Amie and I visited the farm where the cacao is grown for the farm-to-bar chocolate we offer in our shops. The farm has a lodge (or vice versa depending on your perspective), and before our visit to the cacao plantation and chocolate-making facilities we started, at dawn, on the deck of the lodge. That is what you see in the photo above. The lodge is closed at present but the deck that you see in that photo normally has birders from all over the world because of the forest conservation surrounding the cacao and the neighboring Carara National Park.

CacaoMore on the cacao-growing and the chocolate-making later. Plus, this is where I first saw a melipona bee hotel and I have photos and video from the recent harvest, so more on that later also. For now, birds. Seth, in New Haven, CT USA joined this team, then asked Amie to join the team, and she asked some birding guides who work at the lodge in the cacao plantation to join the team. I am the scribe for that Costa Rica part of the team. I do not even know who else is on the team in other countries, so will leave that for Seth or Amie to report later.

For now, some photos from the location where the bird experts have spent much of their time in recent years. Continue reading

Big Day 2018 at Costa Rica’s Carara National Park, And Nearby At Los Suenos Marriott

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The first lucky bird of the day, a Yellow-crowned Night-Heron at Marriott, which I hadn’t seen yet on property

Almost four years ago, James and I took a day trip to Carara National Park, on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica where the tropical dry forest meets the moist rain forest in a transition zone that provides a great mix of habitats for all sorts of birds and other wildlife. On eBird, Carara’s Hotspot has over four hundred species, which made it a natural place for me to spend part of my Global Big Day this year, since I was already documenting the avian life on the property of the Los Suenos Marriott in Herradura, just half an hour south along the coast. These photos are from my May 5th efforts!

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The Turquoise-browed Motmot is a regular at Marriott and one of my favorite “common” birds in the country

I started the morning at 5:30am, heading out onto the perimeters of the forests surrounding Los Suenos Marriott and its golf course. Continue reading

Strengthening Our Birding With Citizen Science

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Team Belize finished with 242 species. From left: Roni Martinez, Andrew Farnsworth, Steve Kelling, Brian Sullivan.

Seth, since his time working for the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, and even after his time in Ithaca, has helped me to see how important the Lab’s work is to what our company has been doing since he was an infant. Citizen science is an essential component, and at Chan Chich Lodge guests have responded to the passion the guides have for eBird, which is why we put so much attention into this year’s Global Big Day. And it is why we are already planning the next collaboration with the Lab, a collaboration Seth will lead on our side. For now, a final roundup of stories from last weekend, starting with our favorite team:

…After pooling their lists, the teams ended the day with a whopping 327 species combined—reflecting not just great birding but the region’s importance to an immense diversity of birds. Team Belize topped the friendly group competition with 242 species (including 40 species the other teams didn’t find); Team Mexico found 224 species (with 43 unique to their list); and Team Guatemala tallied 213 (with 23 unique)…

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Flame Robin by John Cantwell/Macaulay Library, taken on Global Big Day

Also, the final numbers are in and news published late yesterday confirmed what I suspected as day was breaking in Belize, titled Global Big Day 2017: birding’s biggest day ever:

…On 13 May 2017, almost 20,000 birders from 150 countries around the world joined together as a global team, contributing more than 50,000 checklists containing 6,564 species—more than 60% of the world’s birds. This is a new record for the number of bird species reported in a single day, Continue reading

The Bells & Whistles Of The Forest At Daybreak

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We post a few times a day, sharing information about initiatives in our own realm of work and frequently observations on news links that we find interesting. For the record, here is a bit of news worth celebrating. As I type this at 5:30a.m. Belize time, the Global Big Day page on eBird shows the latest tally of the species count as seen above. At the same time, on the eBird Facebook page I am looking now at the last post, dated May 15 midday, that says:

The #GlobalBigDay total is now 6,255, less than 100 away from a new record for a single day of birding!

Looks to me like a new record has been set. Where are all the bells and whistles? They are outside my door right now, where the wildlife is whirring, cling-clanging, whooping and shrieking as the forest lights up…

Sticking To Mission & Unintended Consequences

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In recent months, as we prepared to host Team Sapsucker Belize at Chan Chich Lodge, our goals were focused on the citizen science mission. Using a couple simple metrics, the event was a clear success, comparing the number of species counted in Belize this year versus last year, and especially looking at the number of checklists submitted.

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If you look at this as the third iteration of an event that we hope to grow in future years, the progress from beginning to present is promising. As I type this there are still more than 40 hours of data entry remaining for this year’s event, so the increase in this year’s participation and species identification will likely grow larger by this time Wednesday.

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Introducing The Team Prepping For Global Big Day At Chan Chich Lodge

GBD1On day two in Belize with Team Sapsucker introductions are due. The photo to the left, taken at about 5am today in front of Chan Chich Lodge’s reception area, shows two of them. The best information I could find to share with you about Andrew Farnsworth is on Songbird SOS Productions, where he says:

“I like the challenge of trying to figure out how to go birding when there’s a traffic jam on first avenue. It’s cool to be able to study birds in a city… Some people have seen technology as the end of all things natural, but there’s a whole other side to it that gives us access to a world that we would otherwise not have seen.” Continue reading

Counting Down To Global Big Day

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A world of birders has already marked out where they’ll be on 13 May. Where’s your place? Add it today!

Thanks to eBird for the one week marker until Global Big Day, which we look forward to supporting at Chan Chich Lodge. Click the map to the left to mark your territory, so to speak. This countdown notice uses one species to illustrate a conceptual premise of the annual event, and we are happy to report that this species is frequently seen at Chan Chich Lodge on birding walks, and excursions to Gallon Jug Farm, where the barns are accommodating:

The familiar Barn Swallow (right) has been recorded in eBird from 222 countries. You can hope to spot a Barn Swallow almost anywhere on the planet, from Alaska to Argentina, Siberia to Australia, Iceland to South Africa. Barn Swallows criss-cross the equator and traverse the Eastern and Western Hemispheres. Their movements not only span an entire planet of birds, but connect a worldwide community of birders.

In the same way, Global Big Day and eBird connect all of your local birds with the rest of the world, making a real difference in the collective understanding of birds worldwide. On 13 May, every bird that you report contributes to the global team total for an unprecedented snapshot of our planet’s bird diversity. Every bird counts.

To join the Global Big Day team from more than 150 countries, all you have to do is go birding on 13 May!  Continue reading

Team Sapsucker, Looking Forward To Global Big Day In The Yucatan Peninsula

We are looking forward to Andy’s arrival in Belize, with his team mates from the Lab and others from Belize. When I say “we” I am referring to the entire staff and community at Chan Chich Lodge.

As Global Big Day draws closer, it is time to introduce Andrew Farnsworth, Captain of Team Belize. We love the idea of the healthy competition among the 3 teams that will spend their Big Day birding the Yucatán –  and the Chan Chich guiding team especially looks forward to assisting the Lab team. Continue reading

Global Big Day 2017, Belize

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You have plenty of options of where to spend the day, but we are hoping to share the entire week leading up to May 13 with lots of old friends of Chan Chich Lodge–not only dedicated birders, but especially them. And not only old friends–we welcome the opportunity to introduce new folks to birding. So think about joining us that week in particular.

In our work around the world in recent years we have tried to support the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s mission, focused through ebird in this worthy call to action, in as many ways as possible. If you do not know about the Lab, start with what they say about themselves and if it strikes you as relevant click on the banner above to make a pledge on one key initiative:

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology is a world leader in the study, appreciation, and conservation of birds. Our hallmarks are scientific excellence and technological innovation to advance the understanding of nature and to engage people of all ages in learning about birds and protecting the planet. Continue reading

Come See, Enjoy, & Count With Us!

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We had the good fortune some weeks ago to host one of Europe’s finest birder-guide-photographers at Chan Chich Lodge. His bird photos are wow quality (see below for an example) but my favorite of all his photos is the one above of an ocelot. We are gearing up for Global Big Day at Chan Chich Lodge. Our primary goal is simple. Follow the leader, and lead by example. Our secondary goal is kind of competitive, related to the program’s own details:

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For the past two years, the second Saturday in May has been the biggest day of the year for birds: Global Big Day. More than 6,000 species of bird. Tens of thousands of people. 153 countries. Immeasurable fun. Continue reading

Global Big Day 2017, Neotropical Focus

Neotropical BirdingNeotropical Birding’s magazine feature on Global Big Day 2017, which we are looking forward to at Chan Chich Lodge, provides a good primer on the what, how and why of this event; we hope to convince you on the where:

Walking the thin line between madness and brilliance, ‘big days’ (also known as ‘bird races’) are the essence of birding’s competitive spirit distilled into 24 intense, frantic and thrilling hours. Months of planning, poring over spreadsheets and pen-marked maps; days spent scouting out the perfect stops, driving practice routes while ingesting egregious amounts of caffeine; and years of birding experience used to find  the right habitat for each target species, the game is to see or hear as many bird species as possible in a single, incredibly efficient, BIG day.

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Why do this? Why care? These friendly competitions are an incredibly powerful way to engage people around the world, both within the birding community and beyond. Across fields of study and walks of life, there is always an innate human interest in setting records or being a part of something that has never happened before. In addition to the inherent fun, record-setting events provide an outlet to talk to non-birders about conservation issues, ecological concerns, and all the things that make birds so interesting. Continue reading

Preparing For Global Big Day On May 13, 2017

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Global Big Day map painted by Luke Seitz, a Bartels Science Illustration intern and member of the Redheads student birding team.

We have about two months to prepare, and this third year of Global Big Day could be epic. When we started participating in this annual event in 2015 our work still mostly focused on the Western Ghats region of southwest India, but we were migrating back to the Mesoamerica region so our attention has been shifting. Now we are all in at Chan Chich Lodge and we want to help ensure that this year Belize is as strong a contributor as possible to the goals of this program:

In our ongoing effort to push the boundaries of a Big Day, we’re inviting everybody around the world to join together and participate in our Global Big Day to support global conservation.

How to Participate

Submit Your Data to eBird on May 13

It’s that simple. If you submit your birds to eBird they count. Learn how to take part. Don’t worry — you don’t need to be a bird expert, or to go out all day long. Even a half hour checklist from your backyard will help. Of course, you are welcome to spend the entire day in the field, but know that it is not required! Please enter your data as soon as you can, preferably by Tuesday, May 16. Continue reading

Xandari’s 2016 Big Day

A male Red-legged Honeycreeper, the highlight of my 2016 big day

Last year, we shared some details about the Global Big Day, an event that I participated in very casually from Chicago back then, and contributed to more seriously this year, as did the rest of the global birding community, as the data from eBird published today shows. In 2015, 6,158 species were reported on 38,923 complete checklists from 14,787 participants across 140 countries. This year, 6,263 species were reported on 43,848 checklists from 15,953 participants across 145 countries. Every point of comparison displays an increase in participation and effort this time around!

Continue reading