Grab your binoculars and field guide May 8 for a morning spent tallying towhees and counting cardinals as a participant in the annual Global Big Day bird count. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the Arizona Field Ornithologists coordinate the event.
If you are a skilled birder confident that you can ID resident birds along with recently-returned warblers and other tropical migrants — solo birder and teams are needed to cover the Sierra Anchas, Roosevelt Lake, Timber Camp and Jones Water — or your own favorite area. To join the count, email Gila County coordinator Brian Ison at email@example.com.
What birds can be found in our area? Check out the Cornell Lab’s crowd-sourced database of sightings at ebird.org, where you can explore hot spots such as Ferndell Spring, Roosevelt Lake, Green Valley Park, Tonto Creek Fish Hatchery — and dozens more in Gila County, and read recent checklists. For example, on April 22 Camden Bruner reported a band-tailed pigeon, yellow-eyed junco and black-throated gray warbler among more than a dozen birds at Ferndell Spring in the Pinals. Two days later Jon Mann posted a checklist from Green Valley Park, reporting American wigeon, northern rough-winged swallow, Brewer’s blackbird, common yellowthroat and neotropic cormorant among some 28 species seen and heard there that day.
Formerly known as the North American Migration Count, the springtime tally was renamed and rebranded as the Global Big Day in 2016. The goal is to create annual data-driven snapshots of the progress and “shape” of spring bird migration, as reported by volunteer citizen scientists. The count gathers information on the abundance and distribution of bird species, and motivates individuals and teams to check out locations that are not regularly studied.
Each county has its own tally; Gila County being rural means abundant opportunity to volunteer and contribute to the count. “Feeder watch” counts are acceptable, too, particularly if you can photograph singular rarities — such as the Rivoli’s hummingbird known to patrol the nectar feeders outside cabins atop the Pinals, or other species of interest.
Documentation is important, according to the Arizona Field Ornithologists: “it is important to document, in detail, unusual birds that are seen during the count. Unusual birds are those that are not normally found in the count area, i.e. vagrants, out-of-season or irruptive species, high counts, etc. These will be reviewed by eBird’s county reviewers.”
Read more at the Arizona Field Ornithologists’ website azfo.org.