- Bird

Workforce Sapsucker Finds 279 Species in Chile and California for Large Day 2023

Two people birdwatching at dawn on a dirt road in an open gently hilled landscape.
Morning birding in central California with Workforce Sapsucker members Brian Sullivan and Brooke Keeney. Photograph by Lizzy Chouinard.

​For Large Day 2023, Workforce Sapsucker cut up into two teams and headed to far-flung elements of the Pacific Flyway: Monterey County, California, and central Chile. Collectively the groups discovered an astounding 279 species. The group selected these two websites to spotlight the significance of the Pacific Flyway in supporting migratory birds and linking the pure historical past of North and South America.

The ultimate record encompasses an amazing showcase of avian range: warblers, orioles, and grosbeaks; tapaculos, rayaditos, and cinclodes; even albatrosses and penguins. The Lab is grateful to the various donors who supported Large Day, our greatest conservation fundraiser of the yr; and to LOWA Boots for sponsoring Workforce Sapsucker.

In Chile, A Patchwork of Wetland Preserves Pays Off

Workforce Sapsucker-Chile had their work minimize out for them. It’s effectively into autumn, days are quick, and a lot of the migrants have already left—removed from an optimum Large Day time of yr. Luckily, two group members have been Chilean birders with in depth data: Sharon Montecino of the Chilean nonprofit Pink de Observadores de Vida y Silvestre de Chile (ROC), and Vicente Pantoja, a ROC volunteer and eBird coordinator for Chile. Rounding out the group have been Cornell Lab workers members Cullen Hanks, Jenna Curtis, and Tom Auer.

The group began at sunup, birding Laguna Batuco, an essential remnant wetland within the extremely developed Santiago space. Their first fowl was an entertaining Chimango Caracara. They went on to search out 51 extra species at this cease, together with the just about invisible Least Seedsnipe in addition to Andean Goose, for which the laguna is a winter stronghold.

Laguna Batuco is a remnant of a once-extensive wetland system that has slowly been encompassed by metropolitan Santiago, the Chilean capital, Hanks stated. It’s now one of many final remaining refuges for migrating and wintering birds in inland central Chile—and a spotlight of ROC’s conservation work.

In late morning the Chile group looped by way of dry foothills on their manner west, choosing up Chilean Tinamou, Chilean Pigeon, Chilean Flicker, and the charming Moustached Turca.

Then it was westward to discover the coast. They reached the Maipo River estuary, a crown jewel of Chile’s coastal wetlands, simply as low tide uncovered a collection of mudflats that drew in foraging shorebirds. The group crested 100 species with birds like Rufous-chested Dotterel and Silver Teal. Additionally they added lingering long-distance migrants like Hudsonian Godwit and Whimbrel which are on their method to the Arctic.

By late afternoon they’d arrange scopes on the fringe of the Pacific, scanning chilly ocean waters for seabirds together with Black-browed Albatross, Peruvian Diving-Petrel, and Humboldt Penguin. With 121 species on their record, they knew they have been only one fowl away from the Could Large Day document for Chile. After which simply round sundown, as they have been negotiating site visitors a Band-winged Nightjar flew up in entrance of the automotive: #122, tying the document. (In fact, information are supposed to be damaged. That very same day, a group close to the Peruvian border, a thousand miles to the north, scored 134 species to set a brand new document.) At a port close to Valparaiso the group labored into the nighttime scanning flocks of Kelp Gulls for a brand new fowl, however ended the day at 122.

In California, Owls within the Morning, Hawks within the Night

Six thousand miles to the north, on the stroke of midnight, Workforce Sapsucker-California kicked issues off with a uncommon Noticed Owl. They went on to have a stellar owling session, including Nice Horned, Northern Pygmy, Northern Noticed-whet, Barn, Western Screech, and Burrowing Owls.

In a stroke of synchronicity, the group in Chile recorded their very own Burrowing Owl at Laguna Batuco at about the identical time. In all, the 2 groups discovered 18 species in widespread, together with resident birds like American Kestrel and Snowy Egret, in addition to long-distance migrants like Higher Yellowlegs, Black-bellied Plover, and Whimbrel.

By dawn the group—Brian Sullivan, Lizzy Chouinard, Brooke Keeney, and Whitney Mortimer—have been within the drier countryside southeast of the city of King Metropolis, the place they discovered species like Widespread Poorwill, Blue Grosbeak, Yellow-billed Magpie, Cassin’s Kingbird, Lewis’s Woodpecker, and Ash-throated Flycatcher (their one centesimal species of the day). By midafternoon that they had pushed again west to the Pacific to search for seabirds and shorebirds. At this level group chief Brian Sullivan thought 200 species could be attainable, however unhealthy luck was ready for them at Level Pinos, a famously good seawatching spot and a clutch level on their route.

After they arrived, thick summertime fog had enveloped the headland, knocking visibility right down to about 200 yards. It meant lacking species like Pink-footed and Sooty Shearwaters and Black-footed Albatross, and the group even needed to do with out Widespread Murre, Wandering Tattler, and Surfbird. They did decide up Pacific and Widespread Loons, Black Oystercatcher, and even a lingering rarity, Pink-footed Booby, perched on a yacht in Monterey Harbor.

On the plus aspect, the Californian Sapsuckers (not like the Chile group) have been on the receiving finish of migration. They discovered 8 species of warblers, 2 orioles, 2 grosbeaks, a few Olive-sided Flycatchers, and 13 species of shorebirds—together with a flock of 20 Whimbrels that will effectively have been in Chile final month.

One of many day’s peak moments arrived (as they typically do in birding) on the municipal dump, the place Chouinard and Sullivan noticed a pair of Swainson’s Hawks in a courtship flight. (Swainson’s Hawks are uncommon in Monterey County and nests are even rarer.) Many Swainson’s Hawks spend their winters within the Pampas of Argentina—one other tangible reminder of the connectedness of South and North America. The California group completed with an astonishing 174 species for the day.

The underside of a hawk flying overhead.
Swainson’s Hawk by Marky Mutchler/Macaulay Library.

The Secret to A Large Large Day: Habitat

As Workforce Sapsucker prepped for his or her Large Day in Chile, they constructed their route round a key energy: the in depth patchwork of small wetlands and guarded areas that ROC has helped create lately. By tuning in to habitat range, they made the a lot of the restricted fowl range available at this season. 

To achieve 120 species in autumn in central Chile, the standard knowledge holds that you just’d want to begin up within the Andes, Hanks stated—however then you definitely’d want to search out time to drive a few hours again right down to the lowlands. Workforce Sapsucker didn’t wish to danger operating out of daylight on the coast, in order that they opted for a distinct technique. 

“We didn’t get something completely spectacular [in terms of rarity]… we simply nailed all of the widespread, anticipated birds we would have liked,” Curtis stated. Realizing which habitats to hit helped all of it come collectively, because of the ROC teammates—Montecino labored extensively at Rio Maipo as a Coastal Options Fellow, and Pantoja is the coordinator of eBird for Chile.

“One factor we noticed scouting is that every of those [superficially similar] habitats had completely different birds,” Hanks stated. For instance, Rio Maipo was a cornerstone of the route that delivered 50 species, together with Coscoroba Swan. However to trace down a Black-necked Swan they needed to loop in a tiny wetland a number of miles to the north, in Cartagena—they have been nowhere else to be discovered. 

When planning a Large Day “you study a lot about the place birds are and the place they aren’t,” Hanks stated. “In case your purpose is to see as many birds as you possibly can, it actually forces you to consider habitat, and the way essential each little pocket of wetland is.” 

It actually highlights the work ROC is doing to protect so many websites within the area, Curtis added. And by extension, it’s a nod of recognition for all of the individuals and organizations working to protect inexperienced area in cities and counties, up and down flyways and throughout continents. Each is a haven, a stopover web site, a year-round house for a novel set of birds.

See extra particulars of the day on the Sapsuckers’ eBird journey report. (Observe that Noticed Owl doesn’t seem on the journey report whole—as a safeguard for this and different delicate species, detailed data is suppressed from public eBird output.) Congratulations to the group, and thanks once more to everybody who supported them!

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