Thirty teams went out this year on May 21 for the 58th Onondaga Audubon big day event. Formerly known as Big Run, Birdathon takes place on the third Saturday in May. This year, that fell on the latest possible May date, and correspondingly, fairly late into the migration season. Weather conditions in the region were generally cool, windy and overcast. Sixty-three birders on the thirty teams found 190 species in all, which was well below the average from recent years, but not unexpected for the date. The late date makes shorebirds relatively easier to find but ducks and warblers scarcer. Interestingly, this effect does not show up in the numbers when the results of all teams are averaged, but it does when only the competitive teams are considered. In the competitive group, the size of the difference in each category is about 3 species between the early date last year and the late date this year.
With Jefferson and Lewis Counties fully in play, the Jeffersonlian Divers put together a strong team, and led the scoring at 155 species, three short of the all-time record. In Region 5, We See-Gulls put in a good showing, placing second overall at 141 species, with Archaeopteryx hot on their tail at 140, very close to Archaeopteryx’ 10-year average. Not far out of the running were three teams that show great promise for the future. Taking 4th, 5th and 6th place respectively, The Uncommon Mergs, Lookin’4Hooters and Hawkward & Heisenbird each came in with personal best totals this year. The Jeffersonlian Divers also dominated the “singles” categories with 7 species, predominantly water birds. Looking back nine years, this is the highest number of singles for one team, and possibly an all-time record. Streaky Sparrow also turned in an impressive count for a second-year single-person team.
This year, the Clark(e)’s Nutcracker award for Bird of the Day went to The Uncommon Mergs for their Snowy Egret. In the specialty awards department, Osprey Can You See continued to dominate the “Most Birds / Least Miles” category at 100 species even. Lastly and with due apologies, the ignoble honor for “Best Team Name” went to American Widgeon, Stay Away From Me!
For those who are not familiar with the story of the Clark(e)’s Nutcracker: It was named after Phil Clarke, a local birder who died of cancer in the late 90’s. Sue Adair dedicated her painting of the nutcracker in his memory. That’s the story behind why we have a bird not known to New York as our prize for Bird of the Day.
Don’t forget to save the date! Next year’s Birdathon will be May 20th.
Report by Ken Burdock and Rose Burdock, Birdathon coordinators