- Which birds are countable and which aren't? (How to cope with injured birds, introduced species, escapes and established species?),
- How many people of a team have to see a species, before it gets a tick on the list? Most days work with the rule that all members of a team have to see a birdspecies (or at least a high percentage of the team members). There are two main reasons for this. First of all, for the fun of the team; everybody likes to see as many species as possible. The team has to stay together because only this will give them the highest daylist. It's communal benefit, your teammembers help you and you help your teammembers in getting as many species as possible. The other reason to have this rule is to diminish problems with wrong identifications. On days like this, you're prone to make mistakes because you're in a hurry and want to see... nééd to see ... a species. On such moments it is always good to have a critic second opinion by a teammember.
- Are you allowed to use information by people who are not members of your team, during the day?
To get an idea of these rules, read the rules of the American Birding Association:
Many birdwatchers in the Netherlands don't like this way of birding. They probably think it's much to stressfull and overdone. Often it is hard to get enough people who want to join you on such a day. The Birdrace we participated was however different from normal Big Days. The most important thing (apart from just having fun) was to realise a big specieslist. Not for individual teams but for the total of all the teams. There were prizes for the best discovery of the day ánd for the team with the longest species list. So therefore teams could chose wheter they would come for quality or numbers, or off course both. Actually there were no rules, apart from time and area. The area (provinces of Friesland, Groningen and Drenthe) was an area where we were not really familar with. That is, we didn't know every exact location of commoner species. It is clear we could therefore probably never win a normal Big Day in this region without days of extensive pre-research. We didn't put effort in pre-research, since we just wanted to join for the fun of it. And because we already wanted to go to the area and because we liked to contribute to the total list, we subscribed ourselves.
Our real idea behind this subscription was off course, to profit from the succes of other birdwatchers ;-) About 50 good birdwatchers joined and it was only waiting for something good to show up. We decided to take it easy and look for some stuff around the Lauwersmeer. We didn't receive any phonecall from the organisers of the race. What was going on, no rarities? We phoned Martijn Bot, but he was also surprised that nothing really good had been seen. Apparently it was up to ourselves whether we would see something good that day. Things were not really bad, we had seen a White-tailed eagle Haliaeetus albicilla, a brown variety female Cuckoo, heard a Eurasian Golden Oriole and seen some other nice birds, but we were a bit disappointed by the low numbers of waders. When we arrived in the Ezumakeeg (probably the best place in the Netherlands for waders), things were looking bad. The birds where we had hoped for (Broad-billed Sandpiper, Black-winged Stilt, Red-necked Phalarope) were all gone. Then we got a telephone call by an other team. They discovered a Little Bittern Ixobrychus minutus. Before we would go to there, we decided to finish our check of the Ezumakeeg first.
What a fantastic decision! Only a few minutes later we discovered a Yank! An american wader: the Lesser Yellowlegs Tringa flavipes. It was Frank van Duivenvoorde who found the bird first. He first thought it was a Marsh Sandpiper Tringa stagnatilis but things weren't right. Then the bird flew a few metres, and things were getting clear. About the size of a Redshank, but much more slender. The bill was fine, the neck gracious and the bird looked longer. The legs were yellow to yellowish orange. But most important, there was no sign of a white triangular rump patch. There was only a square white patch, like in Wood Sandpiper Tringa glareola. It was flying towards us and landed at about 30 metres away from us. Luuk, put the sighting on the pagersystem and I called the co-ordinator of the Birdrace, so that everone was aware of this rarity. Then within a few minutes, it flew off to another place where it was later rediscovered by some other birdwatchers at far greater distance. We were really lucky, to get such magnificant views.
See better pictures from Sjaak and Luuk here:
We won the prize for the best discovery and got a lot of congratulations (and the total of all the teams together was 181 species!). It made birding that day a lot more relaxed. We scanned some other places and then returned to the Ezumakeeg to have a last look at the Lesser Yellowlegs. At the north part of the Ezumakeeg, where we discovered the Lesser Yellowlegs, were some Ruffs displaying. Before leaving we enjoyed their magnificant plumages and beheaviour, then we went home. Satisfied after a good day of birding!