331 species in 24 hours

by gunnar on August 29, 2012

Scott Robinson on the 1982 record breaking Big Day with Ted Parker

Scott Robinson sent me this short note regarding their Big Day at Cocha Cashu in Manu National Park when they scored 331 species:

“For more than 15 years, I spent very little of my time birdwatching; during these years, I was happily censusing birds in the lowland forests of Amazonian Peru with my thesis adviser, John Terborgh. With the help of Ted Parker, who volunteered to help us on these censuses, we learned a great deal about the locations and habitat preferences of the rarer species, the times during which each species sang, and the locations of the best flocks.

After a few months of daily censusing, we began to notice that there was a remarkable concentration of birds and habitats in a very small section (roughly 200ha/500acres) of the area immediately around the Cocha Cashu Biological Station. This observation rekindled my interest in birdwatching because it seemed to provide an unparalleled opportunity to break the existing world big day record without actually having to move around very much. The key was that the habitat patches were large enough that they contained most of the species characteristic of the habitat, but were not so large that it took a long time to pass through them while commuting among habitat patches.

All Ted and I had to do was walk fast between habitat patches early in the morning, visit the river-edge habitats before it got too hot and windy, paddle our canoe around the lake later in the morning and then spend the rest of the day visiting specialized habitat patches and following flocks. We had 300 species by 11AM. We did this without having access to terra firme forest; all of our time was spent in the floodplain in the rather small Manu River. I suspect that we would have added another 25 species if there had been trails to the terra firme. We started at 330AM and stopped by 8PM and really only spent about 2 hrs listening for owls.

Scott Robinson” 

In the next delivery, I shall talk about our new strategy. Did you ever do a Big Day? How did you do? What were the challenges? Tell us all about it in the comment section below. 

Top Photo: Big thanks to David O. Brown for the use of his Cocha Cashu Picture.

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