The Anchorage Big Day Wrap-up!

The Anchorage Big Day Wrap-up!

another Audubon Cutthroat Competition!!


It was not only a Big Day, it was a Ginormous Day!
Last weekend eight teams and twenty intrepid birders faced off in a contest to see which team could find the most bird species within the Municipality of Anchorage on approximately the First Day Of Spring. And nothing went as expected!

There was a team comprised of birders from Spenard AND from Muldoon, which proves that people from widely different cultures can, in fact, get along with each other. There was an Immigrant Team where local birders welcomed a visitor from Colorado to join them, and they weren’t the least bit afraid that he would steal their jobs.


All together the teams tallied FORTY-SIX different species, but the winners found only 31 of them. This was an all-time low percentage of 67% of the total species seen by the winning team.

The winning team missed THIRTY THREE PERCENT of the total species seen, which once again proves that you have to be in exactly the right place at exactly the right time regardless of your birding skill.

Thede, Nils, Buzz, & Keys chalked up 31 species. Sonja, Frank, & Chris discovered 30, and Pat & Jennifer were only one behind at 29. But the species they tallied varied hugely.

Anchorage Big Day – Townsend’s Solitaire

Eleven species were seen by only one team: Canada Goose, Trumpeter Swan, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Herring Gull, Townsend’s Solitaire, Glaucous-winged Gull, Boreal Owl, Great-horned Owl, American Three-toed Woodpecker, Chestnut-backed Chickadee, and Red Crossbill.
Night time owling was extremely difficult with only Pat & Jennifer finding ANY owls after dark. All other participants would have been better off drinking whiskey sours and going to bed by 9 o’clock.
The First Day Of Spring paid off with 4 newly arrived migrant species. Canada Goose, Trumpeter Swan, Herring Gull, and Glaucous-winged Gull were among the first of their kind seen this year.
In addition, the winning team almost cheated. They received a call at 3:00 in the afternoon about a Northern Saw-whet Owl roosting in a tree in John’s Park. They raced out to find it in spite of the fact that outside-the-team assistance is frowned upon. While watching the owl, a SECOND Saw-whet unprecedentedly called from across the park IN THE DAYTIME. This is highly unusual, but made the species legal beyond reproach.

Anchorage Big Day – Northern Saw-whet Owl

Birding seemed difficult for most teams, but the hits just kept coming when they were least expected. A team approached a flock of robins on one of our typical icy craters-of-the-moon roads. Holding binoculars was totally impossible, but while bouncing over the ruts, the FIRST bird seen in the flock elicited the response, “Holy &$#*, it’s a Townsend’s Solitaire!”
There were surprises everywhere, and in contrast, only one team was able to scare up a Chestnut-backed Chickadee in Girdwood where they are relatively common. It was just one of those days.
At the day’s end tally party, the cash prize of $1 per species was awarded to the winning team. Each member received $7.50 for 16 ½ hours of birding. This worked out to 45 cents per hour, which they philanthropically donated back to The Anchorage Audubon Society.
The Board has assured us that the donation will be used to make the world a better place.

Total species seen were:

  1. Mallard
  2. Common Goldeneye
  3. Common Merganser
  4. Canada Goose
  5. Trumpeter Swan
  6. Spruce Grouse
  7. Willow Ptarmigan
  8. Sharp-shinned Hawk
  9. Bald Eagle
  10. Northern Goshawk
  11. Merlin
  12. Herring Gull
  13. Glaucous Wing Gull
  14. Rock Pigeon
  15. Short-eared Owl
  16. Boreal Owl
  17. Saw-whet Owl
  18. Great Horned Owl
  19. Kingfisher
  20. Hairy Woodpecker
  21. Downy Woodpecker
  22. American 3 Toed Woodpecker
  23. Northern Shrike
  24. Steller Jay
  25. Black-billed Magpie
  26. Northwest Crow
  27. Raven
  28. Black-capped Chickadee
  29. Boreal Chickadee
  30. Chestnut- Backed Chickadee
  31. Red-breasted Nuthatch
  32. Brown Creeper
  33. American Dipper
  34. Golden-crowned Kinglet
  35. Townsend’s Solitaire
  36. American Robin
  37. European Starling
  38. Bohemian Waxwing
  39. Snow Bunting
  40. Song Sparrow
  41. Dark-eyed Junco
  42. Pine Grosbeak
  43. White-winged Crossbill
  44. Red Crossbill
  45. Common Redpoll
  46. Pine Siskin

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