Global Big Day - New Zealand Style
Global Big Day on May 9 was the first annual fundraising event for the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, eBird, and bird conservation efforts worldwide.
The Global Big Day saw almost 14,000 birdwatchers from more than 130 countries record their bird sightings on eBird in the space of 24 hours. Together, they recorded over 60% of the world’s birds, with the total number of entries forming a staggering 6,029 birds for the day.
Aside from the numbers, one thing that particularly strikes me is the efforts from New Zealand. Despite coming a modest 51st in the overall numbers, we submitted more lists than countries with much higher populations such as the UK, Germany, Spain and Ecuador. The passion for wildlife and a fondness of the natural world has really struck me since moving to New Zealand from the UK, and is something that has driven my passion for wildlife to another level.
There are literally thousands of volunteers and wildlife enthusiasts in New Zealand, all setting out to protect the country’s unique flora and fauna. For me, the efforts of New Zealanders on the Global Big Day was testament to this sheer determination to protect and support the local wildlife that has been embraced by the nation.
As a small country we managed to record 107 birds in 24 hours (of which I was lucky enough to see 67) but more importantly, 36 of these species were endemic. There are so many wonderful birds in this country and New Zealand is often the envy of the world when it comes to its wildlife. A passion that runs through the veins of the people fortunate enough to live here and many of the people who come over for a visit.
My global Big Day was entirely Auckland based, but included some cracking birds! My favorite of which has to be the clumsy North Island Brown Kiwi that offered a mere glimpse as it ran into the bushes for cover. Other major highlights on the day included the bold Tui with its brash yet melodious call, the usually shy Fernbird that decided to pose for a photo, and the unique Wrybill with its unusually sideways curved bill. All these birds are commonly found in the Auckland area but were ones that I just couldn’t rush away from despite being in pursuit of more species. There are some birds that are just too good, where it doesn’t matter how often you see them, they deserve to be observed rather than just ticked off on a list.
But as always with birding, there were a few surprises along the way. Some being misses like the unusual disappearance of my Kookaburra friends that I always see on the way to Tawharanui. However, this was more than compensated for by great sightings of some local rarities such as the Grey Tailed-Tattler, Australasian Grebe, Black Fronted Dotterel and Little Egret, the latter being a bird that is so common in Europe nowadays but seems to attract only a bit of attention in New Zealand.
The most magical of all places for me has to be Tawharanui. It’s literally covered in birds and I only wish that I had allowed more time here on this day as it would have increased my total count significantly. Not only is this one of the most reliable sights for the kiwi, but also provides great viewing opportunities for Takahe, Bellbird, Whitehead, Morepork and many other of New Zealand’s critically endangered endemic bird species. It’s a truly magical place with a mix of enchanted forest, stunning beaches and incredible bird life - both on land and out at sea. It’s a place that I now visit frequently having first come with Tristan for an unforgettable trip.
In my opinion, the Global Big Day was not only a great day for conservation, but if you are like me and submitted sightings, I bet you had fun doing it, too! That means this day allowed more than 13,000 people across the globe to have an amazing day and with unforgettable experiences like I did. A great day all-round for conservation, for the enjoyment of wildlife and for New Zealand.
Can’t wait till next year!
Tristan Cullen - Passionate Conservationist