Thursday, April 28, 2011

A Letter from Team Sapsucker

April 27, 2011

A stunning Golden-cheeked Warbler seen during our week of scouting in Texas. Photo by Chris Wood

As members of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's Team Sapsucker, we'd like to thank everyone for the amazing show of support during our Big Day efforts to raise funds for bird conservation. Our total for the day was 264 bird species, three higher than the previous U.S. record for most birds seen on a Big Day! Thanks to the generosity of friends and members of the Cornell Lab, we raised nearly $200,000 for bird conservation programs. If you made a donation, thank you! If you haven't yet made a contribution, you can still do so at .

Our Big Day quest began on Friday with a Yellow-crowned Night-Heron and Barred Owl spotted in the glow of park lights near San Antonio's famous Riverwalk—followed by a calling Common Pauraque, a tropical relative of the Whip-poor-will. In the first frantic moments of daylight in Uvalde we noted both a Blue Jay and Green Jay as well as the slow melodious song of an Audubon's Oriole. From there we went to the Hill Country near Neal's Lodges where Golden-cheeked Warblers and Hutton's Vireos sang from the hillside, a Scott's Oriole flew overhead, and a Spotted Towhee scratched on the ground. Heading back through San Antonio after the morning rush-hour we scored a Monk Parakeet at a nest along the Interstate.

In the afternoon, a promising kettle of raptors turned up a Swallow-tailed Kite soaring far above Swainson's Hawks and Mississippi Kites, and a huge migrating flock of some 400 American White Pelicans. The woodpeckers in Victoria were wonderful—Downy, Red-bellied, and a nesting Pileated. The rice fields produced Glossy Ibis, American Golden-Plover, and Buff-breasted Sandpiper. Sunset near Corpus Christi brought only a handful of migrant warblers, but enough to pull us near the record. As the sun set, Northern Bobwhite called while Clapper Rail grunted from the marshes. In darkness, the calls of Virginia and Black rails signaled our final birds to end the day at the new high-water mark of 264.

It was a memorable 24 hours, not only for the spectacular diversity of birds we experienced in such a short amount of time, but for the inspiring support of all who contributed to advance bird conservation. Next up: best wishes to our student team, the Redheads (named for the Cornell "Big Red"). They will compete in New Jersey's World Series of Birding on May 14 to raise funds for undergraduate research!


Chris Wood (captain), Jessie Barry, Andrew Farnsworth, Marshall Iliff, Tim Lenz, Brian Sullivan


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