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U.S.A. - ALASKA: Anchorage & Nome

Big Day (Bird Race)

04 June 1993

by Mark R. Dalton

Big Day Statistics:

Our 1992 birdathon had been about as good as they get, and it was with trepidation that we decided to conduct our 1993 Big Day in much the same way. Could we be as lucky two years in a row? Last year had been almost too good, with two weather systems (Anchorage and Nome) in sync, and a late thaw in Nome holding migrants near the coast.

This year spring had been early in both locations, and we'd collectively spent virtually zero time afield in Anchorage to locate the more uncommon species. As well, airfares to Nome were sky-high again, but Alaska Airlines still had its key non-stop flight to Nome which was critical to our endeavour. So, despite the potential disadvantages, we decided to try again.

Before leaving on our Big Day, we each secretly note the total number of species we think we'll see, and seal it into an envelope. Last year, we blew away the previous state record of 108 by seeing 119 species. This year we each predicted only 114 species, recognition that we knew that last year we had a lot of luck.

As midnight approached on a clear June 3, we set forth on our bicycles onto the Anchorage Hillside trail system. Our diary commences.


We finished the day believing chances were not good that we'd broken our 1992 state record of 119, because we'd missed several species we should have seen in Anchorage, and we'd seen many fewer birds east of Cape Nome. Mark's count came to 119, a tie, but something seemed strange. While we'd missed many Anchorage regulars, we had seen several species we'd not expected. The 83 species Anchorage count felt low. On slowly recounting each species in his field notes, Mark realised he's misread a hastily written "6" in the number "26" as a "0", or as number "20". Thus, when he numbered the next species sighted, it was logged as number "21", instead of "27". So, we'd actually seen an additional 6 species in Anchorage, and had again raised our record.

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