Big Day competitions challenge teams to identify the most bird species possible within a 24-hour period. If you’re a teen birder interested in pursuing your first Big Day, thorough preparation will set you up for an epic adventure.
How teens can triumph in Big Day Birding Competitions
Follow these tips to assemble a squad, create an efficient route, gather gear, develop strategies, and make the most of this action-packed test of your birding skills.
Assembling Your Dream Team
Every successful Big Day attempt starts with the team. Invite around 4-6 enthusiastic birding friends, including both peers and adult mentors if possible.
Choose teammates with complementary identification strengths and talents to balance your weaknesses.
Some may visually spot shorebirds and raptors swiftly, others can instantly recognize bird songs, and someone may have photography skills to document finds.
Recruit logistics gurus who love planning optimal routes and schedules. A diverse squad allows you to cover more ground efficiently.
Test team dynamics and communication on a few practice excursions together before the big day. Soon you’ll discover where your strengths intersect and who you’re in sync with.
Plotting Your Route
Studying past winning Big Day routes in your target county or state gives smart strategy insights.
Look for habitats like coastline, forests, wetlands and urban parks that yield diverse species. Cluster potential stops at each habitat type based on access, terrain, and likelihood of sightings.
Factor in timing at dawn or dusk when certain birds are most active. Allow plenty of time at prime hotspots while also building in flexibility to adapt on the fly if needed.
Test driving the route or using digital tools enables creating an optimal journey. Identify backup spots too in case Plan A underdelivers.
Gathering Your Gear
Having quality optics like binoculars and spotting scopes makes identifying fast-moving warblers zooming by possible. Pack multiple regional field guides and an audio player loaded with bird vocalizations to confirm tricky species aurally.
If camping overnight, bring ample supplies like tents, sleeping bags, and camp stoves to fuel the team without relying on restaurants or travel time.
Don’t forget water and energizing snacks to power through the intense day. A clipboard, pens, pre-made checklists, and prepared field notebook helps accurately log species.
Portable chargers ensure phones and GPS units don’t die. Protective items like hats, sunscreen, and bug spray enhances comfort.
Scouting and Scheduling
Visit planned Big Day stops a few weeks prior to scout what birds are present and make refinements.
Note prime areas at each location to maximize sightings based on food sources and vegetation.
If restricted public lands or private sites require access permits, secure these early. Make camping reservations at parks or book hotel rooms in advance.
Review which target species will likely be active at dawn or dusk. Adjust your schedule based on this timing and seasons impacting migration and breeding patterns.
Delegate logistics like permits and lodging to an organized teammate so you can focus on birding prep.
To perform your best, adjust sleep schedules gradually in preceding weeks to align with your early wake-up call.
Thoroughly review bird vocalizations of sought-after species you hope to tally by sound alone. Study identification of easily mixed-up species and create mnemonics.
Gather gear, food and water well in advance and pack the vehicle the night before. Making comprehensive checklists for personal and team items keeps things orderly.
On the Big Day
Once you’ve enacted the carefully constructed game plan, remember adaptability and positivity are key. Some stops might disappoint while others surprise with a bonanza of birds.
Adjust pace and routes if needed to maximize sightings within time limitations. Monitor fatigue levels and take brief nourishment and rest breaks to reenergize.
Support teammates if energy lags. Document all species thoroughly, noting location, time, key field marks, and evidence like photographs to verify sightings later.
Most importantly, soak in every minute of striving to exceed your birding potential alongside trusted friends.
After the Big Day
Promptly submit your team’s species list and documentation following event guidelines. Thoroughly review any disputes or uncertainties on bird identification and resolve them.
Discuss highs and lows of the event while memories are fresh to improve strategies for next time. Celebrating your shared efforts, team spirit, and achievements during the challenge is important too.
Before setting new birding goals, bask in this milestone moment on your birding journey. Competing in a Big Day pushes skills, strategizing and endurance to the max.
With thorough preparation, teens can make the most of the experience while taking birding talents to the next level and forging bonds with fellow enthusiasts.
Enjoy the Experience
While Big Day competitions center around tallying the maximum species, remember to soak in special moments on your birding odyssey.
Pause to appreciate irruptions of thousands of blackbirds whirling through the sky. Marvel at a rare bird posing close-by seemingly just for your team.
Delight in inside jokes and overcoming mishaps together. Even without breaking records, these memories with friends exploring nature’s wonders will stay with you.
Benefits of a Big Day Challenge as a teenager
Preparing for your debut Big Day birding competition promises a remarkable journey rich with experiences and growth. Embrace these direct benefits:
Teamwork and Communication: Form a diverse team to refine your collaboration and communication skills, valuable both in birding and life.
Strategic Proficiency: Crafting routes, scouting locations, and adapting strategies enhance your resourcefulness and problem-solving abilities.
Identification Prowess: Delve into bird vocalizations, mnemonic aids, and field marks to sharpen bird recognition and concentration.
Adaptability and Time Management: Navigate a 24-hour challenge to develop essential time management and adaptability traits.
Resilience and Endurance: Confront physical and mental challenges, fostering personal growth and resilience.
Nature’s Reverence: Amid competition, relish extraordinary bird sightings and marvel at nature’s wonders.
Action Steps for teens planning a Big Day Challenge – summing up
Forge Your Team: Assemble a diverse group, including mentors, for a well-rounded perspective.
Strategize Efficiently: Study successful routes, opt for prime birding spots, and master timing.
Gear Up: Pack essential gear and guides for a comfortable and efficient 24 hours.
Practice Diligently: Scout locations, learn bird calls, and refine identification skills.
Adapt and Learn: Stay open to adjustments, maximizing your birding potential.
Capture and Commemorate: Document sightings and celebrate both achievements and challenges.
Reflect and Enhance: Review strategies for future Big Day successes.
Cherish the Journey: Amid records, treasure camaraderie and the joy of exploring nature.
Embark on this thrilling journey, spread your wings, and uncover the boundless horizons of your birding prowess.
- 1 How teens can triumph in Big Day Birding Competitions
- 2 Benefits of a Big Day Challenge as a teenager
- 3 Action Steps for teens planning a Big Day Challenge – summing up