On the weekend of October 17-18, two world records were set during the first Global Bird Weekend – an event that attracted more than 38,000 passionate nature lovers from around the world to take part in what has been termed “the greatest bird watching event in history.” .
In total, bird watchers from 169 countries (and all seven continents!) Have come together to record an unbelievable 7,101 bird species in the eBird app on Saturday (more than three quarters of the global total), surpassing the previous one-day world record of 7,060 in May 2018 set. The next day another 180 species were added, bringing the final number to 7,281 and securing a second world record in just as many days.
The event, the largest of its kind focused on autumn migration, was organized by Tim Appleton MBE, co-founder of the British Birdwatching Fair. “I was amazed at the response, as we didn’t start Global Birding until August 2020,” says Appleton. “The ability to unite a global community for Global Bird Weekend by asking them to fuck together for protection was beyond my wildest dreams and has generated significant scientific data and inspired new communication networks.”
Pacific Golden Plover, Copyright Tony Davison, from the Surfbirds Galleries
The numbers are all the more impressive now that they were hit amid a pandemic. Participants were encouraged to minimize their global footprint and stay close to home. The first sighting, if you’re curious, was a Pacific golden plover Pluvialis fulva (next to a barn owl Tyto alba) that Dominik Maximilian Ramik had submitted in Vanuatu at 00:04 on the first day. Thanks to the magic of the time zones, the day ended with nocturnal Common White Terns Gygis alba and Tristams Storm-Petrels Hydrobates-Tristrami from Midway Atoll, well longer than 24 hours later. Most of the species were registered in Colombia (1,289) ahead of Peru, Ecuador, Brazil, Kenya and India.
Far from being just kidding, the event had a noticeable impact on conservation. Over £ 24,000 has been raised for BirdLife’s Stop Illegal Bird Trade appeal (to date). Equally important, a staggering 50,383 photos and 1,101 audio recordings found their way onto eBird, making the event a hugely successful citizen science project.