"bioclutter can be seen and was observed moving west..."
June 11, 2018 7:09 PM   Subscribe

"Today was the greatest birding day of my life." writes Ian Davies on May 28th when he saw (approximately) 721,620 warblers, beating the previous warbler high by about half a million, in what Andrew Del-Colle from Audubon describes as "an absolutely bonkers eBird checklist."
posted by jessamyn (20 comments total) 28 users marked this as a favorite
posted by gingerbeer at 7:28 PM on June 11, 2018

If Hitchcock had only known.
posted by sammyo at 7:34 PM on June 11, 2018 [1 favorite]

That's just amazing. And the good fortune to have birders who can ID *and* count numbers like that (a special skill of its own)!
posted by rtha at 7:36 PM on June 11, 2018 [3 favorites]

[One deleted; go ahead and read the article and let people talk about this actual event rather than jumping in with general doom please.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 7:53 PM on June 11, 2018 [8 favorites]

Also this is so cool! My mom went to another migration hotspot for warblers this year and had a great time but nothing like this.

I like how they count:
Movement rate estimates were made by looking through binoculars at a flight line, and counting the number of individuals passing a vertical line in that field of view, per second. This was repeated multiple times for each bin view, and repeated throughout the sky so that all flight at that moment was accounted for. The average birds/second was then used for that time period, until another rate estimate showed a different volume of movement.
posted by LobsterMitten at 8:11 PM on June 11, 2018 [6 favorites]

posted by Secretariat at 8:19 PM on June 11, 2018

I wonder if there are automated tools to do this kind of counting? I guess you’d need something with a pretty wide field of vision, huh. Though this particular event sounds basically impossible to plan for.

I wonder if there are time trends in how clustered migration patterns are? I can imagine that habitat/food source changes might trigger such (assuming we’re not talking about species that fly straight through).
posted by eirias at 8:34 PM on June 11, 2018

"bioclutter" is basically my life
posted by The otter lady at 9:25 PM on June 11, 2018 [7 favorites]

This is fantastic and makes me happy. Are emojis allowed on metafilter? 😍
posted by lemonade at 9:26 PM on June 11, 2018

This sounds like an amazing experience especially for people who could appreciate, comprehend and quantify it. It's like getting my mind blown by proxy. Fair warning though, in future I'll be giving out all figures in "birds/second"! #ruleofcool
posted by I'm always feeling, Blue at 9:35 PM on June 11, 2018 [1 favorite]

Worth repeating: There were so many warblers, passing through so low, they were flying between his legs. 
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 10:50 PM on June 11, 2018 [4 favorites]

And I thought I had a decent migration count in my backyard this Spring. Amazing! I am loving all the bird photos on the eBird list.

This has totally made my day! Thanks OP!!!!!
posted by narancia at 6:40 AM on June 12, 2018

I am loving all the bird photos on the eBird list.

Yes! My favorite thing about this wasn't just "Oh hey that is a really big number" (tho it is!) but just the guy's DELIGHT in how it all went down and all the little random photos of cutie rando birds flying all around him. And how he was ALL SET to do the work, over a nine hour period, of estimating what birds he was actually seeing. I spent like 30 minutes yesterday just trying to figure out what hawk I'd seen in the backyard (red shouldered) and this just amazed me when I read about it.
posted by jessamyn at 7:12 AM on June 12, 2018 [5 favorites]

This is so amazing.
posted by Stewriffic at 7:37 AM on June 12, 2018

Every modern cell phone has a camera capable of at least 1080p video recording and these folks couldn't manage even one shaky, vertical video that consists mostly of ground?!

posted by madajb at 8:29 AM on June 12, 2018 [3 favorites]

Jessamyn, We have Red-shouldered Hawks in my neighborhood and they sometimes hang out in my yard checking out my feeder area. The Fish Crows and Northern Mockingbirds usually drive them off pretty quickly. They are very cool birds. I take pictures of them as often as I can.

We recently have added Bald Eagles to the birds I see regularly in my area. Several aeries are now located in suburban neighborhoods near me.
posted by narancia at 8:48 AM on June 12, 2018 [1 favorite]

Madajb, I thought the same thing at first, but if you scroll through the second link, there are a couple of videos buried in there. Honestly, it looked less impressive than I imagined (which in my mind was a sky black with birds).
posted by dendritejungle at 9:16 AM on June 12, 2018 [2 favorites]

While flying I have had ATC call out possible traffic to me reported it as a “primary target” which means it didn’t have an active transponder and a few times they said it might’ve been birds. Never did see a big flock of birds match the radar report.
posted by exogenous at 11:54 AM on June 12, 2018

Both videos are shot in landscape, but one of them is substantially devoted to documenting the ground so I'll allow it.
posted by ethansr at 1:44 PM on June 12, 2018 [2 favorites]

I was surprised as to how "sparsely" populated the airspace was—my expectations were set to "murmurations" but this was entirely different: an endless raceway of small cute featherballs whizzing by in the same direction. How on earth the birders were able to differentiate one species from another and come up with estimates and ratios is beyond me. But I bet they are better at it than computers, by far!

I want to see the radar video!
posted by not_on_display at 7:54 PM on June 12, 2018 [1 favorite]

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