With your help, we’ve protected 4,206 acres of Bog for future generations!

Greater Sax-Zim Bog Big Day/Big Week

A new event to explore the Bog and support conservation!

If the Sax-Zim Bog Brrrrdathon is too cold for your style of birding, why not try the Greater Sax-Zim Bog Big Day/Big Week??

Continue reading below for more information about this event or register for this event via this link.

You already know that the Sax-Zim Bog is an amazing place in winter for boreal birds and northern owls, but did you know that the greater Sax-Zim Bog covers nearly 500 square miles and hosts amazing bird diversity in other seasons?!? By mid-May most of the returning nesting species have begun to make their presence known in the marshes, lowland conifer forests, grasslands, and upland forests through the greater Sax-Zim Bog ecosystem. It should be possible to find over 100 species in a day here, with most of those species staying to nest!

This event is a birdathon with a twist… not just one twist… multiple twists!

Participants can compete in a Big Day, Big Week, by non-motorized means, or by photographing the birds found in the Sax-Zim Bog! You can make this event as much of an adventure as you would like, all while supporting conservation efforts by the Friends of Sax-Zim Bog!

Here is a breakdown of how you can participate:

Big Day—Most points accumulated during a single day effort by a team (24 hours of single calendar day; Must be between 12:01am on the first day of the event and 11:59pm on the last day of the event.)

Big Week—Most points accumulated during an effort that spans more than 24 hours. Teams can bird any number of days between 12:01am on the first day of the event and 11:59pm on the last day of the event.

Big Sit-Day—Most points accumulated while sitting in one spot (20-foot radius) on one calendar day. Want to peacefully see the natural world unfold before you? Grab your folding camp chair and cooler and pick a nice and “birdy” spot! Must be done on a single day midnight to midnight.

Big Sit-Week—Most points accumulated while sitting in one spot (20-foot radius) over the week from May 20-27. Want to peacefully see the natural world unfold before you? Grab your folding camp chair and cooler and pick a nice and “birdy” spot! Must sit in one spot over multiple days. 

Wintergreen Non-Motorized/Day—Most points accumulated in a single 24 hour day while birding under human-powered transportation (bike, foot, canoe, kayak) or animal-powered (horse, dog team). This must be a single non-motorized excursion. You cannot tally birds while hiking/biking/canoeing and then drive to another location and continue tallying birds. 

Wintergreen Non-Motorized/Week—Most points accumulated over multiple days between May 20 and May 27 while birding under human-powered transportation (bike, foot, canoe, kayak) or animal-powered (horse, dog team). This must be a single non-motorized excursion on each day (over 2-8 days). You cannot tally birds while hiking/biking/canoeing and then drive to another location and continue tallying birds on a single day.

The Greater Sax-Zim Bog (around 500 square miles) is outlined in pink. This is participation area for the event!

Participation Details

Each team or participant must register for this event. Registration is $10/person per event. You can register through the link here. Teams may include 1 to 5 participants. Clever team names should be chosen and teams may compete in multiple events (but must register for each event separately).

Similar to the winter Brrrdathon, points are tallied on a species by species basis, with rare species accumulating more points than more common species. You can find a list of species and points here. Three bonus points are awarded to teams for seeing all members of bird families containing 3 or more species with a point value of 1-3. For example, you can get the three bonus points for seeing all nesting woodpeckers (excluding Red-headed or Red-bellied) or all four wrens in our region!

The event will be held within the context of the Greater Sax-Zim Bog Ecosystem beginning at 12:01 am on May 20th and ending at 11:59 pm on May 27th. You may choose any day within this week to see as many birds as possible! Following the completion of your event, please email Sparky Stensaas (sparky@saxzim.org) your team name, team members, tally sheet, and any stories/photos from the day you would like to share (not required).

You are not required to seek out pledges to support your effort, but we encourage you to highlight your participation and encourage folks to donate through our website here. The compilation for this event will be held tentatively on Sunday, May 28th at a soon to be determined location! There is a Zoom option to participate in the compilation for participants.

For a full list of rules, event details, and more follow this link: Rules, Tally Sheet, and FAQ Sheet

Registration for this event can be done here: Sax-Zim Bog Big Day/Week Registration

For more information about the event, Frequently Asked Questions, and helpful links see the information below.

Event Information, Links, and Frequently Asked Questions

Event Details

  • Teams of 1-5, with a clever (bird pun themed?) team name
  • May compete in multiple competitions and each team member must register for each event.
  • Registration fee is $10/person per event
  • Birds may be found anywhere within the Greater Sax-Zim Bog ecosystem!
  • Points will be accumulated based on relative abundance or rarity of species in the Sax-Zim Bog and the team with the most points wins their participation category!
  • Event begins 12:01 am May 20th and ends 11:59 pm May 27th.
  • Event compilation held May 28th in person and via Zoom (location TBD)
  • After you have completed your Big Day/Week please email FOSZB Executive Director Sparky Stensaas (sparky@saxzim.org) your team name, team members, tally sheet, and any stories/photos from your day that you would like to share!

Helpful links

Event Registration

Printable Tally Sheet

Donation Link

Rules, Tally Sheet, and FAQ Sheet

Frequently Asked Questions

Where can I bird during the Competition?

     All birds tallied must be seen within the Greater Sax-Zim Bog “playing field” (see map). No birds can be counted outside this boundary. Where bounding edge is a road, both sides of the road are “in play” and birds can be counted when seen from said road).

Is each species only worth 1 point?

     No. Each species is given a point value between 1 and 4 based on its rarity during late May in Sax-Zim. See the point values on the Tally Sheet. Any species not listed on the Tally Sheet is worth 5 points (but remember, all species valued 4 and above must be documented in order to count towards your total—photos, audio, written description)

Can I compete alone?

     Yes, you can be a one-person Team, but you still must have a somewhat clever Team name.

How may people in my team need to see/hear a bird to count it?

     At least 66.6% of your team must see/hear a bird for the team to count it. E.g. If you have a team of three, then at least 2 must see/hear the bird.

Do we need to document rare species?

     All species of point value 4 or higher must be documented with photos, audio recording or written documentation.

Do I have to see the bird? Or does hearing it count?

     Hearing a species counts as long as you are positive of your identification (Remember, that all species of 4 or higher must be documented with photos, audio recording or written documentation).

Can I use tape playback?

     Yes, but please use it sparingly. No playback may be used for owls.

Can I participate in more than one Competition? 

     Absolutely! But you must register for each Competition independently. E.g. If you want to do both a Big Sit and Big Day you must register twice (and pay $10 each time) and select the Competition each time.

Do I have to do my Big Week on consecutive days? 

     No. You can do them whenever works for your team. E.g. tally birds on Tuesday the 23rd and again on Saturday May 27th.

SPECIAL AWARDS

Each Competition winner will have the pride in being the “champion,” but we will have other awards as well. 

—Most warbler species/points tallied

—Most miles endured in a single non-motorized excursion

—Rarest bird found and documented

—Most species photographed

—12 & under Youth

If you have any questions about this event or participation, please email Sparky at sparky@saxzim.org.

RESULTS 2023-Greater Sax-Zim Bog Big Week 

May 20-27, 2023

Ten teams racked up an impressive 153 species in the inaugural Greater Sax-Zim Bog Big Week Birdathon!

This new event has wings as evidenced by the enthusiasm of the participants.

And how can an event go wrong with team names like these?

—Greatest Grays

—Wrenegade

—Lost Caws

—Boss Hogg’s Big Bog Dogs

—The Amateur-thonotary (get it?…PROthonotary Warbler)

Birder’s were able explore the entire 500-square-mile Greater Sax-Zim Bog in search of birds. This “playing field” encompasses massive bogs, pine forests, farms, meadows, rivers, lakes and even a few towns allowing teams to rack up impressive and diverse lists.

Another unique aspect to this event is that teams or individuals can sign up for more than one event. Events include…

—Big Day

—Big Week

—Big Sit-Day

—Big Sit-Week

—Non-motorized

One team even participated in four events…the Big Week, Big Day, Big Sit-Day and Big Sit-Week competitions.

Everyone seemed to like the points system where each possible/probable bird is given a 1-4 point value based on likelihood of encountering that species. Birds not on the main tally sheet are worth 5 points. In addition, teams are able to add a 3 point bonus for seeing all members of a specific bird group (e.g. wrens, woodpeckers, corvids, etc). 

Teams also commented that the competition led them to areas of Sax-Zim that they’d never explored before. Some cool birding spots were hence discovered.

Avian Highlights amongst the total 153 species included…
—at least 4 Great Grays

—Black-backed AND American Three-toed Woodpecker
—Eurasian Tree Sparrow (not at Mary Lou’s!)
—heard Long-eared Owl
—a surprising 10 species of shorebirds
—25 (!) species of warblers including Connecticut, Bay-breasted and Black-throated Blue (Thanks Ben Yokel!).

But some birds that organizers thought would be relatively easy to find, turned out to be quite difficult as evidenced by how few Osprey, Common Loons, Dark-eyed Juncos, Great Blue Herons (1) and Pied-billed Grebes (0) were recorded.

Most of migration was done by the time this competition began on May 20th but some species that were just passing through to Canadian breeding grounds were recorded: Wilson’s, Bay-breasted, Tennessee and Blackpoll warblers; Dunlin, Semipalmated Plover, Lesser Yellowlegs, and Least, Semipalmated and Pectoral sandpipers.

Drumroll please…Here are the winners in each category:

BIG DAY

216 pts (118 species/2 bonus) GREATEST GRAYS (Dave & Pam Benson, Lori Williams, Dave Steininger)

148 pts (95 species/1 bonus) THE WRENSHALL SOLITAIRE (Sparky Stensaas)

88 pts (66 species) WRENEGADE (Jamie Spaulding and daughter)

83 pts (60 species) BOSS HOGG’S BIG BOG DOGS (Jeff Bell & Brent Braga)

55 pts (38 species/1 bonus) LOST CAWS (Michelle LaCasse & Tyler Hank)

BIG WEEK

256 pts (131 species/3 bonus) EAR OF VINCENT (Dave Benson)

248 pts (131 Species/6 bonus) HOUSE OF MERGANZO (Clinton & Kristina Dexter-Nienhaus, Jessica Dexter)

210 pts (120 Species/3 bonus) THE WRENSHALL SOLITAIRE (Sparky Stensaas)

WINTERGREEN NON-MOTORIZED

126 pts (88 species) THE AMATEUR-THONOTARY (Josiah Missert) 76 miles by bicycle!!

BIG SIT-DAY

39 pts (29 species) THE WRENSHALL SOLITAIRE (Sparky Stensaas) Lake Nichols public landing

BIG SIT-WEEK

45 pts (35 species) THE WRENSHALL SOLITAIRE (Sparky Stensaas) Lake Nichols public landing

PHOTOTHON

Nature Category: Winner-Michelle LaCasse

Bird Category: Winner-Jim Sims

OTHER AWARDS

**Most Warbler species

25 species by EAR OF VINCENT (Dave Benson during BIG WEEK)

**Most Miles Birded under own power

76 miles by bike THE AMATEUR-THONOTARY (Josiah Missert)

**Rarest bird found and documented

TIE! Between TEAM MERGANZO’s American Three-toed Woodpecker and TEAM GREATEST GRAYS Eurasian Tree Sparrow. Congrats to both teams for these epic 5-point birds!

**Youth-12 & Under

11-year old daughter of Jamie Spaulding on TEAM WRENEGADE

**Most interesting non-bird sighting 

Well, there were a couple, but Kristina Dexter-Nienhaus’s FISHER (!) being chased by a family of Canada Jays definitely takes the cake. Sparky had a possible “COYWOLF” (Coyote-Wolf hybrid) in the south part of the Bog. Michelle LaCasse & Tyler Hank got a nice photo of a FRANKLIN’S GROUND SQUIRREL, and Jeff Bell and Brent Braga saw two SNOWSHOE HARES.

Thanks to all and I hope many more of you can join in on the fun next May in Sax-Zim!

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