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?
—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…
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:
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)
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)
126 pts (88 species) THE AMATEUR-THONOTARY (Josiah Missert) 76 miles by bicycle!!
39 pts (29 species) THE WRENSHALL SOLITAIRE (Sparky Stensaas) Lake Nichols public landing
45 pts (35 species) THE WRENSHALL SOLITAIRE (Sparky Stensaas) Lake Nichols public landing
Nature Category: Winner-Michelle LaCasse
Bird Category: Winner-Jim Sims
**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!
RULES & PLAYING FIELD
Greater Sax-Zim Bog BIG DAY/BIG WEEK
This is a birdathon competition with a twist…and not just one twist…multiple twists!
—You can compete in the one-day Big Day event (pick any day during the week of May 20-27) or bird multiple days to compete in the Big Week competition.
—A Big Sit can be done on either one day or, and I’ve never heard of this before, done over multiple days!
—A Wintergreen non-motorized Competition that you can do on foot, bike, canoe, kayak or horseback!
—It is not just how many species of birds you see, but how many points you tally! Rarer birds have a higher point value (see spreadsheet/tally sheet).
—Photothon for those more interested in photography.
Make your own Sax-Zim Big Day/Big Week adventure!
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 an amazing diversity of birds in other seasons? Spring migration is little known but from the results of our Warblers Wednesday and Songbird Saturday field trips, the numbers are impressive!
And the area is not just Black Spruce and Tamarack bog. In fact many habitats can be found here including floodplain forest, upland Red Maple, mature White Pine and Red Pine forests, shrub carr (willow) flats, meadow grasslands, aspen stands, multiple lakes and rivers.
In other words, the Greater Sax-Zim Bog is a fantastic place to tally many diverse species.
WHAT: A flexible Birdathon to raise money and awareness of Sax-Zim Bog in spring (and add to our knowledge of spring migration).
WHERE: Teams/individuals can bird anywhere in the Greater Sax-Zim Bog “playing field” (see map). This area covers over 500 square miles. All birds must be tallied within these borders (both sides of the road are “in play” where the border is along a roadway).
WHEN: From Saturday May 20 at 12:01 am through Saturday May 27 at 11:59pm. Teams/individuals can do their Big Days anytime in this period.
WHO: A “team” can be an individual or up to 5 members. All teams MUST come up with a clever or somewhat clever team name. No exceptions!
HOW MUCH?: $10 per participant per Competition (Your or your Team may sign up for multiple Competitions). Sign up at www.saxzim.org under the “Events/Field Trips” tab. No deadline. You can sign up even during the week of the event!
You are also free to get pledges based on your effort.
Big Day—Most points accumulated during a single day effort by a team (24 hours of single calendar day; Must be midnight to midnight between May 20 12:01am and May 27 11:59pm)
Big Week—Most points accumulated during an effort that spans more than 24 hours. Teams can bird any number of days between May 20 12:01am and May 27 11:59pm.
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.
Each Competition winner will have the pride in being the “champion,” but we will have other awards as well.
—Most warbler points tallied
—Most miles endured in a single non-motorized excursion
—Rarest bird found and documented
—Best non-bird sighting
—Most species photographed
—12 & under Youth
—Teams can be 1-5 people.
—All must come up with a somewhat-clever Team name (bird puns are always appreciated!)
—Teams may compete in multiple Competitions simultaneously (but must pay the entry fee for each Competition separately)
—Points are tallied by sighting bird species with varying point values (see Tally Sheet)
—Bird sightings of species of point value 4 or higher must be documented with photos, audio recording or written documentation.
—A 3-point bonus is awarded a Team if they see/hear all members of a bird group of 3 or more species of 1-3 pt value listed on the Tally Sheet (e.g. all 4 wrens; all 6 swallows (includes Purple Martin); all 5 corvids). If a group contains a 4-pt species, it does not need to be included in order to get the bonus (e.g. to get the woodpecker bonus, a Team would have to tally Downy, Hairy, Black-backed, Pileated, N. Flicker and Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (all 1-3 pt species) but not have to see Red-headed or Red-bellied since they are 4-pt species).
We will either meet in person or by Zoom for the compilation TBD/TBA
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.
Please email Sparky if you have questions—firstname.lastname@example.org