On October 9, 2021 eBird celebrated its fourth annual October Global Big Day. I participated in this event last year and ended up with 50 species; I probably could have done better if I had planned for it properly instead of deciding halfway through the morning that I wanted to do a personal big day. This time I planned for it, but health issues limited my time outside in the field to the morning only.
I had a much better idea of where I wanted to go this time, and unlike the Global Big Day last May, which was limited due to COVID-19 lockdown restrictions then in place, planned to leave my 5-mile radius. After a great outing at Bruce Pit on Monday in which I tallied 40 species, the loop around the pond was sure to help me reach my goal of beating the 50 species I tallied last year. I also planned to hit a couple of trails in Stony Swamp (a short walk along the Rideau Trail at the P6 parking lot and Sarsaparilla Trail), the Ottawa River for diving birds, the Eagleson ponds for shorebirds, and the Moodie Quarry/Trail Road landfill for gulls and more waterfowl.
While it is true that fall migration proceeds at a much more leisurely pace than migration in the spring, each species moves according to its own internal calendar. In late August and early September you might find warblers, Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, flycatchers, vireos, orioles, Cedar Waxwings, and Scarlet Tanagers foraging together in a single patch of woods. A month later the same patch of forest might hold sparrows, kinglets, Winter Wrens, Rusty Blackbirds, nuthatches, Hermit Thrushes, and boreal finches, while waterfowl on rivers and ponds increase in numbers and diversity. I usually notice the switch around the fall equinox, when the sparrows start to outnumber the warblers and I realize that it’s been a while since I last saw a flock of Cedar Waxwings. Now is the time to look for American Pipits in open scrubby areas or along rocky shorelines, scoters and grebes along the river, hawks and Turkey Vultures soaring toward southern climes, and any lingering warblers in the hope it is something other than a Yellow-rumped.