Sorry guys, but we have already beaten you to it.
The inaugural Cumberland Bird Observers' Club Mystery Twitch was held on
October 18 as part of Bird Week festivities.
The Mystery Twitch was more than just a twitchathon too, as it contributed
to the Cumberland Plain (ie Sydney) database the club has been running for
the past year. (The database now has 22,000 records with not just current
records but historical ones going back two decades. Another 10,000 records
are waiting to be entered.)
You may recall I posted a message listing some of the club's outings for
bird week but I omitted the Mystery Twitch because it was a learning curve
for us, there was sufficient publicity within the club and it would have
taken a slightly lengthy email to explain it. But given the level of
interest in a local twitch I decided to write about it now.
The Mystery Twitch runs for about 6 hours. Teams of 2,3 or 4 people turn up
at a meeting point and the leaders pull a map out of the hat. The 'mystery'
is that no team knows where they will be twitching. The maps cover five of
the database grids and are all placed next to each other. This limits the
amount of travelling and use of petrol. Teams proceed in any order they wish
to twitch as many species as they can per grid.
The winning team is the team with the most points - one point per species,
per grid, one point per breeding record, one point per habitat info. All of
this information is entered onto the database sheeets.
Despite the hot and windy conditions, the Mystery Twitch contributed
hundreds of records with a total of 77 species, 13 of which were breeding.
Sixteen of the 20 grids had never been surveyed before.
The advantages of the Mystery Twitch are:
1) Not a lot of driving.
2) Beginners have an equally good chance of winning because the location is
chosen at random. You might get some good spots and you might get some poor
ones. Since you get five grids you'll probably get some of both. You have to
really use your birding skills to listen and look for birds and to find good
places rather than rely on your usual birding locations.
3) See a part of the world you wouldn't normally visit.
4) You might find some little 'bird oasis'. We found at least two.
5) It's competitive, like the Twitchathon.
6) The lists of birds you see are not wasted as your sightings make a
contribution to the database (more of that later).
7) There are prizes, like the Twitchathon.
8) It doesn't last 24 hours. Even the Champagne event is lengthy and this
may put a lot of people off.
9) Anyone can participate, not just CBOC members.
10) It doesn't involve asking people for money. Again, this may put people
The next Mystery Twitch has been pencilled in for next April/May. If you
would like to be kept informed, send me an email.
Anyone can contribute to the database regardless of which club you're in (or
even if you're not in a club). I know many of you are atlassing for Birds
Australia. If you are in Sydney, or just visiting, I encourage you to use
the Cumberland datasheets for a number of reasons:
1) The Cumberland grids are on a finer scale than BA's. Sixteen Cumberland
grids fit within one BA grid. This higher resolution means the data is more
2) Habitat and breeding data are also recorded.
3) The data you contribute is electronically sent to BA anyway, meaning you
don't need to fill in two sheets.
4) MONEY. The data is to be sold to interested parties such as local
councils, people doing environmental impact statements, researchers, water
management bodies etc. BIGNET has established a series of protocols relating
to this issue. Money received is to be shared proportionally between those
organisations which have contributed the data. So if you are not a CBOC
member you can still contribute data and money will be sent to your club. We
have already made one sale and as the database grows and becomes more useful
many more sales are anticipated.
If you would like more info on the database contact Tony Saunders at
Cumberland Bird Observers' Club