|Chris Charlesworh, Russ Cannings, Rich Mooney and Ryan Tomlinson|
The Big Day Challenge is one of the main events of The Meadowlark Festival, which is an annual event at the end of May in the Okanagan. Teams of birders from all over compete in this fun-filled challenge; the goal for each team is to identify as many species as possible in a 24-hour period, starting and finishing within the Okanagan. On May 22nd 2004, I joined Chris Charlesworth, our team leader, Russ Cannings, son of Dick Cannings, co-author of The Birds of the Okanagan, and Ryan Tomlinson, an exceptional young birder from Kelowna. We started our challenge at midnight in the South Okanagan, twenty-seven kilometres up a logging road, and finished 23 hours later in Vernon, which is just north of Kelowna.
As is tradition, we had to give our team a name. After some bantering between team members, we came up with The travelling Toadsmen, in honour of the Western Toad we found on our way to Irrigation Creek to listen for Flammulated Owl. The day was challenging, exhausting, and loads of fun. I collapsed in my bed that night and got up early to travel back down south for the round up at Dick Cannings house.
It was a bright and warm, Spring morning, as we all swapped stories and drank coffee in Dick’s back yard. The prize for the winners was a plaque with an owl engraving, inscribed with the names of all the teams over the past years. The winning team keeps this trophy until the following year. “The winners are... The travelling Toadsmen with 166 species.”
The runners-up were presented with the Sour Grapes trophy. It was all in good fun; the best part was just being part of it. Speaking honestly, I was just lucky to be part of such an exceptional team.