A Numbers Game


This week’s photo, taken February 1, 2016 from the Edmonds, WA pier, features a “few” DUNLIN, the same species mentioned in last week’s post.

Actually, there are far more than a few DUNLIN in this photo, and your assignment, if you wish to accept it, is to estimate how many Dunlin are in this flock. Take a few seconds, but no more than a minute, and come up with your best guess. Don’t try to count them individually, because that attempt would be quite stressful. Believe me, I know. After you come up with an answer, then look at the bottom of this post for the number I arrived at after two separate counts.

Whether or not you choose to play the game, appreciate how synchronized Dunlin can be when flying as a group. When I took this photo, every bird was flying to our left, and virtually all (except for maybe 10 rebellious individuals) were banking to the right and exposing their white underside to the camera.

Nope, there’s no prize for winning the contest, other than the tremendous pride you will feel for an accurate estimate, and the thrill you will feel for participating. At the very least, appreciate how difficult it is to calculate the number of tiny birds flying in a tight formation.

By the way, I know that my answer is not precisely correct, but I think it’s reasonably close, or at least in the ballpark. If you take the time to count every bird, so you can tell me exactly how inaccurate my count is, then you have way too much time on your hands.

Cards and prints for sale: http://joe-sweeney.fineartamerica.com



About Joe Sweeney

I photograph birds to share the beauty and wonder I find in nature.
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4 Responses to A Numbers Game

  1. Chris says:

    My guess was at least 500, counting 25 clumps of approximately 10 birds around the perimeter, and estimating that the ones inside the perimeter groups were at least that many birds. This was the 20 second method.
    Dunlin is one of the shorebirds that I don’t see often enough to really grasp the ID. It does not seem to have any strong individual field mark. What do you use to separate them from Willet, or something smaller like a Dowitcher?

  2. Deborah says:

    I estimated 300, so clearly I underestimated by half…

  3. Connie Saunders says:

    Thanks for the opportunity to estimate. I’ve always wondered how “experts” come up this their numbers. My wild guess was close to 1000 so I now I know I may over-estimate. Have a quantifiably wonderful day. Connie


  4. Cindy Ackley says:

    I guessed 540 Happy Birthday month 🎈🎈🎈🎈🎈🌻🌻🌻🎁

    Sent from my iPad


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