As the day came on and the fog lifted, we began to tally lots more birds from the top of the Indigo Hill birding tower. The feeders got busier and netted us our expected American goldfinches and white-breasted nuthatches, plus three woodpecker species, and both of the common red finches: purple and house. Either one of these could have been a miss.
The list zoomed up into the 50s. At 10:22 am I posted this on Twitter and Facebook:
Indigo Hill Big Sit is at 56 species, just in time for the mid-day doldrums
11:52: Cape May warbler is number 61 for the Indigo Hill Big Sit. Nine more and we break the record!More people began arriving, too. And Phoebe, the social butterfly that she is, came up top fully suited up for the cool air. Unfortunately for this year's Sit, mid-morning was also when we lost Julie as a participant. She had to drive across the state to Dayton to give a talk, so we waved goodbye to her about 11 am. Jules is right up there with Jim McCormac in the birding skilz rankings, so her departure made the rest of us redouble our efforts.
The raptors put on quite a show in the afternoon, as rising warm air made soaring easier. Kettles of turkey vultures, numerous red-tailed hawks, and nice numbers of sharpies and Cooper's hawks were spotted by our keen-eyed sitters. In the photo above, the crew is watching a PO'd male sharp-shinned hawk dive-bombing a large female Cooper's hawk. This show went on for about 10 minutes out over our meadow, south of the tower.
I should apologize here for the lack of bird images. I did not drag my Canon big rig out at all during the Sit. The birding action was too good and, well, with all the Sitters, it was kind of tight up in the tower. It'd be just my luck that I'd drop that expensive piece of gear over the side. As it was, I lost only a pen, a glove, and a few beverage bottles and cans over the tower's edge.
As afternoon surrounded us, the air warmed, a light breeze kicked up, and adding a new bird to the list began to get much harder.
3:00 pm: Species 64 is a fly-by osprey at the Indigo Hill Big Sit.
By late afternoon, the sun had swung around to the southwest of the tower and our shadow was getting longer, stretching out to the northeast.
4:17 pm: Wild turkey, ruby-throated hummer, yellow-throated vireo gets our Big Sit to 67--two from the record for this site.
Here's the view from the tower, looking north, during the afternoon.
Sun dogs appeared late in the day, giving us something to marvel at since the birding was incredibly slow.
And then, it was dark and everyone was gone. I posted one more update for the 2009 Big Sit.
8:09 pm: We'll man the circle 'til the bitter end but it looks like the final tally will be 67. Respectable, but two off the record.
I went downstairs, fixed the kids dinner, and got them into bed. After some clean-up of the kitchen and hauling down of gear, I felt the tower calling me back. So, at about 8:45 pm, I climbed up into the cold, damp night air for a little bit more listening, just in case three new birds for the list flew overhead, calling out their readily identifiable vocalizations.
In my quietude, I heard more Swainson's thrushes, a veery, a chipping sparrow, the barred owls in the east woods, a distant great horned—all birds we'd had earlier in the day. And I heard the echoes of my friends' voices and laughter, reminding me that this event—The Big Sit!—is as much about the people as it is about the birds.
Sixty-seven species is our second-highest total ever, topped only by last year's record-setting 69! It was a valiant effort and a great day of birding (but is there any other kind?)
You can see the results from dozens of other Big Sits from around North America and beyond by visiting the official Big Sit website.
Of course, the following morning there was a male ruby-crowned kinglet taunting me from the birches outside the kitchen window. A jumble of house sparrows took off from the forsythia, laughing that they'd skunked us on Sunday. And I heard the sweet sputter of an eastern meadowlark from the neighbor's hayfield as I walked Liam to the bus this morning.
And yet, I still love The Big Sit like no other birding event I've ever experienced.