Thursday, October 20, 2011

The 2011 Big Sit, Part II: Schlepping and Prepping

Thursday, October 20, 2011
Fog hugs the New River Gorge Bridge.

Saturday, October 8 dawned cool and clear in southern West Virginia where I was scheduled to lead a bird walk for the Fall Birding Weekend hosted by the fledgling New River Birding and Nature Center at its new property in Wolf Creek Park near Fayetteville, WV. Normally on the Saturday before The Big Sit I'm running around like a headless chicken trying to get ready for my favorite event of the birding year. But I'd made a commitment to this new fall event run by my good pals Geoff, Dave, Bill, and Rachel.

I got up, scarfed down some brekky and headed south across the fog-enveloped New River Gorge Bridge toward the meeting place for the bird walk.

Birding the boardwalk at Wolf Creek Park, future home of the New River Birding & Nature Center.

The birding was stupendous at the park! We barely made it 100 feet along the boardwalk before the sheer volume of bird activity forced us to stop and scan with our binocs. Kinglets, vireos, warbler, chickadees, titmice, nuthatches, sparrows, and woodpeckers zipped and flitted in the trees and shrubs along the edge of the woods bordering a creek dammed by beavers, creating a wonderful meeting of wetland and woodland. We noted a variety of species moving on this gorgeous fall day, in particular white-breasted nuthatches, blue jays, robins, American crows, and yellow-bellied sapsuckers.

As the day warmed up with the rising sun we began seeing more and more raptors, including several sharp-shinned hawks, a cluster of five (!) Cooper's hawks, resident red-shouldered hawks, and a couple of very late broad-winged hawks. A peregrine falcon shot past overhead—probably one of the pair that nested on the New River Bridge this summer.

By the time the bird walk ended at mid-day we had more than 60 species. If you enjoy fall birding in an exquisitely beautiful mountain setting, consider coming to the 2012 Fall Birding Weekend along the New River in Fayetteville, WV. It's limited to just 12 people and the focus is on identification and enjoyment of fall migrant birds—especially warblers and raptors. To get on the info list for next year, send an e-mail to goshawk AT

After a filling and tasty lunch at The Vandalian in Fayetteville, our group split up for an afternoon off. I said my goodbyes and headed back north to Ohio to prep for The Big Sit. But that was still many miles, hours, and interim tasks in my future...

The following day the Fall Birding Weekend gang went to Hanging Rock Tower for some hawk watching, lead by Bill Hilton, Jr. I was sorry to miss this trip and doubly so when I head that they had more than 50 raptors of seven species, including merlin. We're hoping that next year the Big Sit and the Fall Birding Weekend will not conflict.

And speaking of the Big Sit...I'd done a bunch of prep work prior to leaving for WV. Hauling things to the tower: chairs, coats, hats gloves, towels, optics, clipboard, food, beverage cooler, another beverage cooler, iPod, junk food, heating pad, coffee maker, field guides, cameras, headlamps, plastic owl decoy, more junk food, and Tums.

I was ready. But I had just one more task to complete. I had to pick up a princess from a ball.
Phoebe all ready for the homecoming dance.

Saturday night was Phoebe's homecoming dance and, since Julie covered the drop-off, I was assigned the pick-up duty. The dance ended at 11 pm. The school is a 45-minute drive from home. The Big Sit starts at midnight.

It was going to be close....the full moon was already rising as we raced home on the snaky-curvy country roads, Phoebe chattering excitedly about the dance to her always-proud papa...

... to be continued .....


On October 20, 2011 at 8:42 PM Anonymous said...

fabulous reporting--and what a picture of Phoebe. Whew.
Can't wait till the nest accounting of one of the best days of my life....

On October 20, 2011 at 9:26 PM Anne said...

Man oh man. Phoebe is every bit as beautiful in a formal dress as she is in running attire when she goes out with Liam on a warm September day. These are great times, Billy! Glad you're enjoying them.

On October 20, 2011 at 9:27 PM Anne said...

Oh...and the WVA weekend sounds like a lot of fun!

On October 22, 2011 at 3:15 AM Mpho Phiri said...

Hi Bill,
I am trying to chill 'till the next episode. Hope it it will come soon.Phoebe must be proud of you.Thanx for sharing

On October 22, 2011 at 8:53 AM Anonymous said...

Never mind the Big Sit - Phoebe is GORGEOUS in her beautiful dress. Great pic!!

On October 24, 2011 at 3:24 PM WPgirl said...

Phoebe does indeed look like a princess.