Monday, October 31, 2011

The 2011 Big Sit Part IV: A Broken Record

Monday, October 31, 2011

Here's the final chapter in the 2011 Big Sit report from the Indigo Hill Birding Tower, home of The Whipple Bird Club. As the day wore on toward afternoon, the bird activity really tailed off, as you might expect. Our list was at 66 at 11:00 am. By 11:30 am we'd added a distant osprey (67) and northern harrier (68).

Just before noon I saw a bird flying to the northeast of the tower. It was a mid-sized bird, with an undulating flight pattern—definitely a woodpecker. Then it dipped sideways in flight and I caught a flash of large white wing patches! YES! A red-headed woodpecker! My favorite bird species of all and it moved our Big Sit list into a tie with our all time record. And it was not yet noon!

At 12:05 pm a red-breasted nuthatch called from the pines along the meadow. Jim and Julie heard it and Julie called it in—red-breasted nuthatches must be lonely little souls since they always respond to imitations of their calls. That was species number 70! A NEW BIG SIT RECORD for our circle!

There was copious jocularity and riotous rejoicing!

Then came hours of no new birds—plenty of neat birds to see, but no new species for the list. These were the wasp-swarming hours I mentioned in my previous post. Most sitters left the tower to eat, rest, rest stop, refit, leave, or go bugging in the meadow.

Binocs up! Few birds escaped our watchful eyes as we scanned the sky from the Indigo Hill Birding Tower.

By 3:30 pm our eyes were starting to blur and the beer in the cooler was starting to sing its siren song. Just when we though we were stuck with a tie, I hear the familiar rattle of a wren from the brambly wildflower meadow to the east of the house. I heard it several more times—enough to recognize it as a house wren. Julie and Shila went out from the house to ground-truth it and caught glimpses of the bird and heard snatches of its rattle. That was yet another new record: 71 species, breaking the old record of 70 which had stood for, ummm, about 3.5 hours!

Sometime between 4:00 and 5:00 pm I spotted our final bird species of the 2011 Big Sit. A lone rock pigeon flew past the north side of the tower, headed east. Not a very glam bird for a new Indigo Hill Big Sit record of 72 species, but a record-setting bird nonetheless! As if all of nature was smiling on us, the sun broke through the clouds and gave us a nice sunset for our group picture taking.

We chatted about the day's birds, as we always do near the end of The Big Sit: favorite bird of the day, lucky "gets", hard-to-believe "misses." Some of the species I dream about adding to our Big Sit and farm lists at a future Big Sit: anhinga, sandhill crane, snow goose, and others.

Anhinga is a dream bird for the Big Sit list, but probably not likely.

Palm warbler was a big miss from the 2011 Big Sit list.

As we wound down, the jokes began to flow. A few birds still visited the feeders and the eastern phoebe that had been around all day was sitting on the telephone wire, tail flicking back and forth.
Our local phoebe put on a good show in the late afternoon.

The final gang at the 2011 Big Sit—those who stayed until the bitter end, from left to right: Jason, Julie, Chet Baker, Jim, BOTB, Evan, Steve, Shila, Wendy, Nina, Daniel, and Kelly. Photo by Phoebe Thompson.

The rising moon made a light squiggle in the night sky behind our plastic great horned owl decoy.

The final PlantCam shot from the 2011 Big Sit.

About 7:30 pm the wind picked up again, making hearing difficult. It was almost completely dark so we began to tear down. The last trip down from the tower, I grabbed the PlantCam and turned it off. The final photo had been taken at 7:52 pm.

It had been a great—a record-setting—day! I love The Big Sit.


On October 31, 2011 at 7:02 PM Unknown said...
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On October 31, 2011 at 7:03 PM Unknown said...

I hope you don't mind me inviting myself, but I've adding "Do a Big Sit! at Indigo Hill" to my life bucket list.

On November 1, 2011 at 4:34 PM Bill of the Birds said...

Happy to have you visit one of these years, Robert. We've had to limit the event to invite only these last few years since the tower only holds so many people.

On November 3, 2011 at 8:56 AM chatterbirds said...

Congrats on breaking your Big Sit record! Looks like a fun day as long as you can share it weth other people.