Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The Big Sit 2014!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014
Attention Birders Worldwide!

The 2014 Big Sit is coming soon! On the weekend of October 11 (Saturday) and 12 (Sunday) people just like you will be  positioning themselves in the middle of 17-foot diameter circles and watching/counting birds for as much of a 24-hour period as possible.

There's no rule about the number of birders you can fit in your Big Sit circle.
Big Sit teams get the chance at two prizes: one is simply bragging rights for your geographic area. For many years my Big Sit circle had the highest totals in Ohio and I bragged about that until I lost several friendships. The other prize is The Golden Bird, a cash award of $500 sponsored by Swarovski Optik NA. The Golden Bird winner is selected this way: All the species seen by all of the teams are thrown into a hat. One species is chosen to the the Golden Bird, let's say it's winter wren. Then all the teams that saw a winter wren are thrown into a hat and one lucky team is chosen to receive The Golden Bird prize! They are able to use the $500 to support the conservation cause of their choice. Cool, huh?

You can learn more and watch a goofy Big Sit video here. If you need further justification to do a Big Sit, here are my Top Ten Reasons. Teams can register here:

The Whipple Bird Club in the indigo Hill birding tower during the 2011 Big Sit.
Some would argue that The Big Sit is the social highlight of the birding year.
After several requests from participants, and a bit of internal discussion, the Bird Watcher's Digest and the New Haven (CT) Bird Club (the organization that holds the trademark on The Big Sit!™) decided to open the dates for future Big Sits to include both Saturday and Sunday on the second weekend of October. For the 2014 Big Sit, sitters can choose to sit on either Saturday, October 11 or on Sunday October 12. Or you can choose to sit on both days and pick the best one to record for your Sit circle.

The Big Sit is a non-competitive event (although I compete with myself every year to top our Sit site record for number of species). This year we'd love to beat our all-time record of 72 species, but I'd be happy to top last year's measly 55 species. Weather has a huge impact on our numbers in southeastern Ohio. If a cold front comes through the week before, it clears out a lot of our warblers, vireos, tanagers, and other insect eaters.

So please make plans to Sit! Anyone can participate—it's free—and you don't HAVE to register, but we appreciate it if you do. And afterwards, please come back to the Big Sit web pages to enter your bird list and share your sightings. You can even share some of your team's photos. And you can see how your Sit compares with other Sits in your region, state, or country.

Mainly the Big Sit is FUN! It's like a tailgate party for birders. I'm already looking forward to sitting for parts of both days. And if Saturday is rained out, well there's always Sunday!

Good luck and happy, birdy sitting!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

New Podcast Episode: Sketches of Homer, Alaska

Tuesday, August 12, 2014
Last May, I was the keynote speaker at the Kachemak Bay Shorebird Festival in Homer, Alaska. The festival was really rich in terms of field trips and speakers, the birding was excellent, the people were super friendly, and the weather perfect. My friend Marianne Aplin, a longtime U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service person working in the refuge system, had been inviting me to the festival for a number of years, but, because it usually coincides with International Migratory Bird Day, I could never go. In the spring of 2014 I decided to make getting to Homer a priority and I'm sure glad I did.

Homer is a wonderful small town on the Kenai Peninsula of Alaska, surrounded by Kachemak Bay. It's about a five-hour drive southeast from Anchorage. While the festival attracts mostly Alaskan birders, the town of Homer supports the festival fully and a lot of Homerites—even non-birders—participate.
Huge turnout for the Beginners' Bird Walk in Homer.
I got a life bird (spruce grouse!), got to see some other really special birds (Aleutian tern, tufted puffin, varied thrush, harlequin duck, and Northwestern crow), met a lot of new friends, judged a bird-calling contest, helped out a couple dozen young birders in a competition, experienced an earthquake, witnessed a birds and beers bash, participated in a beginning birders walk, gave my keynote talk, and played a lot of music.
BT3 with two of the members of the Fledgling Birders group in Homer.
I created a podcast episode for "This Birding Life" about my experience in Homer. If you give it a listen, I'll bet it'll make you want to head north to Homer. As I found out during my visit, Homer is the center of the universe—we're just not sure which universe.

"This Birding Life" is sponsored by Carl Zeiss Sports Optics and hosted by Bird Watcher's Digest.
For more information about the Kachemak Bay Shorebird Festival, visit the Homer Chamber of Commerce website at

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Out There With the Birds!

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Longtime readers of this blog may recognize the phrase "out there with the birds." It's been a kind of catch phrase of mine for a long time, used to sign-off from my presentations, my blog posts, and my podcast: "I'll see you out there with the birds!"

Now the content team at Bird Watcher's Digest has borrowed the phrase as the title of our new multi-author blog, Out There with the Birds. Why create a multi-author blog? That's a good question. Multi-author blogs are very popular these days. Two of the more successful ones focused on birding are 10,000 Birds and the American Birding Association blog—both are worth checking out.

Since BWD is a magazine for readers, we tried to emulate that for the blog. If you like reading good writing from new voices in the bird and nature realm, please give OTWTB a try. The topics and subject matter are all over the map. In fact, you never know what you're going to be reading, but we guarantee you that it's going to be interesting, well-written, and worth your time. Dawn Hewitt, BWD's managing editor, is the content wrangler for the blog. Her job is to keep the posts rolling in and to make sure that the blog and its contents help us reach our two goals: to provide engaging, entertaining, thought-provoking content for the blog's readers, and to expose the blog's authors to a new, wider audience.

Among the many authors are some well-known names in the birding realm, such as Bo Beolens (a.k.a. The Fatbirder), artist, author, and marine-life expert Sophie Webb, poet and editor of Bird Watching Magazine (UK) Matt Merritt, as well as newer voices such as naturalist, photographer Erin Gettler, and ace bird photographer Tom Dunkerton. We've had individual posts by a number of other authors, including Jason Kessler, the filmmaker responsible for the Opposable Chums documentary about the World Series of Birding.

The latest post is a guest contribution from Clay Taylor of Swarovski Optik NA recounting his recent Costa Rica birding trip with Birder of the Year contest winner Lyn Stallings. Swarovski and BWD partnered to sponsor the 2013 Birder of the Year (BOTY) contest with the grand prize of an all-expenses-paid, week-long birding trip to Costa Rica, plus a pair of new Swarovski SLC binoculars. Here's a hot tip: the 2014 BOTY contest will be announced soon, so watch for it in the pages of BWD.
BWD's content and events team, from L to R: BOTB, Wendy Clark, Kyle Carlsen, and Dawn Hewitt.

We also include some work from two of our BWD content team—Dawn Hewitt and Kyle Carlsen. Both of these folks are talented writers and avid birders, which is incredibly useful if you're producing a constant flow of bird-related material for a variety of delivery channels. I feel very lucky to have these two on our team.

So please check out the content on OTWTB and let us know what you think of it. Better yet, if you have something you'd like to contribute to be considered for the blog, please contact us via e-mail: bwd AT birdwatchersdigest DOT com. Use the subject line OTWTB.

Thanks, and I'll see you....well, you know the rest!