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Tuesday, October 16, 2012

2012 Machine Assisted Big Sit

Since I normally don't bird on Sunday, I haven't done a real Big Sit since the mid-1990s in Texas.  This year, with the decision to open up the event to Saturday sitters, I jumped back in with a Big Sit from my back patio here at home.
Big Sit view from the patio
Actually, I got a slow start, so I kind of just eased into it.  I meant to get up early and listen to the nocturnal migration, but I was just too tired.  I did decide to do a machine assisted Big Sit--and count the night flight calls (NFCs) of birds that I was able to detect with my OldBird 21c microphone.  So first thing I did was check my recording in the morning (see nightly summary here), to start out the Machine Assisted Big Sit with:

1) Swainson's Thrush--NFC
2) Gray-cheeked Thrush--NFC
3) Hermit Thrush--NFC, FOS
4) White-throated Sparrow--NFC
5) Savannah Sparrow--NFC
6) Indigo Bunting--NFC
7) Common Yellowthroat--NFC
8) White-crowned Sparrow--NFC (new yard bird)
9) Northern Parula--NFC
10) Song Sparrow--NFC
11) "Zeep call"--NFC, probably Blackpoll Warbler
12) Palm Warbler

In the morning, I thought I would only sit for a few hours and call it good, but I forgot how much fun it is sitting there and watching birds go by!  See the eBird report here.  In the AM I added:

13) Pine Siskin--over 20 birds at my feeder most of the day
14) Purple Finch--over 10 at my feeder most of the day
15) American Goldfinch
16) Downy Woodpecker
17) Canada Goose
18) White-breasted Nuthatch
19) Tufted Titmouse
20) Dark-eyed Junco--FOS
21) American Crow
22) Blue Jay
23) American Robin
24) Northern Cardinal
25) Black-capped Chickadee
26) Chipping Sparrow
27) Red-breasted Nuthatch
28) Red-bellied Woodpecker
29) House Finch
30) Black-throated Blue Warbler--male and female together
31) Carolina Wren
32) Sharp-shinned Hawk (quick bird through the trees)
33) Mourning Dove
34) Northern Flicker
35) Red-tailed Hawk
36) Brown-headed Cowbird (flock flyby)
37) Turkey Vulture
38) Golden-crowned Kinglet
39) Yellow-breasted Chat--new yard bird, 2012 county bird--locally rare highlight of the day at 10:35am
40) House Sparrow

The chat was awesome!  I had looked for chats in the spring and they are always on my mind when I am birding brushy hedgerows in the fall, but we are on the edge of their range and they are rare here.  As I was sitting and watching, I saw a yellow catbird-sized bird fly up from the multiflora rose and grapes on the edge of my woods.  I quickly got on it and saw the black lores and white spectacles.  I watched it for a few seconds before it slipped back into the brush.  I ran and got my camera, but it was moving quickly through the brush in the woods and I never got a shot of it.

Well, at this point I pretty much decided I would be watching in my yard all day and do a full Big Sit!  In the afternoon, things are usually slower, and the landscapers were putting in a walkway in the back, so I watched from an upstairs window over the patio (see eBird report here), adding:

41) Black Vulture--2:00pm after a long watch with no new birds
42) Northern Harrier--new yard bird, a migrant soaring with vultures at 2:20pm
43) Cooper's Hawk
44) Yellow-bellied Sapsucker--3:30pm
45) European Starling--4:00pm
46) Yellow-rumped Warbler

At 5:15pm I had to go to a party at church, so I missed the last hour of the day.  After I got home in the evening, I wanted to finish up right, so I got out my iPod and called up:

47) Eastern Screech-Owl

The OldBird21c microphone manned the station again from 8pm-midnight, but the autodetectors didn't pick up anything that would be new for the day--though perhaps on further review of the tape there might be a goody or two in there that the detectors missed.

So, not bad--47 species, including 10 only recorded by the microphone (I got White-throated Sparrow and Palm Warbler myself later during the sit).  While I could have seen more birds at Spruce Run, or one of my other local patches, I liked the personal feel of doing the sit in my yard--and it payed off with some new yard birds and a county year bird.  But more than anything, it was a way for me to connect with my yard and bird neighbors.  Next year I'll get my kids more involved, and maybe have some friends over as well for a Big Sit party!


Rick Wright said...

What a great day, Rob! You wound up with more species than we did--and we were on the beach at Raritan Bay.
See you soon--

Nelson said...

Rob- as an erstwhile resident of Milford, N.J., and Williamsport, Pa. where i have spent many hours hawking, I can lead you toward resident Northern Goshawks. The goshawk invasion in mid-1990 resulted in the species to become resident. Here are some of the infinite locations to set a stop and go hawk watch. Route 579 and Woolf Rd, also Goritz Road, all of it; Bloomsbury, Asbury, Little York, West Portal, Merill Creek Reservoir. Also Warren Glen near the paper company.Please heed- which includes the goshawks of Anacortes, The best- Nelson Briefer- goshawk specialist- Anacortes, WA.

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