Monday, October 11, 2010

Big Sit Results

Northwest View
In stark contrast to last year, we had beautiful weather all day long for this year's Big Sit yesterday. In the morning we had partial cloud cover and a nice breeze. The afternoon was warm and clear. 5 folks joined me, mostly in the morning, and in 1 day from 1 spot we ended up observing 50 species of birds, 5 more than last year. Here are some highlights...

When I arrived at our Big Sit circle just after 6:00 AM, the sky was clear and full of stars. It wasn't like being out in the country, but there were more stars visible than I expected for an urban area and I was even able to see 2 satellites. At 6:09 I heard the distant haunting song of an Eastern Screech-Owl. The bird list had begun! As the sky gradually brightened a few bats were silently flying over the water and a single Common Nighthawk made a low pass over me and across the creek.

At about 7:30 we heard a rattle and saw this female Belted Kingfisher fly over the water and perch nearby. It stayed with us through most of the morning and we got to watch it make several dives into the water and catch and eat one small sunfish.

Female Belted Kingfisher - 1

All day long 7 female Blue-winged Teal stayed inconspicuously in a shallow part of the pond in front of our Big Sit circle. Now and then something would scare them and they'd fly downstream, right in front of us, and then disappear down the creek. But a few minutes later they'd be back, returning to the same spot. I got this photo of 6 of them returning. Also all day long near the ducks were anywhere from 5 to 50 Least Sandpiper and 1 Spotted Sandpiper.

Female Blue-winged Teal - 2

The bird activity slowed down through the middle and late morning. It had been over an hour since we'd seen any new species when at about 11:30 a flock of 15 birds in V formation flew over us headed south. They were White-faced Ibis, and I got this photo of them showing their distinctive long curved bills. I had never seen this species in the neighborhood before, so it brought my neighborhood bird list up to 202 species!

White-faced Ibis

In the winter the neighborhood has 2 kinds of hawk in the accipiter family: Cooper's Hawk and Sharp-shinned Hawk. They look very similar and both specialize in hunting other birds on the wing through the dense forest canopy. During the Big Sit we were treated to seeing both species several times throughout the day. The most exciting was at about 6:30 PM when only Barry Noret and I were left observing. Looking downstream we saw a White-winged Dove being chased by an adult Cooper's Hawk. They were heading straight towards us. The hawk took the dove down and followed it out of sight behind a small dam. We watched for a bit and the hawk left empty-handed. It returned after a few minutes and we could see it hopping around below the dam but could not see what it was doing, and there was no sign of the other bird. Finally it left again without carrying anything. I walked over to check it out and only found a small tuft of feathers. A little later Barry checked it out and found the dove hidden in a small bush. It flew off in the opposite direction. Wow, what a lucky bird!

To me, this is the kind of thing that makes something like the Big Sit worth the effort. Wildlife interactions like this happen all the time, but to see them yourself you have to spend enough time outdoors watching and listening. Spending a day in one spot also shows you first-hand which species are present and active all day long, which species only appear in the mornings or evenings, and which species make only single appearances or are conspicuously absent. Plus there's just something satisfying and reflective about watching a day happen, from dawn to dusk.

Many thanks to everyone who joined me for the Birding on Broadmeade Big Sit this year: Barry Noret (who stayed all day long), Gloria Blagg, Stu Wilson, Gracen Duffield, and Cheryl Heinsohn. Here are some of us in a photo Gracen took: (from left to right, Gloria, Barry, me, and Stu)


Barry and I finally called it quits at about 7:30 PM as we showed a neighborhood kid the moons of Jupiter through my spotting scope. As we packed up our stuff and walked back to our cars we heard an Eastern Screech-Owl again. It was a nice book-end to our day. There was just too much to include in a single blog post, so here are more photos with comments about other notable things we saw.

Here's the list of birds we recorded, in the order we first observed each species. I included the time as well to show how active the early morning is compared to other parts of the day.
  1. 6:09 AM - Eastern Screech-Owl
  2. 6:17 AM - Killdeer
  3. 6:50 AM - Northern Mockingbird
  4. 6:59 AM - Northern Cardinal
  5. 6:59 AM - Great Blue Heron
  6. 6:59 AM - Carolina Wren
  7. 7:01 AM - Blue Jay
  8. 7:04 AM - Common Nighthawk
  9. 7:08 AM - Blue-winged Teal
  10. 7:08 AM - White-winged Dove
  11. 7:10 AM - Least Sandpiper
  12. 7:17 AM - Eastern Phoebe
  13. 7:19 AM - Common Grackle
  14. 7:23 AM - Great Egret
  15. 7:23 AM - European Starling
  16. 7:27 AM - Cooper's Hawk
  17. 7:28 AM - Belted Kingfisher
  18. 7:31 AM - Mourning Dove
  19. 7:33 AM - Chimney Swift
  20. 7:36 AM - American Crow
  21. 7:38 AM - Spotted Sandpiper
  22. 7:39 AM - Great-tailed Grackle
  23. 7:42 AM - Scissor-tailed Flycatcher
  24. 7:44 AM - House Wren
  25. 7:46 AM - Lesser Goldfinch
  26. 7:46 AM - American Robin
  27. 7:59 AM - Brown Thrasher
  28. 8:02 AM - Indigo Bunting
  29. 8:02 AM - Ruby-crowned Kinglet
  30. 8:11 AM - Cave Swallow
  31. 8:18 AM - Barn Swallow
  32. 8:35 AM - Downy Woodpecker
  33. 8:53 AM - Red-shouldered Hawk
  34. 8:58 AM - Red-bellied Woodpecker
  35. 9:00 AM - Lincoln's Sparrow
  36. 9:00 AM - Snowy Egret
  37. 9:15 AM - Lark Sparrow
  38. 9:19 AM - House Sparrow
  39. 9:30 AM - Orange-crowned Warbler
  40. 9:40 AM - Carolina Chickadee
  41. 9:46 AM - House Finch
  42. 9:47 AM - Sharp-shinned Hawk
  43. 9:52 AM - Turkey Vulture
  44. 9:56 AM - American Kestrel
  45. 10:14 AM - Black Vulture
  46. 10:20 AM - Northern Flicker
  47. 11:35 AM - White-faced Ibis
  48. 12:35 PM - Rock Pigeon
  49. 1:42 PM - Wilson's Snipe
  50. 5:30 PM - Loggerhead Shrike


Susan Andres said...

What a great day alongside the pond in your neighborhood. To see 50 species in one spot is amazing. Having a water source is so very important for this. Nice write-up! White-faced Ibis - your list keeps on growing.

Mikael Behrens said...

Thanks Susan!