You are invited to take part in the most fun, most interesting day of birding of the whole year! Each year on the second Sunday in October, people who like to watch birds gather together to take part in a most unique event: the Big Sit!
The concept is simple: pick a spot that has lots of birds and lots of good bird habitat, create a 17-foot diameter circle, and sit(or stand) there for a whole day. Count the birds and see how many species you can tally! With fall migration in full swing, you’ll probably see quite a lot. This international event attracts more than 200 teams worldwide, and continues to grow in popularity.
At the Ashland Nature Center, we station ourselves on top of Hawk Watch Hill and take advantage of the great vantage point and mix of habitats to see a wide variety of birds. A couple of tall ladders, some specially-baited feeders, spotting scopes, and lots of birding experience help us to bring in the birds from great distances. The birds don’t have to be within the 17-foot circle– just be seen or heard by an observer in the circle!
Our first year, 2007, we tallied 81 species on a perfect fall day. In 2008, we had a slower day for migration and found 73 species. In 2009, we counted a record 83 species and had over 140 visitors stop by and help count birds from our circle!
What will this year bring? Will the special date of 10/10/10 be a good luck charm? Come join us on Sunday and you can find out(and help out) as we celebrate the fun of birding. There will be lots of good food to eat, plenty of birds to watch, and great memories to make. Be part of the Big Sit!
We invite all youth birders to take part in the event, and we will hold our official Delaware Dunlins event between 9:00am and noon. Come be part of a fun morning of birding and enjoy the wonders of fall migration!
Hope to see you on 10/10/10!
- Derek Stoner, Team Captain of “Twitching Talons” at the Ashland Hawk Watch
The Big Sit! Official Website
Directions to Ashland Nature Center
On a sunny late September Saturday, our flock of Dunlins gathered at the St. Jones Reserve. A special natural area, located southeast of Dover and adjacent to the Dover Air Force Base, St. Jones is a great blend of habitats for birds. While standing in the parking lot we observed a Bald Eagle, Brown Thrasher, Eastern Wood-Peewee, and a pair of Blue Grosbeaks that we saw in the scope!
Along the forest edge, we found flocks of American Robins and Northern Flickers. A Yellow-rumped Warbler and American Redstart brightened the songbird scene. Five-year-old Aaron spotted a Northern Harrier that almost flew away behind us, but not before it circled and gave us excellent looks. A Great Egret, Sharp-shinned Hawk and Great Blue Herons flew by, too.
But birds weren’t the only things with wings we saw. There were lots of big cargo planes that kept flying low overhead on their way to land at the air base. A surprise flock of three helicopters came over very low– does anyone know what species of chopper this is? What a great birds-eye view the pilots have of the beautiful Delaware Bayshore!
After St. Jones, we visited the nearby Ted Harvey Wildife Area, where we walked out to the bay shore. We saw a mixed flock of Common and Royal Terns fishing their way along the bay, and a group of Double-crested Cormorants perched on pilings. Dozens of Monarch Butterflies passed by on their long journey to Mexico.
We had fun beach-combing on this wild beach, finding lots of oysters, clams, mussels, lady’s slippers, and other nifty shells. Best of all, we found hundreds of freshly-shed Horsehoe Crab shells. There are lots of young Horseshoe Crabs out in the bay, and as they grow, they shed their shells. We can look forward to seeing plenty of crabs along the bay next spring when they return to spawn! A few creative youth birders created a unique tribute to the crabs that is a testament to the rebounding abundance of these amazing creatures. More crabs may mean more shorebirds to watch!
For more information about visiting these special places, please visit the following sites:
St. Jones: http://www.swc.dnrec.delaware.gov/coastal/DNERR/Pages/StJonesReserve.aspx
Ted Harvey: http://www.delawarebirdingtrail.org/dbc4.html
- Story and images by Derek Stoner