The morning started out cloudy and in the low 50s but soon turned to a light rain that increased to a heavy, steady rain causing our group of 5 to stop early (around 11 AM). Last year we had much better weather and thirty species. This year we had a better location and twenty-nine species. We picked our new location for the variety of habitat and a full view of the lake, and because we had seen an Osprey from this location last week. This spot also paid off because we had shelter from the rain.
There were some notable misses this year including several woodpeckers and songbirds. The rain kept the birds quiet and the sky was hard to pick out birds. American Robins were the most abundant bird, flying over in groups of 10s to 100s. We quit counting after over 650. The highlights were Osprey, Pied-billed Grebe, and Belted Kingfisher.
The Big Sit! offers something a bit different than traditional birding or even backyard birding. We could’ve stayed home and saw quite a few birds in our backyard (which would’ve been fun) or we could’ve done a large hike and seen many more species, but instead we “forced” ourselves to sit down in one place and really look for birds. From the start of our sit to the end, birds were in constant view. And these birds offered some of the neatest sightings we’ve ever had.
Osprey: We don’t see Osprey too often but presumably the same one from last week was back and perched quietly in a tree across the lake. He sat there for over 2 hours as it rained and birds passed by above and below. He looked a bit annoyed by the rain but content at his perch. Then, without warning he dropped out of the tree, splashed into the water and sat there, wing-deep in the lake. Twenty seconds passed and with a lot of flapping, he lifted off the water grasping a large fish. He lost altitude once to shake his feathers and then gradually lifted higher before leaving out of sight.
Pied-billed Grebe: A group of three grebes spent several hours going back in forth in front of us. They would dive as we tried to find them in the scope and reappear in a completely different part of the lake. When the rain became really heavy, they would end up coming in close to shore and to us.
Belted Kingfisher: We often see Belted Kingfishers but catching them in the act of fishing is not always so easy a task. Not while doing a Big Sit! One of the kingfishers we spotted caught a fish, perched, and then proceeded to bash the fish to death before consuming it.
These three instances and many others are why doing a Big Sit! is fun. But it isn’t just about the fun of it. Many birding organizations across the country (and now the world too) are using events like these to raise awareness and money for bird conservation. These organizations often take pledges per species found and by doing them in public places (instead of just our backyards) raise awareness to anyone passing by.
The Birdfreak Team will be donating $1.00 per species found to purchase more Duck Stamps. So, for our 29 species we will purchase two Duck Stamps (rounded up to $30). We didn’t break our record last year but once again we were the only team to participate in the state of Illinois so for two years running we are the undisputed champion Big Sitters of our state. Till next year when we try to break our record!