Big Sit! event set for SundayWant a tailgate party atmosphere without the football stadium parking lot, the noise and the congestion? In that case, the Big Sit! is where you want to be Sunday, especially if you’re a birder.
Want a tailgate party atmosphere without the football stadium parking lot, the noise and the congestion? In that case, the Big Sit! is where you want to be Sunday, especially if you’re a birder.
Each year Arrowwood National Wildlife Refuge hosts the Big Sit! from sunrise to sunset in the Warbler Woodland Wildlife Viewing Area on the east side of Arrowwood Lake. It’s a day spent in the woodland picnic area counting bird species in a relaxed and pleasant atmosphere.
Normally, birders are a solitary group, but for this one day, birding is a noncompetitive group activity. Birders and wannabe birders sit within a 17-foot diameter circle laid out by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service staff. There they attempt to identify and count species of birds.
“The only rule is in order to count the bird, you have to have at least one toe in the circle,” said Paulette Scherr, Arrowwood wildlife biologist. “You can walk out of the circle to identify them, but to count you have to be in the circle. So flyovers definitely count here.”
U.S. Fish and Wildlife staff will provide chairs, binoculars and spotting scopes for those who don’t bring their own. There’ll be birding books and guides on hand to help identify and educate. The staff will provide some snacks and hot beverages. Participants can also bring their own. The staff will have a grill going so it’s possible to cook a hot dog or a hamburger.
“All we really need is people to come out and join us for an hour or the day,” Scherr said. “They don’t have to stay for any length of time. They can even go off birding if they like. There really are no limitations.”
The weather forecast looks good for Sunday, but Scherr said they’re taking no chances. Two fires are planned, she said, “one to keep the liquids hot and one to keep us warm.” She said they purchased a large tent so participants can stay dry in case of rain.
It rained heavily in 2008, so Big Sitters counted only 35 species that year. Apparently, the birds didn’t like the weather any better than the sitters. Last year, it was cold, but 46 bird species were counted. This year the weather looks much more promising for a nice fall day.
“The first year, 2007, we counted 47 species so we need to beat that this year,” Scherr said.
Arrowwood staff has activities planned for children as well, Scherr said, so it’s a day the whole family can enjoy.
“This is a great opportunity for people who want to know more about birding and see what’s it’s all about,” she said. “You can come alone or bring the family. You can just come and chat if you like, you don’t have to bird.”
The Big Sit! was founded by the New Haven (Conn.) Bird Club. It’s an international event now, hosted by Bird Watcher’s Digest and adopted by the National Wildlife Refuge System. For more information on it, visit www.birdwatchersdigest.com/site/funbirds/bigsit/bigsit.aspx.
The Wildlife Viewing Area is located on the east side of Arrowwood Lake. From U.S. Highway 281/52, turn east at 11th Street Southeast. From Highway 20, turn west onto Highway 9 with a second west turn onto 11th Street Southeast.
The Big Sit! kicks off National Wildlife Refuge Week. Scherr said it’s the perfect time for birding as this is the fall waterfowl and shorebird migration at Arrowwood. The auto tour route has been repaired after the flooding of the past two years and is open for wildlife viewing.
For additional information, call 701-285-3341.
Sun reporter Toni Pirkl can be reached at (701) 952-8453 or by e-mail at email@example.com