Saturday, April 17, 2010

Spring Big Sit

For over ten years I have organized a local Big Sit (see the Big Sit link on the side bar) at the Elfin Forest in Los Osos, in October. This is a national event with some Big Sits even in foreign countries. The purpose is to stay at one spot (within one seventeen foot diameter circle) and count all the bird species you see or hear in one 24 hour period. All of the counts do their counting on the same day. This event is, in part, a "green" reaction to the traditional Big Day where participants drive (or even fly) hundreds of miles to increase their one day total. Our local sit occurs at a spot in the coastal scrub overlooking the Morro Bay Estuary (see the photo) and nearby ranch and park land as well as the adjacent neighborhood in Los Osos. We have recorded as many as 122 species in one October count. In the fall, as many as twenty of us count in shifts so that there are fresh counters from the dark of the early morning till the evening. The spot is really a beautiful and it is easy to sit for hours.
This spring Mike Stiles and I decided to do a Big Sit at the Elfin Forest in April. The 17th had a good weather forecast and seemed to be in the middle of migration so we decide to set that date. Mike lives a couple of houses away from the Elfin Forest and I am a short bike ride away. We me at about 6:00 AM and counted till about 4:30 PM. Tom Edell joined us (see Mike and Tom in photo) for about half the time. The weather did turn out fairly well as we started with a slight off shore breeze and clear skies. While the wind switched to on shore late in the morning and was cold for a while, it later slowed and the day warmed back up.

It was interesting to compare spring species with fall. Our total was down, but this may have partially been due to fewer counters. While the variety of shorebirds, ducks, grebes, raptors, gulls and sparrows was down, the land bird migration was a bit better. Birds we saw on this spring sit that we have never recorded in October included Western and Cassin's Kingbirds, Rough-winged Swallow, Wilson's Warbler, Black-headed Grosbeak and Lazuli Bunting. The total was 96 species - about 15 species less than our typical October totals. It was also warmer and greener than the fall, with more flowers (Sticky Monkey Flower pictured), lizards (photo of fence lizard) and butterflies like the "Coastal" Bramble Hairstreak shown.

I had no new BIGBY species after birding continuously from this spot for over ten hours, but between the birds, flowers, butterflies, visitors and the view, it was still very enjoyable.

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