Friday, October 22, 2010

CAS Big Sit! team ranked third in the country - 107 species at Milford Point Coastal Center!

The Big Sit! is an annual, international birding event hosted by Bird Watcher's Digest and founded by the New Haven Bird Club. The aim of this event is to get as many people worldwide outside looking for birds. It is a free, noncompetitive event open to anyone, but some people take it quite seriously. Here's how it works: First you find a great birding location, preferably one with a good, wide view. Next you establish a real or imaginary 17 foot-diameter circle and man that circle for 24 hours, recording every bird species that is visible from the circle. Participants can join a circle for any period of time within the 24 hour count period, but the real hardcore sitters are there for the duration - eyes on the sky for the full 24 hours while a support crew provides food and lots of coffee.

B.W. Surf Scopers in action on the outer observation platform at Milford Point during the 2010 Big Sit!

On October 10th, our Big Sit! team, the "B.W. Surf Scopers", captained by Frank Gallo, completed its 17th Big Sit! on the outer observation platform at Milford Point and the results are in! Not only did the team shatter its own record of 101 species, they also raised the bar for the state of Connecticut and came out third in the country with a total of 107 species! Since this is an international event and Big Sit! from various countries worldwide have submitted their count circle results, one could claim that the B.W. Surf Scopers came in third in the world! But that is somewhat beside the point - this is a noncompetitive event after all and it is all about the joy and appreciation of getting out with friends to birdwatch. Nevertheless, it is a very impressive feat that warrants a closer look:

Scoping the surf around the clock during the 2010 Big Sit! event

Of the 107 different bird species recorded during the 24 hour period, four were new for the event. Considering that the cumulative list of birds seen from the Milford Point platform during 17 Big Sit! events already numbered 165 species, the addition of no fewer than four (White-tailed Kite, Black-billed Cuckoo, Northern Parula and Eastern Bluebird) this year is no small feat!

Sometimes things get a little busy in front of the platform!

More details about the day and the event's sightings are summarized in the report below, provided by Frank Gallo and teammate Frank Mantlik:

2010 - Sunrise 7am; set 6:19pm. Part-time counters included Sara Zagorski, Wendy Knothe, Vanessa Mickan. Several visitors during the day. Temp 44-66 F. Skies Clear. Winds began light N/NW 5 mph, shifting W / WSW steady to 18 mph by 10:30 and through the day. Highlights: Gadwall, American Wigeon, Northern Pintail (14), Green-winged Teal, all 3 Scoter species, both Loon species, Great Cormorant, American Bittern, both Night-Herons, 10 species of diurnal raptors including WHITE-TAILED KITE (early AM), Clapper Rail (seen-last species of day), American Golden-Plover, Red Knot (2-imm), White-rumped Sandpiper, Pectoral Sandpiper (imm), Bonaparte's Gull (2), Forster's Tern (3), Black-billed Cuckoo, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Chimney Swift (3-late), Ruby-throated Hummingbird (female-late), Red-breasted & White-breasted Nuthatches, Marsh Wren, both Kinglets, Eastern Bluebird, Hermit Thrush, 4 warbler species including Northern Parula and Blackpoll, Field Sparrow, Nelson's Sparrow, White-crowned Sparrow, Dickcissel, Rusty Blackbird (2), Purple Finch (2). Misses: Wild Turkey, Killdeer, Ruddy Turnstone, Least Sandpiper, Cedar Waxwing, Common Yellowthroat, Swamp Sparrow.

Underlined and highlighted birds are new for the list this year. A Swamp Sparrow was seen nearby but from outside of the count circle and could therefore not be included in the final tally.

American Pipit, an uncommon species found relatively regularly in the area at this time of year

Savannah Sparrows are moving around in good numbers at the moment

A good species for the count, scoped from the platform: American Golden Plover!

To see the full species list, the up-to-date ranking of all participating teams worldwide, and for more background on the event, you can visit the Big Sit! website.

The B.W. Surf Scopers (from l. to r.): Frank Mantlik, Jim Dugan, Patrick Dugan, Frank Gallo and Tina Green

One more very important point to make, is that the B.W. Surf Scopers use this event as a fundraiser for Connecticut Audubon Society's bird and habitat conservation programs. This year the team raised over $750 in pledges! Thank you all - scopers and sponsors - for your efforts and contributions. Let's see what the 18th Big Sit! brings next year!
Photo credits: Vanessa Mickan (1,7), Frank Gallo (2, 3,6), Twan Leenders (4,5)

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