This year, Maine Audubon will not be able to have a team for the Big Sit, but you can do your own! I’ll be setting up one at home and encourage you to do the same.
What is a Big Sit? The event is “a semi-competitive birding event originated by the New Haven Bird Club in 1992.” It’s free and open to anyone—individuals and teams—all over the world. The object is to count how many birds you can identify in a day while staying within a 17-foot (5.2-meter) diameter circle and, of course, to have fun. It’s always the same weekend in October and according to the rules, your Big Sit “can last as many hours as are convenient and fun between 12:00 a.m. midnight and 11:59 p.m. on either Saturday, October 10th, or Sunday October 11th, 2020.”
We started doing our Big Sit at Maine Audubon many years ago. After much consideration, we choose the spot in the North Meadow with views of the salt marsh, river, fields, and hills. We usually sit for 12 hours, and different people drop in throughout the day. This year, due to COVID-19 precautions, we are not doing the Big Sit at Gilsland Farm, but you can do one in your backyard. For more general information on registering your circle and more, visit thebigsit.org.
What do you need to do a Big Sit?
Location: Stake out a 17 foot diameter circle. Try to locate your circle so that you can see a variety of habitats. We have a ladder handy so we can look over our hedge to see the firehouse roof for pigeons and gulls.
Feeders and Seed: We use a variety of feeders and seed (but having one feeder with one kind of seed is fine too.) Perch feeders are needed to get in song birds and some platform feeders attract the bigger birds like cardinals. Putting some millet on the ground for the sparrows is a good idea as they are migrating through right now. You may be able to see a Lincolns or White-crowned in addition to our regular sparrows (Song, White-throated, and more). Don’t forget the suet and who knows, a hummingbird might stop by so have that feeder filled and ready.
Accessories: Have a comfortable lawn chair. I have a lounge so I can get a better look at the sky for migrating hawks. Bring out your scope, if you have one, along with your binoculars. There may be something way up in the sky and you might need more magnification. Plenty of snacks are always part of a Big Sit!
Recording your birds: You can record the old fashion way with pencil and paper, or use eBird. eBird will let you record and you can export a list to the organizers at the Big Sit.
Publicity: Let people know you are doing a Big Sit. On Twitter or Instagram, use hashtags #Big Sit and #maineaudubon so we know how you are doing. I know I will be posting from my back yard this year, and I will be interested in knowing how you are doing! Even though we can’t be together in Falmouth, we still want to share the Big Sit with you, hear your stories, and learn how many birds you saw.