BIRD WATCHER’S DIGEST • SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER ’ 17 • birdwatchersdigest.com 63
event. Mathematically, that works
out to one new species every 8
minutes for 24 straight hours.
That is serious birding.
In order to achieve such lofty
numbers, the top teams carefully
plan their day in advance. Weeks
before the actual day they scout
likely areas, hoping to stake out
rare species that other teams may
miss. They create computer models to plot their most productive
itinerary and best routes to follow.
Speed is critical. They can’t spend
much time searching for each
species. In addition to time spent
spotting the birds, they may drive
300 to 400 miles just getting to the
most productive spots. There isn’t
much time to actually enjoy the
birds. They are merely collecting
Such manic behavior seems
excessive for all but the most elite
teams who have a chance to win.
Other teams try to make the day
less intimidating. For example, one
team birds only within Cape May
County, rather than racing around
the entire state of New Jersey. Others bird in even more limited areas.
One spends the entire day within
the Cape May city limits. Another
team does all its birding by bicycle.
One team, with a large number
of members, rents a city bus to
leisurely chauffeur them to various
Even with such self-imposed
limitations, these unconventional
teams manage to rack up bird
totals that I envy. However, even
with these milder, pared-back
efforts, a Big Day still seems too
imposing for me. I prefer some-
thing even more sedate.
Friends tell me that another
event, The Big Sit, seems like the
perfect activity for me. Like a Big
Day, the idea behind The Big Sit
is see a lot of birds within a single
day. It’s always scheduled for the
first weekend in October, and hun-
dreds of teams around the world
vie to produce the longest bird list
and win the championship prize
(which is only bragging rights). It
is definitely more relaxed than a
typical Big Day, and adds a strong
social element as well. The con-
cept is simple. First, you find an
area that offers a variety of habi-
tats—meadows, ponds, streams,
trees, and shrubs—that should
attract a variety of species. Next,
lay out a 17-foot diameter circle.
The objective is to count all the
species that the team sees or hears
from within that circle during the
day. No frantic driving here and
there. Just stay put in one spot all
day. Simple. B I L L
Big Sit participants watch the
skies in Whipple, Ohio.