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Oshkosh Big Sit was a birding "festival"
in tough times in 2020
10th Oshkosh Big Sit: Circle remains unbroken – just expanded
By Anita Carpenter
In this time of pandemic pandemonium with safer-at-home orders and social distancing, many activities have been cancelled. The Oshkosh Bird Fest, which has been a “first-weekend-in-May” event since 2011, succumbed to the same fate.
However, as my friend and fest organizer Bettie Harriman said, even though the Oshkosh Bird Fest was cancelled, Anita has not been cancelled!
As part of the yearly event, I’ve hosted and enjoyed the Big Sit for nine years. We’d begin at 6 a.m. in Menominee Park on Lake Winnebago and continue until noon. This year marked our 10th anniversary. I said I’d still like to do the Big Sit even if no one else was present, because I have nine uninterrupted years of data. Besides, Big Sits are fun.
The fest committee couldn’t announce the Big Sit to the general public, but committee members were invited to participate. Eight individuals showed up with many remarking that this was the first year they could participate instead of being responsible for other activities.
We had to relax one major restriction. To accommodate all of us, a 17-foot diameter circle did not allow for 6-foot distancing, so we had a “Big Sit Ellipse.” We felt that under these extreme pandemic conditions, we would be forgiven.
The first weekend in May is a bit early for the last major wave of neotropical migrants to arrive in Oshkosh. Together with this year’s cold weather, I wasn’t expecting much, but the forecast was for sunny skies with temperatures in the 50s and southerly winds. There was hope.
Our 6 a.m. bird was a Northern Cardinal. By 7 we had tallied 30 species, including an unexpected Eastern Bluebird and Blue-winged Teal. By 8 we had added nine more species including Forster’s and Caspian Tern, Warbling Vireo, Baltimore Oriole and Osprey.
As in the past, the first two hours were the best. By 9 a.m., we had recorded seven additional species including a Palm Warbler, the one and only warbler we saw, plus an Eastern Phoebe and a Great-crested Flycatcher.
We ended the Big Sit at 9 a.m., earlier than expected, because the park’s restrooms were locked due to the corona virus!
Our grand three-hour total was 46 species. The yearly average is 48 species ranging from 32 in 2019 to 70 in 2012-when we set up two circles.
I was ecstatic with the results. Even though we didn’t see big numbers of each species, we all had a wonderful time. Being with friends, sharing a few good laughs and doing what we all love to do, was a pleasant respite from the worries and uncertainty of the future. Birds are listed under the BIG SIT tab.
CELEBRATE THE WONDER OF SPRING MIGRATION 2021
The silence of winter is past and the air is full of bird song. It is a wondrous time of year when our migrating birds return once again. Want to learn more about our feathered friends? Then come to Oshkosh Bird Fest on Saturday, May 1st. Celebrate International Migratory Bird Day with a variety of activities for all ages. Visit Shelter #1 in Menominee Park which will be the center of our activities from 6:00 am - noon. The event is free and open to the public. Rain or shine, plan to make a day of it. We missed hosting our 10th event last May due to COVID-19. This year’s schedule is scaled back allowing for social distancing. Wearing masks is still encouraged.
The day will begin in a 17-foot diameter circle for a “Big Sit”, a unique way to bird watch from 6:00 am to Noon. Join Anita Carpenter inside the circle anytime for as long as you want. Bring a chair and binoculars, if you have them, and enjoy watching, listening, counting and learning about birds that you see and hear. This is sometimes described as “a tailgate party for birders”.
Dick Nikolai, a licensed bird bander, will be monitoring his mist nets and banding birds from 7:00 am-10:30 am. See birds close up and learn why we band birds and how it is done. In cooperation with City Forester, Bill Sturm, and thanks to Stuart’s Landscaping & Garden Center for a donation of native trees and shrubs in 2017, one of the areas where Dick sets up the mist nets is “birdscaped”.
Want to go on a bird walk with an experienced birder? Bird walks will at 8:00 am and 9:30. Explore the Menominee Park shoreline and interior. Bring binoculars if you have them. A limited number of loaners will be available.
This year there will be a Live Birds of Prey Walk by Aves Wildlife Alliance. Beka, a licensed rehabilitator, and her assistants, will be stationed around the Shelter with owls and hawks. Visit each station and learn about these beautiful birds and why they are important. What a great opportunity to ask questions and observe these awesome birds up close!
Educational and fun children’s activities will take place from 10:00 am – noon. Take a bird walk; play the migration game; and more! Sponsored by Oshkosh Zoo Society.
Got bird questions? We’ve got answers! Winnebago Audubon and Bird Fest committee members will be on hand to answer questions and talk “birds”.
The Artists of Oshkosh Bird Fest are with us again, but unfortunately not in person. Visit Bird Artists of Wisconsin on their new Facebook page, which features the talented work of local artists, photographers and crafts people. Their amazing artwork can be seen and purchased on-line. And you will also be interested in a continuous slide show of the creative and colorful Student Bird Art which can be found inside Shelter #1. Please show your support of the students by visiting Shelter #1 from 8:00 am – noon.
Oshkosh was awarded recognition as a Bird City in 2010, and recertified each year since with “high flyer” status in the Bird City Wisconsin program, because Oshkosh is a bird friendly community and is committed to implementing sound conservation practices and educating its residents to play an increased role in making our community healthy for birds … and people. More than 100 Bird City communities are at the forefront of efforts to forge a statewide coalition of citizens and public officials who recognize that birds are more than beautiful – they are significant. Bird City communities go above and beyond in their conservation and education actions.
Oshkosh Bird Fest is a city event organized by volunteers from Oshkosh Bird Club, Oshkosh Sustainability Advisory Board, Oshkosh Zoological Society, Wild Ones Fox Valley Area, and Winnebago Audubon. It is entirely funded by donations.
For all the details, visit our website at www.oshkoshbirdfest.com. You may also like to test your bird knowledge with our daily bird quiz on the Oshkosh Bird Fest Facebook page.