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Oshkosh Big Sit was a birding "festival"
in tough times
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
Updated press release coming soon.