Friday, October 26, 2012

Boise Big Sit! Results

The Boise Big Sit! was held on Saturday, October 13th at the Hyatt Hidden Lakes Reserve. It was a blast! Our goal was to see 35 species. We saw 50! - plus three others heard or seen from outside of the official 17' diameter circle (see the list below). I had hoped that at least one or two other birders would come out and join me. We had around 20 birders stop by! And a few hardy and enthusiastic birders spent most of the day out there. I had hoped that the location would allow us to share our passion for birding with the public, and we had around 30 people come by asking about what we were seeing and we were able to engage and interest them in meaningful ways. I'd call the Boise Big Sit! an all around "success".

Images of the Hyatt Hidden Lakes Reserve taken with my iPhone before sunrise.
Digiscoped photo of Hooded Mergansers taken well before sunrise.
The day didn't start off too promising though. When I walked out to the car at 6am, it was raining, and I thought that the Big Sit! was going to be long cold and wet day. As I arrived at the parking lot of the location the rain serendipitously stopped. As I huffed all my gear to the official circle in the dark I could hear Mallards quacking and White-crowned Sparrows singing away with the occasional call of a Red-winged Blackbird and Killdeer crying overhead. It seemed that every square foot of water was covered by a duck. Before there was very much light, the ducks started taking flight in what seemed like coordinated launch times for each brigade until the waters were left mostly empty of waterfowl...well, except for the American Coots and Gadwalls that remained throughout the day. Why didn't the Gadwall leave with the Wigeons and Mallards? Hmm.

In the twilight birds and birders began to emerge from the darkness and the fun really got rolling with the sunrise! Every hour I'd share our current species total on Twitter and with the Idaho listserv. One listserv reader was so kind to bring us donuts. Emails and tweets came in throughout the day cheering us on. The birders that stayed all day were buoyed up by the visits of other birders and the public in the course of the day.

Enthusiasm and excitement ran high...well until that slow part of the day. From the lunch hour until the evening, hardly any new birds were seen at all. We took turns meandering around the reserve hoping to spot something new and different. Our strategy was to call the people in the circle to see if they could get a scope on any new species we could see or hear while outside of the circle. Nothing. Nada. Zippo. But as the afternoon turned into evening, the birds returned and we again quickly added species to the list and the excitement carried us through until the concluding hour.
Prior to the event, I had made a couple of lists which I printed and pasted to a poster board (shown at right). First was a list of all the "probable" birds we would expect to see at this location this time of year based on my own site visits and experience. Then, based on data I gleaned from eBird I compiled a list of "possible" birds that we might have decent chance of seeing. I had another section for write-ins of "unexpected" birds.

Best Bird of the Day had to have been the Northern Shrike which teed-up in perfect light in the nearest cluster of cottonwood trees at around 8:45am. I would have digiscoped a great picture of it, but I was on the phone and it flew off to parts unknown as soon as I hung up. The next best bird of the day was an unexpected White-throated Sparrow mixed in with some White-crowned Sparrows. I got great looks at it through the Swarovski ATX 85mm scope, but as soon as I would relocate it to show someone else it would move.

Biggest Dip of the Day - Red-tailed Hawk. We watched for a Red-tailed Hawk with intensity and earnestness. We scanned the Boise foothills and the power poles at the far edges of our scopes' power. Not a single one! The second biggest dip of the day was Lesser Scaup which are common on other water holes this time of year and have even been seen at this location in the past.
Flicker in Fall Foliage
If you've never done a Big Sit!, you really need to. I've come to enjoy and appreciate the minor dramas as expectations, disappointments and triumphs play out in the course of one intense day of birding.

The Boise Big Sit! Official Results
Canada Goose
Wood Duck
American Wigeon
Cinnamon Teal - unexpected this time of year Northern Shoveler
Green-winged Teal - a single female
Hooded Merganser
Ruddy Duck - a single female or juvenile
California Quail
Pied-billed Grebe - still with stripe-faced young
Eared Grebe
Great Blue Heron
Sharp-shinned Hawk
Cooper's Hawk
Virginia Rail
American Coot - also still with stripe-faced young
Wilson's Snipe
Ring-billed Gull
California Gull
Rock Pigeon
Eurasian Collared-Dove - we expected to see these right away, but they didn't and we fretted all day about whether we'd see one or not. Finally, a couple showed up near the end of the Sit!
Mourning Dove
Belted Kingfisher
Northern Flicker
American Kestrel
Northern Shrike - Bird of the Day!
Black-billed Magpie
American Crow
Common Raven
House Wren - unexpected this time of year
Marsh Wren
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
American Robin
European Starling
Cedar Waxwing
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Song Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow - runner-up Bird of the Day!
White-crowned Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Red-winged Blackbird
Brewer's Blackbird
House Finch
Lesser Goldfinch - always possible this time of year, but unexpected
American Goldfinch
House Sparrow
Red-breasted Nuthatch - heard, but not from the official circle
Western Meadowlark - heard, but not from the official circle
Pine Siskin - heard, but not from the official circle


  1. Looking like a successful birding outing...I enjoyed your post

  2. looks and sounds like a great day.

  3. Enjoyable post, Robert. Great birds and good company!

  4. Sounds like the Big Sit! was quite a success. Fun times!