2022 Big Sit! The Great Islanders' second year - 104+ species

Following our hugely successful inaugural "Big Sit" effort at Great Island in 2021, our team was champing at the bit for the 2022 edition. Check out last year's post for the full story on our location!

This year's Big Sit took place on the weekend of October 8-9, 2022. A team's count could take place on either day. Our decision, based on weather, was for Saturday the 8th. A moderate/strong cold front had passed the evening before and left clear skies with a light northwest wind for the overnight period - theoretically perfect for migration. Unfortunately, an unexpected shortwave kicked up a line of rain that moved through the state in the predawn hours, effectively shutting down active migration locally.

This did not stop Phil Rusch from arriving on-site at 0245 to get us started with calling Great Horned Owl and American Bittern before the rain started. From 4-7am, it was wet. Not much was vocalizing overhead. We were able to tally a single Swainson's Thrush, and a more distant thrush, either a Veery or Gray-cheeked, was left unidentified. A very vocal American Golden-Plover was tallied in the dark, and a good thing it was, because we never did see one during the day. So the nighttime period did provide us with a few good birds despite the poor conditions.

The rain stopped around sunrise, and it didn't take long for the skies to completely clear for the remainder of the day. We were hoping for a solid diurnal passerine migration once the rain passed, but that didn't really materialize. Dribs and drabs, though, so it was not totally quiet. We did enjoy a brief warbler morning flight that was overwhelmingly Yellow-rumped but included Tennessee, Nashville, Black-throated Blue and a couple others. We ended up with seven warbler species on the day. Though it wasn't the heavy movement we were hoping for, diversity was just fine, and we were steadily putting together an impressive list. The varied habitat at this location undoubtedly helped.

In fact, having reached 87 species before 0930, a triple-digit total seemed well within reach. But by this point in the day we had already tallied most of the "easy" birds. Three hours later, at 1230, we were sitting at 95 species. We figured that with the entire afternoon ahead of us, we were bound to eventually topple 100. 

Around this time I took my second paddle of the day to the beach/marsh. Writing this piece three months after the fact, I can't recall the exact sequence of events, but Nelson's Sparrow and Marsh Wren were successfully kicked out of the marsh and added to the list. The crew back on land picked up a couple new landbirds plus a flyby White-rumped Sandpiper. By the time I dragged the kayak back up the boat ramp, we had hit the 100 species mark!

Over the last few hours of daylight we only added a few species and finished with 104 for the day. Much of the crew hung in until dusk; nobody was in a hurry to leave that stunning location on a bright autumn afternoon.

Of course there were misses, the biggest of which were Rock Pigeon, Fish Crow, and Common Raven. Pigeon seems tough here, as we only barely got it last year. Fish Crow we have missed both years, though we *know* there are a few within sight line across the river on the Old Saybrook side. Perhaps we should have had someone drive over there and kick one up!

Our full eBird list can be found HERE.

In October 2023 we will undoubtedly be back at this location for our third consecutive year. And I promise to deliver a more timely and complete report!

 - NB


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