Birding is better with friends. For one, it’s more productive, as more eyes mean more birds spotted. I’m not an expert (by any means!) at birding by ear, but I know people who are. And sadly, a woman birding alone always has to take personal safety into consideration. Besides, birding with friends is definitely more fun!
Sure, including too many people is just as problematic as too few—a crowd scares away the very birds you’re hoping to see, and the stragglers (or lingering photographers) at the end of the line tend to miss everything.
But a small group—say no more than ten people—is just right. So, as Colorado has begun to relax the lockdown rules a bit, our little group of friends decided to get together (while staying apart) for a “Big Sit.”
A Big Sit simply means that you pick a spot, place a chair, and plunk yourself down. The goal is to see as many species as possible from your stationary spot. There are official rules if you care about that sort of thing, but we weren’t there to compete. We simply wanted to see birds!
Yet another advantage of birding with other birders is sharing your favorite hotspots. I had no idea that this little pond existed, as it was secreted on the backside of a local county park. It was an ideal spot. We settled in under a large cottonwood, with the pond in front of us, a grassy field on one side and some large shrubs on the other. No one else was around, which made it easy to spread out.
The weather may have been less-than-optimal (40s, overcast and dreary) but the mood was bright. When you live in Colorado, May is the height of migration. The summer birds are arriving and the transients are still passing through. I’ve been waking before dawn to a deafening chorus of chirps and trills. Now, in a much “birdier” spot than my backyard, I had a hard time deciding which direction to point my binos. There were birds everywhere!
A House Wren screeched from the middle of a dense thicket, clearly announcing his territory. Northern Rough-winged Swallows dipped and turned over the water, nabbing insects out of mid-air. (They may be the reason behind the lack of mosquitoes.) Yellow-rumped Warblers hopped in and out of the bushes around the pond, both the white-throated Myrtle’s subspecies and the yellow-throated Audubon’s, along with bright, hard-to-miss, Yellow Warblers.
Song Sparrows wandered the shoreline poking their beaks into the low-growing vegetation—and wait, there’s a Lincoln’s Sparrow, too! The highlight for me was the Northern Waterthrush. While they do pass through Colorado on their way to their breeding grounds in Canada and Alaska, they’re not often seen here. I was thrilled to add the species to my life list!
A pair of Bullock’s Orioles peeked out from behind the cottonwood leaves. With the fog earlier in the morning, the leaves were dripping, and the birds looked as if they’d taken a shower. Broad-tailed Hummingbirds perched on the tiptop branches, or swooped overhead, their wings buzzing a territorial warning to any interlopers. Every few minutes, someone pointed out yet another species.
After sitting a while, we got up and wandered a bit, adding Wild Turkey, Western Kingbird, Great Horned Owl, and Say’s Phoebe to our trip list. Venturing down to a bridge of the local creek, we spotted a Great Blue Heron, Snowy Egret, and Belted Kingfisher. Of course there were Mallards and Canada Geese, and we heard a Killdeer even though we never saw it. All in all, we ended the day with a respectable tally of 67 species.
Now that we can once again gather in groups of up to ten, I look forward to once again getting out and birding with friends.