Warblers in the Fall
A young Cooper's Hawk taken with Swarovski ATX 95mm, PhoneSkope case, and iPhone 5s.
Hosting a Big Birding Party
Birders Having a Big Year
Many people have heard of birders having a "big year" where you try to see as many birds as possible in a given area during a calendar year or a "big day" when you roam your state or county to get as many birds as possible. A "big sit" requires you stay in one spot and tally how many birds you see and hear from that location.
Bird Watcher's Digest has set up the rules for how to host a Big Sit team, and there's even a chance to win a prize. But what I love about the Big Sit is that it's a concept that can be used anytime for your own personal birding tailgate party. For example, I'm not able to host a Big Sit event on the official weekend, so we do it on a different date in October.
My hardcore birding friends enjoy the chance to be spotters, and when new people show up throughout the day, they can learn from the hardcore birders. Sitting in one spot makes it approachable for people who don't want an all-day hike or for people with mobility issues. Standing in one spot also gives you an opportunity to practice patience for bird photography. I let people give digiscoping a try with my scope, and I have several different types of PhoneSkope cases for people to try out with their phones.
World Series of Birding
Big Sits happen in other ways too. You can have one as your team for the World Series of Birding, and some bird festivals incorporate a Big Sit as part of their events. If you do one on your own, you can even turn it into a way to fundraise for conservation by getting your friends and family to pledge to donate based on how many species you see.
White-crowned sparrow digiscoped at our Big Sit. Taken with Swarovski ATX 95mm, iPhone 6s, and PhoneSkope case.
Introduce Birding to Non-Birders
For the Big Sit I host, I can't fundraise as part of my job, so I use it as a way to introduce birders to my park and to introduce birding to non-birders. Also, to avoid getting too much overtime pay, I only host my Big Sit from sunrise to sundown. But we provide snacks, water, bird books, binoculars and scopes for people to try out birding.
The only limit to your Big Sit is your imagination. My job will not allow me to offer beer participants, but if you're hosting a Big Sit in your yard, the sky is the limit for how happy of a party you want to throw.
Careful though, beer can certainly increase your ability to spot a rare bird, but it also hampers your ability to have it accepted by a bird records committee.
How to Find a Big Sit in Your Area
Check here if you'd like to find a Big Sit in your area. If you like to read more on the rules and create your own for the official Big Sit weekend, you can do that here. Birding can be a beautiful jaunt down the trail in the woods, but it can also be a fun party with your friends as well.