It's been a few years since I've had the opportunity to try a local 'Big Sit' but since 'Big Sit weekend' (organized by Birdwatcher's Digest
) came around quickly, and I was in town, I wanted to have another go. The site for my 17 foot (diameter) circle was the playing fields at Gill Elementary School, a site inspired not just by the fact that my son attends first grade there but also by the recent efforts of parents to clear a previously established nature trail on the school property. The weather was not the best for bird counting from a fixed position. It was cool ( 36 deg F) with mist and fog until 10am after which it cleared dramatically into a beautiful autumnal day with light winds from the north. Once the fog cleared, the raptor list increased rapidly as did the volume of Canada Geese moving over the station. I was joined by Susannah and Matan around 10am, and Matan stayed with me until the end of the count at 12:15 pm. The tally compared favorably with my one and only previous attempt at a Big Sit in Gill on October 10th, 2010: http://pioneerbirding.blogspot.com/2010/10/ma-little-big-sit-in-gill-101010.html
Matan and Susannah arrive at the station - Gill Elementary School, Franklin Co., MA. October 12th, 2014.
After a foggy start the day turned glorious - what a magical spot for a Big Sit!
Overall I was extremely impressed by the diversity of species at Gill Elementary, recording 58 species between 06:15 - 12:15 hours.
Cast (with numbers) in order of appearance
1) Swainson's Thrush - 2 (nocturnal migrants heard calling at 06:15hrs and 06:17hrs)
2) Song Sparrow - 105 (first heard at 06:26hrs. The fields and scrubby-fringes south-east of the station were full of sparrows).
3) Black-capped Chickadee - 15 (including two small parties of high flying migrants).
4) White-throated Sparrow - 67
White-throated Sparrow - Gill Elementary School, Franklin Co., MA. October 12th, 2014.
5) American Woodcock - 1 (nice, close fly past of bird giving 'twitter' display flight at 06:33 hrs).
6) Chipping Sparrow - 62
7) Northern Cardinal - 6
8) Mourning Dove - 7
9) Hermit Thrush - 3
10) Blue Jay - 7 on site plus nice migration of small parties totaling 64 moving WSW after the fog cleared.
Blue Jay - Gill Elementary School, Franklin Co., MA. October 12th, 2014.
One of the many migrants passing over the station today.
11) American Goldfinch - 12
12) White-breasted Nuthatch - 3
13) Eastern Bluebird - 10
14) Barred Owl - 1 called at 06:47 hrs - giving single "whooo-aaw" call.
15) Yellow-rumped Warbler - 28
16) American Robin - 9
17) American Crow - 116
18) Ruby-crowned Kinglet - 5
19) Swamp Sparrow - 77
20) Canada Goose - 750 moving WSW after fog cleared. Likely heading for Turner's Falls.
21) Purple Finch - 19
22) Red-bellied Woodpecker - 1
23) Yellow-bellied Sapsucker - 2
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker - Gill Elementary School, Franklin Co., MA. October 12th, 2014.
Juvenile in the willows close the station in the morning fog.
A second completely different bird migrated past the station in late morning, featured below.
24) Pine Siskin - 15
25) Downy Woodpecker - 2
26) Savannah Sparrow - 8
Savannah Sparrows - Gill Elementary School, Franklin Co., MA. October 12th, 2014.
Upper bird photographed by the station, lower, distant bird in the early morning mist.
27) Eastern Phoebe -1
28) Dark-eyed Junco - 1
29) Indigo Bunting -1
30) Cedar Waxwing - 11
31) Northern Flicker - 3
32) Palm Warbler - 5 (4 eastern, 1 western).
(Eastern) Palm Warblers - Gill Elementary School, Franklin Co., MA. October 12th, 2014.
33) Red-winged Blackbird - 8
34) House Finch - 6
35) Lincoln's Sparrow - 2
Lincoln's Sparrow - Gill Elementary School, Franklin Co., MA. October 12th, 2014.
36) Great Blue Heron - 1 foraging in corn field.
Great Blue Heron - Gill Elementary School, Franklin Co., MA. October 12th, 2014.
37) Belted Kingfisher - 1 in flight over woodland at 09:30hrs.
38) Rusty Blackbird - 2 (calling) moving WNW at 09:35hrs.
Rusty Blackbird - Gill Elementary School, Franklin Co., MA. October 12th, 2014.
39) House Sparrow - 3
40) vireo sp.- Philadelphia?
Heard singing several times, sounded most like this species but given the late date, a visual would have been preferred for confirmation.
41) Tufted Titmouse - 2
42) Turkey Vulture - Up to 12 loafing around the valley once the fog cleared at 10am.
43) European Starling - 27
44) Red-tailed Hawk - 7 - possibly involving a few migrants.
Red-tailed Hawks - Gill Elementary School, Franklin Co., MA. October 12th, 2014. Nice interaction right over the station!
45) Hairy Woodpecker - 2
46) Common Raven - 1 soaring with Bald Eagle at 10:52hrs.
47) Bald Eagle - 2 (immatures at 10:52 and 11:58hrs.)
48) Red-shouldered Hawk - 2 (adult moving W at 11:07hrs and another adult moving WSW at 12:14hrs.) One of the highlights of the morning.
49) Merlin - 1 (juvenile/female moving W at 11:08hrs)
50) Cooper's Hawk - 2
51) American Kestrel - 1 (moving W at 11:10hrs).
52) Sharp-shinned Hawk - 7, all moving WSW.
53) Blue-headed Vireo - 1 giving 'rattle' calls at 11:44hrs.
54) Pileated Woodpecker - 1
55) White-crowned Sparrow - 1 singing within sparrow flock at 11:52hrs.
56) Feral Rock Dove - 1 (late appearance of just one bird!).
57) Brown-headed Cowbird - 3
58) Common Yellowthroat - 1 (the last 'new' bird of the morning).
Surprising misses included Mallard, Wild Turkey, Northern Mockingbird, Gray Catbird and Carolina Wren.....just to mention a few. With better weather and a few more eyes to help, a count of over 60 species might have been possible from this fantastic site.