Count birds, socialize at the Big Sit

Now, there’s a fall, family-oriented birding event that’s growing in popularity across the nation. It’s the Big Sit, which takes place Oct. 10.

“It’s like a tailgate party for birders,” said Patricia Lassiter of the Oxbow Meadows Environmental Learning Center in Columbus near the Chattahoochee River. The center is a participant in this year’s event.

Sponsored by Bird Watcher’s Digest magazine, the free nationwide affair involves folks sitting in a pre-determined, 17-foot-wide circle and identifying and counting all the birds they see or hear from the circle during a 24-hour period.

To participate officially, you must be in a circle that has been registered by a “circle captain” at www.birdwatchers digest.com/bwdsite /connect/bigsit/register .php. The website has guidelines and other information, and it lists the locations of circles registered in Georgia and across the nation. There’s still time to register.

The rules say a circle can be just about anywhere — schoolyard, park, backyard — a circle captain chooses, but it can’t be shifted to another location during the count. Folks can bring binoculars, spotting scopes and lawn chairs and food and drink and swap birding stories and socialize while watching and listening for birds flying overhead or landing around them.

“It’s a nice way of having fun and enjoying our wildlife,” Lassiter said.

Participants may stay a few minutes, a few hours or all day in the circle, and can come and go as they please. But only the birds seen or heard from within the circle can be included in the official tally.

How many people are allowed in a circle? As many as space allows, Lassiter said. She said she plans to be in the Oxbow Meadows circle beginning at midnight Oct. 10 to hear and possibly see owls and other nocturnal birds, and then be there all day and evening to see and hear fall migrants and resident birds.

After the Big Sit, the circle “captains” will report their results, notes and anecdotes to a special public website. For more about Oxbow Meadows, visit: oxbow.colstate.edu.

In the sky: The moon will be last quarter Thursday night, rising around midnight and setting around midday, said David Dundee, astronomer with Tellus Science Museum. Mercury is very low in the east just before sunrise. Venus and Mars set in the west about two hours after sunset. Jupiter rises out of the east just after sunset. Saturn is very low in the west at sunset and sets in the west about an hour later.

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