Saturday's Big Sit at the Campus Lagoon
Bit of a late report but last Saturday Conor McMahon and I, along with several others from Goleta Coast Audubon Society, did a Bit Sit at the Campus Lagoon. A Big Sit, if you're not already familiar with it, is a friendly competition where the goal is to see as many bird species as possible from within a 17-foot diameter circle. We set up camp on the bluffs overlooking the ocean and part of the Lagoon shortly after 6am, and stuck around for about 12h. It takes a special case of patience to enjoy the Big Sit, but I think Conor and I both have it and we enjoyed every minute.
Part of what makes a Big Sit fun is that for that one day, every bird counts. We were as excited to see a Coot late in the afternoon as we were to see a Tropical Kingbird in the early morning. No bird can be overlooked. A good share of the birding consisted of scoping far-away trees and skies to find a warbler or other bird that didn't show up near us. So it pushes you to bird a little differently too.
Bird-wise, it was a very slow day, and we missed a lot of species that we thought were pretty likely, like Canada Goose, American Wigeon, Allen's Hummingbird, Snowy Plover, Marbled Godwit, Western Sandpiper, Spotted Sandpiper, Pelagic Cormorant, Black-crowned Night-Heron, Red-shouldered Hawk, American Kestrel, Pacific-slope Flycatcher, Oak Titmouse, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Western Bluebird (!), and several warblers. And this was not for a lack of trying, believe me!
Part of the reason why we missed a lot of passerines was our choice of location on the bluffs rather than further inland with a better view of the trees and lawns on campus. But we also got some seabirds that we would have probably missed from an inland location like Clark's Grebe, Black Turnstone, Black-vented Shearwater, and others. So it's hard to say what location would have been optimal. (What would truly be optimal would be the inland location with a 15-foot tall viewing platform. One can dream.)
In spite of the slow birding, we eked out 73 species. On a better day I think it would be entirely possible to get 85 species if not more from this spot. One thing this tells you is just how much you miss when you bird an area for just a couple of hours. A slow walk around the Lagoon on that day might have yielded 40 or so species, barely over half of what we saw over the day.
Thanks to everyone who came out. We'll be back next year, if not earlier, with another Big Sit.
Here's our checklist: https://ebird.org/checklist/S120338096