Dawn breaks yesterday morning on a ridge high over the burg of Whipple, Ohio. Located in the southeastern hill country, the burbs of Whipple also are home to the farm of Julie Zickefoose, Bill Thompson III, and their kids Liam and Phoebe. I was there to participate in the annual Big Sit, an effort to tally as many bird species as possible within 24 hours. The rub? You can't leave a designated 17 foot diameter circle, or at least of you do, you can't count any birds seen while AWOL.
I've made this scene a number of times, and arrived about 6 am to catch the last call notes of migrant songbirds passing overhead. There always seems to be a flurry of activity just prior to sunrise, and seeing the sun's first glimmers from this location is worth the early-bird travel in its own right.
The all-time record is 69 species, and with wonderful weather predicted, we had high hopes for smashing it. Thanks, as always, to Bill, Julie, Liam, and Phoebe for their always gracious hospitality.
A view of the Thompson/Zickefoose estate from the far reaches of the meadow. Autumn is a glorious time here, with the fields lit in technicolor hues courtesy winged sumac, New England aster, various goldenrods and other plants of fall.
The mowed path stretches to the house, and you may notice an odd architectural anomaly jutting high in the sky. That's the "birding tower", a 40-foot wooden skyscraper built just to up the birding ante. Our big sit takes place on top of the tower.
While this sort of birding may seem like trite nonsense to the uninitiated, it is actually a fantastic way to hone one's skills. Some tremendous birders make this scene, and you'll see some spectacular identifications. Every distant speck, each faint peep, and every speeding blur offers an ID challenge and we want to nail them all. We don't, but we do pretty well, I'd say.
Thanks again to our gracious hosts, Julie, Bill, Liam, and Phoebe.