Southeast Missouri state park to be site of bird-watching event

Tuesday, October 12, 2010 ~ Updated 10:31 AM

SIKESTON, Mo. -- Chris Barrigar of Bloomfield, Mo., calls it tailgating for nature lovers, but the goal of the nationwide "Big Sit" planned for Sunday is really to tally as many bird species in the given time period and report it to Bird Watcher's Digest.

"You sit in one spot and wait for what you see or hear and count the bird species," said Barrigar, who is serving as this year's captain of the team circle, Mosquito Fodder.

Big Oak Tree State Park near East Prairie will be the site for Mosquito Fodder to observe and identify bird species in the "Big Sit" from 4:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Sunday. Participants remain in a 15- to 17-foot "watch circle" throughout the designated time period.

"I know there are people with bird feeders behind their houses or those who go out to Mingo or Ten-Mile Pond to look at wildlife. This is a chance for the wildlife to come to them," Barrigar said.

The Big Sit is an annual, international and noncompetitive birding event hosted by Bird Watcher's Digest and founded by the New Haven, Conn., Bird Club. This year marks the 16th annual nationwide event.

"This time of year is mid-migration, and Bird Watcher's Digest is trying to get an idea more or less like a census of what bird species we have," Barrigar said.

In Missouri, it's possible to have as many as 428 species of birds throughout the year, noting some are found in winter, some in summer and others you won't find in either season but while they're on their migration route, Barrigar said.

"The most we've ever seen in a Sit is 61 different species. Depending on the weather and patterns of the birds, we typically see between 50 and 55 species.

Although Barrigar said he would be able to identify most bird species in Missouri, he does keep a field guide with him just in case he doesn't know a species he comes across during the Sit.

"If we see a bird or hear one we can't identify, the rules of the Big Sit say we can leave the circle, identify it and come back." Barrigar said. "If we're not sure, we put a question mark beside it and if we don't know, we don't report it," Barrigar said.

Barrigar, who usually stays most of the time period, said participants are welcome for any length of time Sunday.

"It's a great way to meet new people and learn more about birds and experience nature," Barrigar said.

In years past, three or four people have joined the Sit at Big Oak Tree State Park, and Barrigar, for one, is hoping more will join this year.

"They don't necessarily have to come down to Big Oak Tree State Park. They can register for their own team for Big Sit if they're going to be at their bird feeder in their yard," Barrigar said.

Barrigar, who has been a bird watcher for over five years, encouraged those who attend to plan accordingly. Bring a chair, binoculars, water, food, sunscreen and mosquito repellent and also dress appropriately for the weather, he said, adding there are playground and picnic facilities at the park.

"Bring charcoal and the family and make a day of it," Barrigar said.

Today there are Big Sit circles all over the world, including Guatemala, India, the Netherlands, England, Vietnam and New Zealand.

"They sit and -- if you will -- watch the world move by them in a natural setting. In other words, to most people in our fast-paced world, it will be boring," Barrigar laughed.

But for Barrigar, the annual event offers more.

The bird watcher said: "It's a good way to get out, relax and enjoy the day and meet some people of like minds."

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