Alligator River/Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge
P. O. Box 1969
Manteo, North Carolina 27954

Contact: Bonnie Strawser - 252-473-1131

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News Release

October 26, 2009

Alligator River vs. Pea Island

Staff and volunteers at Pea Island and Alligator River NWRs enjoy having two very different refuges to be a part of on a day-to-day basis. On the second Sunday of October, however, a group of volunteers (and sometimes staff) at each refuge find themselves competing - hoping to out-do each other during the Big Sit event. In a competition to see or hear the most number of species of birds in a 24 hour period while sitting in one place, many people would wonder how competitive participants could possibly be. Most of these competitors are avid birders, while some are just interested in socializing with others on a Sunday. But thanks to cell phones, the competition becomes quite evident as the hours pass by and each team calls the other for updates on species recorded.

Since Pea Island is on the coast of North Carolina and midway on the Atlantic Flyway, the number of species recorded during Big Sit events has reached into the top ten for the country. Alligator River is further inland and doesn’t have the expansive number of bird species. Most years a majority of volunteers gather at Pea Island for the Big Sit while not as many sign up for slots at Alligator River. (Everyone wants to be on the "winning" team!) For some reason, this year more showed up at Alligator River! The weather was a bit raw and wet. Perhaps people realized that, although the Big Sit is a birding event, Alligator River participants are sure to see a lot more than birds.

This year was no exception. Although at least three Bald Eagles and a wide variety of raptors and other birds were spotted, the real treat was the large, tagged black bear that meandered down the side of the field and right past participants. Fortunately, the viewing platform is a stake-body truck which raises everyone four feet off the ground. The bear was so close that its breathing could be heard! It stopped once in awhile and then continued on its way. This was one of at least seven different bears spotted during the Big Sit. So even though only 36 species of birds were recorded for the event at Alligator River this year compared to 67 species at Pea Island, it proved to be a great day for observing wildlife. They say if you are patient and sit long enough, wildlife will come to you. The Big Sit is just one example of how to do just that.

Submitted by Cindy Heffley, Visitor Services Specialist, Alligator River and Pea Island NWRs, Manteo, NC

3 People with binoculars on truck bed.
Volunteers participate in the Big Sit at Alligator River NWR. Photo Credit: USFWS - Cindy Heffley.