Sit-Spot: Getting Close to Nature and Wildlife

This summer I read Jon Young’s book What the Robin Knows and in it, he explains how having a “sit-spot” is one of the best ways to learn about bird behaviour. A sit-spot is a place in nature that you go to regularly to sit in silence and watch animal behaviour. The more often you go, the more you learn about the “baseline” (everyday) behaviours of that area. Eventually, you learn not only about the various animals, but you can detect even minor disturbances in baseline which can alert you to all sorts of things that might usually be hidden.

Our small backyard served as my sit-spot this summer. I learned to recognize the different calls of the local birds, what ones traveled in pairs, what time of day they visited, and how the squirrels changed their visits to the yard to eat the scraps tossed aside by the birds at the feeder. I also began to recognize the changes in baseline behaviour when both animals were alerted to the neighbour’s cat, long before I could have detected it.

Black-capped chickadee standing on a fence

I’ve tried to spend more time sitting in nature after learning about sit-spots. Whenever I do, I find the experience really rewarding. Most of the time we are walking through nature with little mindfulness intent on a destination. In doing so, we are alerting and disturbing all the animals around us and that’s why we so seldom see them. But when we sit quietly, it’s amazing what unfolds.

The morning I took this picture, I sat out on the end of a pier in a wetland for three hours. In that time, I got to see the geese before dawn and watch how they began to fly away by the group to their different feeding grounds the moment the rising sun hit the water. Shortly thereafter, a mating pair of ducks flew in to preen themselves on a nearby log – a routine they had been doing every morning judging by the cluster of feathers in the water. Then the ever curious chickadees arrived to check me out and see if I had any food to offer them. Seeing I was empty-handed, they bored of me quickly. The bluejays arrived in the area shortly thereafter and then an agitated and territorial red-winged blackbird called from the reeds.

How about you, do you have a sit-spot or practice to get to know your local wildlife?

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