The World Series of Birding is an annual competition and fund-raiser for nature and environmental organizations in which teams try to see or hear as many bird species as possible inside a 24 hour period (midnight to midnight) and inside the state of New Jersey. It’s held on a Saturday in the first half of May, the 12th this year. It was begun in 1984 by Pete Dunne and others, and the first year there were thirteen teams. This year there were 73 teams and hundreds of participants. Since its inception, the event has raised more than ten million dollars for the organizations involved. Our team, the Cape May Bird Observatory Century Run began in 1987. My first year was 1988, and though I’ve missed a few years, I’ve participated about 25 times. The event is a mixture of exciting (when you find good things), frustrating (when you don’t), a cool nature adventure, an exhausting experience, and usually lots of fun. Every year a core group of fans, friends and supporters help me contribute to the cause of the Cape May Bird Observatory’s mission of conservation, education and preservation, and I’m glad they were there for me again this year.
Our 2018 team had 24 participants, including the team leader Brett Ewald, team planners and birding experts Roger and Kathy Horn, photographer and binocular specialist Clay Taylor from Swarovski Optik, and team planner Patti Domm. Many participants on this team return year after year. The top Level 1 teams are usually much smaller, 3 or 4 people, and some cover the entire state of New Jersey, or, like us, one particular county or area There are also Senior and Youth team categories as well as Carbon Footprint teams who travel only on foot or by bike, all competing for awards as well as raising money. Our Level 2 team does not compete for awards, but we do raise lots of money for important conservation work by New Jersey Audubon (over $6,000 this year), and we have a great time doing it. We birded from about 4:45 AM to about 9 PM this year, not as long a day as the 24-hour teams, but quite long enough! And our day tends to be more relaxed than the level-one teams. We keep up a steady pace, but also take the time to get good looks at some of the best and most interesting birds. That’s our team bus, above, at our starting point at the Cape May Meadows parking lot. As thunder and lightning flashed and rumbled in the distance, we got our first few species by call here before heading to our first stop, the Cape May Airport. There we added two more difficult species by call, Horned Lark and Chuck-Will’s-Widow as a light shower began. Continue reading