Tomorrow is the World Series of Birding. I’m not in it this year, as I have a family event to attend, but I’m still having fun birdwatching, and now, taking photos with my new Swarovski ATX scope. Spotting scopes aren’t always helpful with birding, particularly in the woods, but where you’re looking at distant birds that aren’t moving too fast, they’re ideal. Around 1987 I bought a Bushnell scope which was state of the art at the time, but today’s scopes are vastly better. I’ve long thought about buying a new one, and finally did about a week ago, from New Jersey Audubon’s Cape May Bird Observatory.Continue reading
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
I’m getting everything together for tomorrow’s marathon birding event, see THIS post for what it’s all about. I did a last scouting trip this morning that resulted in some unexpected sad news. I drove up to the Beesley’s Point power station this morning to look for a pair of Ravens that have been nesting on it this year. I’d been there twice before but hadn’t seen them yet. While I stood in the parking lot next to the station, an employee drove out and pulled up behind me.
“Are you one of the birdwatchers?” she asked, as must have been obvious, as I had binoculars in hand. I conceded I was.
“I’m afraid the two Ravens are dead. There was an accident, and one of them was electrocuted. We’re not sure what happened to the other one, but the New Jersey Fish and Wildlife department has collected the bodies.”
I was shocked myself, and sad to hear about this, not only because I and others on the WSB wouldn’t get to count them in our fundraiser, but because these Ravens, the only ones in Cape May County, were gone.
Later I drove south and west to Stipsons Island Road and Jakes Landing Road, both of which go through upland forest to the wetlands draining into Delaware Bay. I saw some good birds, but the gnats were swarming and out for blood, so I didn’t stay too long. (They’ve just emerged, there were none a few days ago. An extra trial for our trip, but then they are bird food!)
This afternoon I got my stuff together. In the pack is my regular digital camera (which I’ve been using less and less in favor of the phone camera, but I might want it), bug spray, sun screen, bottled water and ice tea (I don’t mind if it gets warm), napkins, wet wipes, lens cleaner and my checklist. In the cooler will go two turkey sandwiches on rolls, a container of blueberries, three clementines, two bananas, and four baggies of trail mix I made up from dried fruit, cashews, pistachios, walnuts and dark chocolate chips. Two ice packs will go in too, and I test packed to make sure it all fit.
The extra canvas bag is for my walking shoes and socks. I will put on hikers for the beginning of the day, then switch to walkers later when my feet get warm and the hikers get too heavy. I will switch back in the evening if the projected rain arrives then. The binoculars will be on all day, of course, and my phone will be in use fairly often. For one thing, the battery on my watch just died, so I will use it to know the time. I will also post brief updates on our progress on my Facebook page through the day when I have time.
The weather report is mixed, but not too bad. A chance of a shower early and a larger chance late in the day. The wind will be from the southeast, so it will warm up to the mid 70s mid day, and we may have some sun. Bird migration has slowed down, and the wind direction won’t help, but we can always hope for at least a few migrants in our path. The resident and breeding birds are well scouted by our leaders, and team members like myself.
I will publish a full report on Sunday as soon as I can get it together. I’m always in recovery mode on Sunday, so maybe not until the afternoon. It will be an exhausting but fun day!
Two weeks from today, Saturday May 12th, is the annual outdoor escapade and fundraiser known as The World Series of Birding. I’ve signed up with the Cape May Bird Observatory Century Run team as I have many times in the past. It’s the only fundraiser I participate in. Along with lots of other teams we will attempt to spot as many bird species as possible on that day. The top teams will go from midnight to midnight, and cover the entire state of New Jersey. Our Century Run team’s goals are a little more relaxed: we go from 5 AM to about 10 PM and stay within Cape May County. It’s still an exhausting marathon to test one’s determination and stamina, but usually a lot of fun, too. Each participant pledges a minimum of $1 per species seen, which one can supplement with pledges from friends and family. And that, gentle readers, is where you can participate!
As in the past, I’m encouraging you to make a pledge for my WSB big day, to help me raise funds for the Cape May Bird Observatory, part of New Jersey Audubon, and their valuable mission of conservation, education and research. Current and proposed trends in our government do not bode well for environmental issues and groups, or for the birds, animals, insects and plants we share the planet with, so causes and organizations like this are more important now than ever. You can pledge any amount, but the usual method is to pledge per species seen. Last year our total was 137 species, a little better than our average of 130 species. If we tally 130 species, a pledge of 50 cents per would result in a monetary gift of $65. A pledge of $1 per species would mean a gift of $130. As a bonus, I’m offering any of my Signed Prints as incentives: for a pledge of 50 cents per species, the print of your choice, for $1 per species, any two! Higher pledges are welcome and will garner more prints in the same ratio. Pledges lower than 50 cents will get you a signed comics trade paperback that I lettered, my choice, if you would like that. Pledges of any amount down to 10 cents per species are welcome, or if you’d rather make a flat rate donation, that’s fine, too. All pledges will support education about and preservation of New Jersey wildlife and natural resources, as well as garner my enduring gratitude!
Here’s a LINK to my blog about last year’s WSB Century Run, if you’d care to read it. And if you’d like to pledge, click the CONTACT ME link here or in the right column of this page and let me know by email. I’ll be collecting pledges until May 11th. Or, if you’d prefer, an easy way to pledge is right on our TEAM PAGE, just let me know if you’ve done that and mention me in the pledge comment. Our team will be out there tallying on the 12th, rain or shine, hoping for good weather and lots of migrating birds. Who knows, maybe this year we’ll hit the ever elusive goal of 150 species. I’d settle for 140. And thank you for your support!
This past Saturday we began a three-day visit to Chincoteague, Virginia by taking the Cape May – Lewes Ferry, above, to Lewes Delaware, always a fun trip unless the waves are high, which was not the case that day. From there we drove down through the Delmarva Peninsula to the barrier island of Chincoteague. Continue reading