Monday, April 24, 2006

The World Series of Birding - one of my favorite days of the year!

It's hard to believe that we're only 3 weeks away from the granddaddy of all Big Days, New Jersey Audubon's 23rd World Series of Birding. Saturday, May 13 is the day and let's all hope for glorious weather like we had last year!

So, what is this World Series of Birding?
The World Series of Birding (WSB, for short) is part fundraiser, part competition. Teams or individuals compete to tally the most species within NJ's borders over a 24 hour period. You can compete across the whole state or in a limited geographic region such as a county, National Wildlife Refuge, or other local site. There's even a category for a "Big Stay" in which you stand in a small designated circle and only count birds within that area. This year, they've also added a digiscoping category where you only count birds that are digiscoped during the day. There are lots of detailed rules that I won't cover here. Note: You can also participate as a non-competing team or individual.

All of this is in the name of conservation and fund-raising. Participants collect money from Corporate sponsors, friends, relatives, whoever! Pledges can be per bird or a lump sum. Each year, the WSB raises about $500,000 and it ALL goes to conservation. Every penny!

Since 1984, participants have seen 321 species of birds (the rarest probably being Fork-Tailed Flycatcher). Amazing. The average # of species seen is 165, but teams have reached as high as 229. Again, amazing.

Am I participating?
Heck yeah I am! This is my 4th WSB and I wouldn't miss it for the world. The first year I participated alone and tallied 80 species at the Great Swamp. The next year, I participated on the Sandy Hook Bird Observatory (SHBO) team that anyone can participate on for a $1 minimum per bird donation. That was great fun and we had a nice group. We birded only on Sandy Hook and tallied 136 species including Anhinga and King Eider that year.

Last year, I was asked to be on a team by my good friend Pete Bacinski, director of SHBO. Now let me tell you, this was quite an honor. You see, Pete was on the first winning WSB team in 1984. His teammates included a few guys you might have heard of: Pete Dunne, David Sibley, and Roger Tory Peterson. Umm, hello?!? I couldn't pass that one up. Pete went on to win 2 more WSB's and I've learned a lot from birding with him over the years. His birding stories are legendary.

Our team is the SHBO Ocean Wanderers. Pete, Don Sutherland, John Holinka, and I compete in the "limited geographic area" category in only (very large) Ocean County. Last year we had 135 species and it was a blast. We didn't win, but that's ok. We'll try again this year. I'm still honored that he asked me to participate. It's the closest thing I get to birding with Roger himself.

Final Thoughts
One of my favorite things about the WSB is that every bird is equal. They all equal one checkmark on a piece of paper. See that House Sparrow over there? CHECK! Oh wait, is that a Cerulean Warbler? CHECK! Oh wait, it can't be... an Ivory-billed Woodpecker! CHECK again. Ok, so maybe the last one would go in the "write in" box.

Many other interesting facts and figures about the event are here. I'm going to bring my camera this year and I will be sure to post some pictures. If you're interested in donating, please contact SHBO.


Julie Zickefoose said...

I thought you looked familiar! Bill and I were at WSB last year for the first time in many years. We did a Big Sit at the Wetlands Institute tower.
Hey, I love Rancho too--and did the T-shirt that I understand they still sell down there, of the hummingbirds at their pool. Pure magic that place!
Thanks for all your nice comments. It's great to find your blog.


LauraHinNJ said...

Our paths have crossed - I was on the SHBO Century Run team the year of the anhinga (missed them though - I was wandering around somewhere on Racoon Alley, I think).

Anyway - I love WSB and have done it for many years with the Century Run team. Your team includes many of my favorite guys - Pete, Don, John - all great birders!

Hope to see you around the Hook.

Patrick Belardo said...

Hey Julie, thanks so much for visiting. I love the Wetlands Institute although I'm still mad that I missed seeing a Purple Gallinule there (twice!). It was hanging out in the parking lot garden of all places.

I think I remember seeing that t-shirt! Cool!

See you around the blog world. Stop by again soon.