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Wednesday, April 17, 2024

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Birds and bird watchers take to the field

By On Deck Staff

In baseball the season is just starting and the pennant race is wide open. But in the world of competitive birding, it’s already come down to the biggest game of the series.
On May 9, millions of birds and hundreds of bird watchers will take the field to see who can spot the most species of birds between midnight and midnight.
The playing field is the entire state of New Jersey – one of the most bird rich places in North America. For 26 years, teams of birders from across North America and abroad have come here to test their skills.
“New Jersey is to birding what Augusta National is to golf,” says Pete Dunne, the founder of the event.
One of the reasons the event was founded was to draw attention to New Jersey’s strategic, and overlooked, importance to birds.
“We’ve got a wealth of natural areas. We’re positioned right on the migratory mainline. In one compact and highly birdable state, teams can go from Canadian zone forest to Carolina coastal habitat and not even stop for gas.
“Only in Texas have more birds been seen by single team in one day,” says Dunne. The total number of species recorded by all contestants commonly exceeds 270. According to Dunne “more than one third of all the bird species found in North America.”
The other reason over 100 teams will be competing in this years event is for a share of the prize money. There is no cash purse. Instead team supporters pledge money on the number of species found by their favorite team. The money is used to support the bird conservation efforts of each team’s sponsoring organizations such as National organizations like the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and The Nature Conservancy, the Delaware Valley Ornithological Club and Connecticut Audubon.
Many teams also enjoy the sponsorship or co-sponsorship of major corporations connected to the birding market or who espouse a conservation ethic, companies like Estee Lauder, Nikon, Zeiss, Swarovski, PECO, and US Silica. Since its inception twenty-five years ago nearly $9,000,000 has been raised.
“There are a lot of Golden-winged Warblers looking for nesting habitat and Red Knot searching for horseshoe crab eggs that owe a measure of thanks to this event,” says Dunne.
The event has grown since thirteen teams first took up New Jersey Audubon’s challenge in 1984. Now there are multiple divisions, including a popular youth division, a senior division, and several different categories.
Teams can plan routes that cover the entire state; individual counties; even remain in a single, 17 foot circle and record birds without leaving that spot.
This year a new “Carbon Footprint Cup” category has been inaugurated. All birding must be done using human powered means of transportation. Contestants can walk, run, bike, row – anything that doesn’t require energy tied to fossil fuel.
The Awards Brunch will be held at the Grand Hotel in Cape May on Sunday, May 10. For more information visit the website, worldseriesofbirding.org

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