World Series of Birding: one day, hundreds of birds counted

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 World Series of Birding: one day, hundreds of birds counted

CAPE MAY COUNTY — For one day every spring, hundreds of birders are scattered across New Jersey with one goal in mind — to count more species of birds than competing teams.

Rene Buccinna, spring event organizer with the Cape May Bird Observatory/NJ Audubon, said last year there were over 400 birders making up 61 competitive teams and another dozen non-competitive teams taking part in the World Series of Birding.

“The World Series is a spring event because it’s timed with the spring migration,” Buccinni said.

“Cape MAYgration,” she said, is a term they coined for the spring migration through Cape May, which includes song birds and shore birds.

“Everything is moving northward, and the World Series of Birding is just one May event, she said.

Buccinni said the World Series of Birding is both a fundraiser and a competitive event, where teams compete at different levels over the entire state for a 24-hour period.

Depending on which division a team enters, the playing field for World Series of Birding is as large as the state of New Jersey, or as small as a 17-foot circle.

“The Entire State is logistically most difficult…there are more variables. You are on the road, you have to deal with weather and traffic, you still have to be in certain places at certain times,” she said.

Buccinni said birders who decided to play the Entire State category have more planning to do to hit the different habitats for different birds. She said most people covering the entire state will be up north for song birds at dawn, and the tide schedule would determine when to be at certain shore points, when certain birds are feeding on mud flats. On the other hand, covering the entire state means you have a greater chance of getting the highest number of species.

The next smaller category is called Limited Geographic Area (LGA), which includes one county and limits the habitats one can observe. Cape May County is one category, for which there is a separate award.

South of the Canal: Cape Island, is the next smaller playing field. Buccinni said teams would probably be focused Higbee’s Beach and Cape May Point State Park. To further narrow the playing field, teams can choose to vie for either the Swarovski’s Carbon Footprint Cup or the Big Stay.  

In the Carbon Footprint Cup there are no motorized vehicles allowed. Teams can move by bikes, on foot, by kayak…anything as long as there are no motorized vehicles.

In The Big Stay, the team must stay in one place, limited to a 17-foot circle, and identify as many species as possible.

“You have to choose your location well so have maximum visibility,” Buccunni said. “For example, you might want to be on the edge of two habitats so you can see birds flying between the two habitats. Each category has own set of logistics.”

Buccinni said last year there was a Big Stay team on the hawk watch platform at Cape May Point State Park. Another set up on a landfill. Still another Big Stay team set up on the balcony of the center at the Scherman Hoffman Wildlife Sanctuary in northern New Jersey.

Buccinni said the main objectives of the World Series of Birding are to No. 1, have fun, and No. 2, raise awareness of conservation and raise money for the Cape May Bird Observatory and NJ Audubon. Aiming for the highest number of species identified ads a little competition to the event.

There are also non-competitive teams, which are simply raising money for NJ Audubon. Over the past 30 years the World Series of Birding has raised over $9 million for conservation efforts.

“This is something they could do in their own back yard,” Buccinni said. “You just ask people to pledge something for each bird you spot.”

There are a dozen awards handed out each year, but no cash prizes. The top three finishing teams win the Urner Stone Cup, the Stone Award, or Stearns Award, for the first, second, and third highest number of species identified. Last year the top team identified 186 different species.

Buccinni said these top three awards, as well as the senior award, are kept for a year and returned at the next series.

Also included are the Cape May County Award, LGA Award, Cape Island Cup, Big Stay Award, Swarovski Carbon Footprint Challenge, Floyd P. Wolfarth Senior Award, Carl Zeiss Sports Optics Youth Birding Award (Div. A, Grades 1-5, Div. B Grades 6-8), and Pete Dunne Future Leaders in Birding Award.

Teams in the youth division get an award they can keep.

The 2014 World Series of Birding will begin on May 10 and run from midnight to midnight. The finish line is the Grand Hotel in Cape May. Buccinni said people can turn in their checklist in person, or us fax or email.

Awards will be handed out at a brunch held the next day.

For more information call Buccinni at (609) 861-1608 ext. 13, or go online at .

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