Jack McDonough of Dennis Township has loved animals since he was little.
Now 12, he has become a connoisseur of birds, having spotted about 295 different species in New Jersey alone.
On Saturday he will join some 70 teams in trying to see how many birds can be identified in one 24-hour period during the New Jersey Audubon 31st World Series of Birding, a statewide marathon for bird lovers that raises money and awareness of the habitats of migrating birds in the state.
McDonough is a member of the Young Yellowhammers, a new youth team sponsored by the Nature Center of Cape May and the Cape May Lewes Ferry. The team of five young people from different parts of the state will compete in the youth division of the event Saturday, starting at 4 a.m. and going until 8 p.m.
Sam Wilson of Cape May, who is coaching the year-old team along with Sam Galick of Whitesboro, said they will focus on Cape May County, from Belleplain to Cape May.
“We want to go to a variety of habitats - woodlands, salt marshes, beaches, farmland - because that’s how you get variety,” he said. “This is for kids who like to be out in nature.”
Gretchen Whitman, director of the Nature Center said they hope the club will help get more young people interested in birding. She said some start birding as a family activity when they are very young, and the club gives them a way to develop their interest in their teens.
Local boat captain Bob Lubberman will be taking the team out on his boat, the Osprey, and is offering seats to other birders willing to donate $1 for every bird they see to the Nature Center’s Youth Birding Initiative. The boat leaves at 1:30 p.m. from the Miss Chris Marina in Cape May.
The World Series is also a fund-raising event for New Jersey Audubon, raising about $600,000 a year or almost $9 million in the 30 years the event has been held, said Dale Rosselet, vice president of education. Teams pay a registration fee, but can also use the event to raise money for other causes.
Rosselet said while some teams will traverse the state, others will focus on one county, or even one location. The event is based at the Cape May Bird Observatory Center for Research and Education on Cape May Court House. Teams can start at 12:01 a.m. Saturday morning, and must have their results turned by 11:59 p.m. Awards are presented at a brunch on Sunday.
While the World Series is held during peak migration season, Roffelet said N.J. Audubon sponsors educational walks and events monthly and hosts field trips.
“The World Series just takes it to the next level,” she said. “Birding is a great activity for families and for kids to connect with each other.”
Bird watches who are less competitive can also participate by tweeting and posting photos of birds they see on Saturday.
McDonough, who also likes to photograph birds, said he’s not particularly competitive, but likes birding with the youth team.
“I’m constantly birding,” he said. “I study them all the time. I just enjoy it.”
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