A team that has been competing for 22 years in the World Series of Birding without winning captured the big prize for seeing the most species statewide at Saturday’s “big day” bird race.
The 1000birds team saw 159 birds in 24 hours as they stopped in birding hot spots across New Jersey from 12:01 a.m. Saturday to midnight.
It was the highest number of the day for adult teams, but one of the lowest totals ever for a winning team, said Lillian Armstrong, Cape May Bird Observatory special events director. That’s probably because the day was so rainy, she said.
Winning team member Jonathan Wasse came all the way from Borehamwood, United Kingdom, to participate. Other members are Marc Chelemer, of Tenafly in Bergen County; Ken Walsh, of Bala Cynwyd, Pa.; and Nick Kontonicolas, of Chicago.
The event, run by New Jersey Audubon’s CMBO, has so far raised about $177,000 for conservation organizations.
A high school team from Maryland won the youth category for grades 9-12 with 199 species statewide, Armstrong said. That was the YMOS Marsh Gigglers.
"The youth team has been doing it for seven years and they have amazing ears and really work their tails off," said CMBO Director David La Puma, in explaining the discrepancy between the adult and youth team numbers.
La Puma said Marsh Gigglers have been fine-tuning their route, and the few adult teams that scoured the entire state might not have had the best route, or the best ears.
"It's a testament to how good the youth teams are," La Puma said. The second place YMOS Mighty Merlins were just one species short of the win at 198.
“People got wet at the beginning and wet at the end, but we had a whole lot of goodness in between,” said Armstrong. “It was a spectacular day for migration. It didn’t break any records, but there were strong numbers, and everybody had a good time.”
The Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel’s Champions of the Flyway team continued its years-long winning streak, seeing the most species in all parts of Cape May County. The southern part of the state had more clear weather than much of North Jersey.
The team of Dan Alon and Jonathan Meyrav, of the SPNI’s Israel Ornithological Center; and Cape May Bird Observatory naturalist Tom Reed, saw 180 species of birds.
Youth teams are driven around the state by parents, she said.
For the first time, a team of parents of youths also competed. Called the Momlets, they were moms of competitors on the Owlets and Eaglets teams from Maryland, who were middle school and high school students.
Armstrong said one Momlet team member joked it was the first time in the competition’s history that one team had given birth to another.
The Momlets found a respectable 95 species around southern New Jersey, she said.
The most unusual bird seen was a ruff, a shorebird rarely seen in New Jersey, spotted in North Jersey.
“It was a really good day for warblers,” said Armstrong. An unusual spotting was a Bay Breasted warbler in Cape May Point State Park, she said.
This was the third year the World Series used a phone app for teams to report their findings, she said.