World Series of Birding Report 2007
By Andy BankertReport on the Great Texas Birding Classic
Now that the Hermit Thrushes that took fifteen minutes from our route, or the Nashville Warbler that prevented our 30 warbler day, or that Gull Tower that we could not find are not fresh in our minds, we can write about the World Series experience that keeps amazing participants year after year.†
The participants for this yearís team, the Nikon Space Coast Blue Oystercatcher Cult consisted of the four team members Andy Bankert, team captain from Florida who arrived up north late on Thursday and only scouted for the dry run in the north, Craig Bateman, first year participant who was told the week before the event that his three days of scouting were to be spent in four counties in the south rather than just Cape May County, Erik Enbody, who participated in 2005 on another team and scouted the north for three days and lived in the amazing community that the hotels in Milford, Pennsylvania become for one week out of the year, and Danny Williams, another first timer who was scheduled to scout the south for a week prior to the event, but due to a lacrosse injury did no scouting. The two drivers were both DVOC members Debbie Beer, who is the conservation chair of the club, and Win Schafer, who changed our stereotype about the athleticism of people too old to compete in the youth division. This event would also not be possible if it werenít for the help of numerous people we did not encounter on the big day. Our parents who sent us to the competition, sponsors Nikon, who provided our optics and covered almost all of the expenses of the trip, and the Space Coast Birding Festival, which picked up the rest of the teamís expenses, as well as the organizers of the event and New Jersey Audubon all played a role even more important than scouting.†
Some of the most exciting and laid back birding of the big day takes place at night. Great Swamp holds almost all of the night birds, as well as the chance to talk to many teams moments before the competition begins. The air was filled with the sounds of various frogs, toads, bitterns, and rails as the team waited for midnight to hit. Once one of the cell phones read 12:00 the level of seriousness increased. It soon decreased to the normal fooling around as the team cruised through the swamp ticking off the first birds of the day, then pretending to hear birds with other teams near by. High spirits fell came crashing down in the hour-long search for Great-horned Owl that turned into a competition to make the most obnoxious owl calls. A Great-horned finally sounded off, but in the teamís less serious mode we ran away for fear of howler monkeys that we thought we heard off in the distance. The night was successful, but dawn couldnít have come sooner. On the other end of the day, darkness came too soon. A Chuck-willís-widow was our first nocturnal species at Brigantine. After that, only two new species were found, but they were good species. As the thunder rolled into the party of teams at Jakeís Landing, an American Bittern and Black Rail rounded off our day list. Once the rain hit we gave up for the day and retired to the finish line.†
Nighttime stops only accounted for ten percent of the species on the big day. Most of the species are tallied when the sun is up. Common Sense. The grasslands were a precursor for the rest of the north. All the species were found, but in a little more time than allotted for. Breeding sparrows came easy, but five minutes for Pheasant, and five minutes for White-crowned Sparrow, sometimes it seemed too long, but the birds would always call. Unlike previous years, the team sped to spots then spent time on each target. Sapsuckers were amazingly easy this year, outnumbering every other woodpecker. Warblers were ticked off left and right as the four team members and non-driving adult hung out of the van windows. The few stops out of the van were quick and productive. It was the first time two of the team members got to traverse the infamous asshole bog. Home of the Canada Warbler. A few species, Hermit Thrush, Brown Creeper, Blue-headed Vireo, and Louisiana Waterthrush took more time than expected. The front of the teamís shirt read ďDonít Fear the Creeper,Ē but after a few minutes at a nest there was a sense of fear. The bird finally came to the nest, but only after a bonus Bay-breasted Warbler caught the teamís attention. No risks were taken by skipping roads. Van Ness did not hold many species, so skipping it was an option. One White-throated Sparrow, Black-billed Cuckoo, Lincolnís Sparrow, and Golden-winged Warbler later, everyone felt it was a good decision to keep it in the route. A few more species, as well as gas to last the rest of the day, were picked up, and I-80 was crossed at 10:19 with 127 species.†
The south is a different land than the north. Binoculars and scopes replace ears as the best way to locate new species. The south consists of many spaced out stops, unlike the flowing north. One problem that the team faced was a rushed schedule to get to Brigantine for ducks. A group of birds that the south was hurting for this year. An encounter with DVOC made Bobwhite an easy day bird. Unlike past years, songbirds came easy. Blue Grosbeak, Summer Tanager, and White-eyed Vireo all took minimal effort. Duck and shorebird diversity was in short supply at most stops. The team used the best of its knowledge from scouting and previous years to get what it could in the short time. Concentration for getting to Brigantine cut out some sexy species like Piping Plover, Red-headed Woodpecker, and Curlew Sandpiper, but these could also suck huge amounts of time away from teams. All of the warblers that would be seen were seen before entering Cape May County. ďThe CountyĒ gave the team a good boost in the day list with highlights being Roseate Tern, Parasitic Jaeger, and Long-tailed Duck. But these bonus birds were just as important as the lone Oystercatcher or Yellow-crowned Night Heron. All birds are worth one point.†
The magical 200 mark was well within reach when the team pulled up to Brig. They saw the Gull Tower, but did not know what it was, or go there. Later they would find out this held two species missed on the big day. The refuge was loaded with ducks and shorebirds, but very few new species. Gadwall, Gull-billed Tern, and Little Blue Heron were all added before it got too dark. 199. The team did not know its total, but they knew they were close, or they knew they had 200. A Wilsonís Snipe was two hundred. Black Skimmer was the last day bird before it got too dark to see. Then it was up to the forest where the Chuck-willís-widows call.†
In the end, 204 was good enough to win the youth division, but Cornell impressed all by scoring 230. The Blue Oystercatcher Cult raised over 4000 dollars for conservation causes in Florida and Michigan, and its three eligible members will return in 2008 to defend their youth division title. Thanks again for your support of conservation through the World Series of Birding.†
World Series of Birding Report 2006
By Andy BankertFrom: Andy Bankert
Subject: World Series of Birding
Date: Wed, 17 May 2006
Last Friday, my team left our hotel around eleven at night, started the World Series of Birding at midnight and birded for 24 hours until we reached the finish line in Cape May. Our total of 212 was good enough to win the youth division and place 5th overall. On Sunday we lost one bird to our total when someone told us that they were imitating a Long-eared Owl in the woods where we had our Long-eared Owl. I have a detailed report following this email.
I hope you enjoy the report,
The forecast early in the week was calling for rain. It was going to be miserable. Great Swamp was going to be wet. The grassland birds were going to wake up late. The migrants would be soaked. As the week progressed, the forecast improved, and game day for the World Series of Birding was clear with very little rain.
The World Series is an annual birding competition held in New Jersey every spring. The object is simple: Find as many species as possible in one day while raising money for conservation. It is a very intense big day. This was the third year for the Nikon/Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival Coastal Cuckoos. Team members Andy Bankert, Tom Johnson, and Ross Gallardy had been on the team since the beginning. Chris Jacobs was new to the event and replaced our previous captain Zach Baer. Like most sports, the main part of winning comes in practice, but usually only the competition gets reported on. For birding this is scouting the week before. Ross and I scouted the north for three days, about 4 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day, while Tom and Chris scouted the south. Unlike the early years of the event, almost every team shares information on bird locations. We had the information, we needed to execute the route. Unlike the smart thing to do, sleep (which I do a lot of while scouting for Florida big days), our team had too much fun on Friday night and got less than two hours of sleep before we left for the competition.
The Great Swamp. The first destination of most big day teams on the World Series. Every freshwater rail, three owls, both bitterns. This is the place to start. Our van pulled up to the tower area around 11:30 on Friday and began chatting with other teams in the area. The Nikon/DVOC team gave us some last minute information, and around 11: 50 four teams walked over to the woods to whistle up our first bird of the day. Eastern Screech Owl. It did not take long after midnight for the bird to respond, but when our team started running to the van Chris asked why. He did not hear the bird, so we had to wait for five minutes before it would call again. It was going to be a long day. Back at the car we listened for our stake out Woodcock and Sora. The Woodcock was peenting itís head off, but again Chris missed it several times. DVOC told us this was the only spot for Sora, but again Chris missed them on their first call. This was going to be a really long day. We finally cleaned up all the species and as we were heading back to the van an American Bittern grunted. Both Chris and I missed it. That would be the only time the bird called. This would be a dirty bird (one that not everyone on the team saw or heard), but we were allowed 10 the whole day. After our tower stop we hit the spot where DVOC had Least Bittern before midnight. It was tough, didnít call often, but everyone on the team managed to hear the little guy grunt a few times. A short stop at the heron overlook produced a Barred Owl. In the Great Swamp on the World Series the best way to judge if you hear a real owl as opposed to a person imitating an owl is to determine whether there is a road where the noise is coming from. No road, it should be a good owl. We left and headed for our last stop in the swamp on the loop dike. Our target was King Rail, and we told Chris that he better hear it the first time or we would leave him in the swamp. I do not remember if he heard the rail the first time, but everyone on the team heard the bird. It was less than ten feet from the road, was very loud, and would not shut up. We also picked up Virginia Rail in the swamp and were out by 1:30 with 23 species. Some random species included nocturnal thrushes and a singing Scarlet Tanager.
We were able to take a short nap on the hour drive to Lewisburg marsh, which would be our first stop in Sussex County, the county where we would get more than half of our birds. When we got to the marsh it did not take long for a Common Moorhen to respond to our clapping. After this short success we took a bathroom break in the woods while listening for our other possibility, Pied-billed Grebe. After a short amount of time we heard a loud, unfamiliar hoot coming from the woods. Long-eared Owl, a rarity. We listened to it call a few times in the woods so we were sure it was not a person. After this nice bonus we were off to our daylight spot about two hours early. We made a few stops to see if we could get a nocturnal Ruffed Grouse, Willow Flycatcher, or Ring-necked Pheasant, but these were unsuccessful. The next two hours were spent on top of the Vesper Sparrow hill, where the bird should wake up around 5:20. We quietly sat on the hill listening to nocturnal migrants, got both the cuckoos out of the way, heard a group of birders toot for Saw-whet Owl, and got really bored around five. We were the only team on the hill when the Savannah Sparrow woke up, but many teams were already on top of the hill when the Vesper Sparrow began his complicated song. After deciding to pick up Grasshopper Sparrow elsewhere we took our annual run down the hill, zipping past other teams as we tried not to slip on the loose gravel. After jumping into the van we hit the only Willow Flycatcher that was staked out giving his little ďFitz-bewĒ call on the way to our Ruffed Grouse spot. Pheasants were calling away at this spot, and the only other team in the area was Cornell. When they left we determined that they had not heard the grouse and were just trying to stay ahead time wise. We would later find out that they heard the grouse, which was a great distance away. As more teams came, and the sun was getting higher we left the spot without our grouse. We picked up bonus Common Nighthawks over a lake, early Eastern Meadowlarks, and the late rising Grasshopper Sparrow as we left the grasslands around five fifty.
The drive into High Point State Park yielded us Common Raven and Louisiana Waterthrush, which were both nice birds to get out of the way. Once in the state park we hit the Sawmill Campground, woodpecker central. The woodpeckers were not nice to us on game day, despite having nest holes for three species, but we did get a Cooperís Hawk at a nest. We knocked out Hermit Thrush, Cerulean Warbler, and Broad-winged Hawk on our way to Park Ridge Road. This road gave us most of our common warblers like American Redstart, Ovenbird, and Black and White, as well as many other common breeders. We decided to make a quick stop at the bench, which could produce migrants or Ruffed Grouse. Patience gave us the very loud boom of the Ruffed Grouse. As we hung out the window of our van, we pocketed more species and made a few short stops. A spruce bog was an important spot for Northern Waterthrush, Purple Finch, and Canada Warbler. The quarter-mile run through the hard to navigate bog revealed Chrisís lack of athleticism. All other team members could run a mile in under seven minutes. This would slow us a little, but we only had two more runs planned for the day. At the end of High Point State Park we found ourselves with most of the woodpeckers we missed in Sawmill including the first Hairy Woodpecker the team has ever had on game day, several more Barred Owls, a Wilsonís Warbler, and Cedar Waxwings.
Stokes State Forest was next on the list. The day was going good. We started filling holes like Blue-headed Vireo, Black-throated Blue Warbler, and White-breasted Nuthatch. We did miss Pewee, but we could get that later. Lake Onquitunk would be the spot that would make or break us. We jumped on Golden-crowned Kinglet, Blackburnian Warbler, and Ruby-throated Hummingbird. An extended listen at the bathrooms gave us singing Brown Creeper and Northern Parula. We missed Red-breasted Nuthatch, but that is understandable. They were not calling. On the way out of Stokes we hit the new, and very unsuccessful Winter Wren spot. We had missed the bird two days in scouting, and missed it on game day. The misses were adding up.
From Stokes, we ran down to our migrant trap at Culverís Lake. We quickly filled the swallow area on the checklist, except for two we had nests for, picked off Common Loons, and heard more Yellow-rumped Warblers. After a few stops we found ourselves with Downy Woodpecker, virtually guaranteeing a woodpecker sweep with Red-headed in the south, Warbling Vireo, and Blackpoll Warbler which arrived overnight. We missed the Ring-necked Ducks that had been very cooperative the day before, and did not pick out any new migrant species. We left Culverís mildly satisfied and continued our quest for more species, which at this point in the day was starting to get limited to a few species at each stop. Van Ness road gave us our Yellow-breasted Chat, Brown Thrasher, White-crowned Sparrow, and Prairie Warbler, Dingmanís bridge failed to have Common Merganser, the Bobolink field had itís key species but not the staked out Eastern Bluebirds, and the Cliff Swallow Barn gave us our Cliff Swallow, Worm-eating Warbler, and Belted Kingfisher. Our second run was our backup Common Merganser, and we figured we would get the birds and head back even if Chris had not made it to the end yet. We had enough dirty birds to spare. Less than a tenth of a mile away from the car we spotted two Common Mergansers along the trail and all four of us were able to tick the species and rush back to the car. As we drove over a nearby bridge we saw our last swallow, Northern Rough-wing, gathering nesting material in the same area it was hanging out the day before. A short stop for Lesser Scaup was unsuccessful, but we ticked two easy species, Red-tailed Hawk and Chimney Swift. We crossed I-80 at 9:47 with 135 species and quickly added Turkey and Black Vulture before our hour nap on the long drive to our next stop.
Florence was a long ways away. We finally arrived in a parking lot along a river and quickly spotted our first gulls of the day. We left with five species of gulls, including Lesser Black-backed, and Great Cormorant. A long stop at the turnpike bridge gave us no Peregrine Falcon like most teams had expected. We left with our miss, and took another long drive to Salem County. Since we had a large chunk of our list out of the way, and large concentrations of new species in Cumberland and Cape May Counties, we focused on just a few target species in Salem. Red Bank gave us an easy American Coot, but made us work for Pied-billed Grebe. A cooperative Bobwhite gave its call near a golf course. Orchard Orioles and Blue Grosbeaks gave their warbling songs at several locations. A Caspian Tern flew over a row of trees just long enough for two people to view it. A Little Blue Heron and Cattle Egret made themselves visible at different locations saving us time later in the route. After we heard a Summer Tanager at a staked out location we left Salem County and entered Cumberland for our next big boost in our species total.
The afternoon is a hard time to find songbirds, so our main focus was on shorebirds. Songbirds were tough. Our only Horned Lark was seen and not heard, our final three warblers Kentucky, Prothonotary, and Yellow-throated were all difficult to find. White-eyed Vireo gave us a run for our money when we spent a good fifteen minutes searching spots where they had been found easily in scouting. Turkey Point gave us our Northern Harrier, Boat-tailed Grackle and Clapper Rail, all species which should be easily picked up on this route. The new species of shorebirds came easy. Shell Pile easily produced Semipalmated Sandpiper, Short-billed Dowitcher, and several other new species of shorebirds that were easy to pick up. Heislerville gave us most of the same species, but we also added key species such as Red Knot, Black Skimmer, Blue-winged Teal, and Semipalmated Plover as we scoped the flats from the dike along with many other teams who were on similar schedules. We missed a few ducks like Ruddy and Gadwall, but we had those other places.
As we entered Cape May County, we determined that it would take a disaster for us not to make it to the 200 species mark. We decided to skip Belleplain, despite our lack of Pewee in our list. Our first new species in Cape May was Gull-billed Tern, as it has been for all three years of the competition. Our next stop was a campground where we slowly crept up to a Red-headed Woodpecker nest at the five mile per hour speed limit, got the bird, then slowly sped away at our five mile per hour pace. On our way south to the ultimate ending spot at the point we picked up Snow Goose in a flock of exotic geese at the zoo, Yellow-crowned Night Heron and Red-breasted Merganser at Avalon, and Saltmarsh Sharp-tailed Sparrow before we crossed the bridge to get south of the Cape May Canal. We knew 200 was close. Our first stop south of the canal was for White-winged Dove, not successful, but no team saw the bird after two oíclock on Friday. We knew the Meadows would get us over the 200 mark. Gadwall were an easy 199, and a lone Ruddy Duck put us right at 200. We took a jog out to the beach, but saw the Pennsylvania Breeding Bird Atlas team ahead running towards us. Since two of the team members work for the atlas, we decided to have some fun and form a blockade. The four of us stood across the dike as the Pennsylvania team charged. Two members got by, but Tom turned birding into a contact sport by knocking one of their members to the ground. After a good laugh from both teams, we continued to the beach where we picked up Common Tern, Least Tern, Piping Plover, Sanderling, and Northern Gannet. Seawatches at two different locations produced Purple Sandpiper, White-wing and Surf Scoters, and Royal Tern. Since we picked up almost every species we could pick out south of the canal, we took the remaining daylight and went back to Cookís beach to see a very easy Black Scoter flock. After the sun set we easily ticked birds 210 and 211 of the day, Chuck-willís Widow and Whip-poor-will. The last few hours of the day were a blur. The team heard a Great-horned Owl, got out of the car to hear it. I was too out of it to bother, and we were well under the ten-bird limit on dirty birds. When we got to the finish line around 11:40 we turned in our total of 212, exchanged stories, and Anita Guris commented that it looked like my eyes were focused somewhere in Delaware. At the awards brunch the next day we lost our Long-eared Owl when a member of the Bushnell team told us that they had been calling for them from the woods where we heard the bird call.
Overall our score of 211 was good enough for fifth place overall, and first place in the youth division. We did meet the two goals of the competition: have fun, and raise money for conservation. Personally, I raised over $3,700 for the Merritt Island Wildlife Association and Space Coast Audubon Society. The rest of the team raised money for conservation in Pennsylvania. Over the past three years, our team has raised over $20,000 for conservation, and we look forward to participating in the event in future years.†
World Series of Birding Report 2005
By Andy BankertOn Saturday May 14, 2005 I competed in the World Series of Birding in New Jersey. I arrived at the High Point Inn late on Wednesday night and scouted the northern end of the route on Thursday and Friday. My team consisted of me, Ross Gallardy from Pennsylvania, Tom Johnson from Pennsylvania, and Zach Baer from Maryland. Thursday and Friday were a little discouraging when high winds and cold temperatures caused birds to remain silent. This weather also allowed us to find some migrants which probably would not stick around for "game day." Nikon and the Space Coast Birding Festival were the team's sponsors, and the adult Nikon team helped us a lot in scouting. Little did we know that most of this information was also shared with almost every other team scouting the northern end. As we watched most of our information on birds go out to other teams, we knew that in order to win we would have to be fast and find back up spots for species. At one of our final stops in scouting on Friday we ran into Will Russell who told us about four birds which would play a big role for us in the north. When the whole team met up near the Great Swamp on Friday night we kicked around a few ideas before going to sleep. The main one was to skip Ridge Road which contained three main birds. We knew we could get Purple Finch in several other locations, and we lucked into a Hermit Thrush near our Magnolia Warbler, and Will informed us about a grouse that had been booming at 5:08 in Wantage which was also near a lake that had a Hooded Merganser. The discussion of the route continued and some phone calls were made, but I decided to get some sleep before the big day.
Our day started around 11 pm when we packed up our van for our trek to Great Swamp. Unlike last year we easily found the gate and entered the swamp with some time to scout out the areas. We decided to pass up scouting and talked to the Nikon team for about 30 minutes. Nobody seemed very serious, but all of this would change once the clock hit midnight. About five minutes before midnight a group of four teams walked down the road a little bit and we started whistling for Screech Owl. Right at midnight an American Bittern was heard thunderpumping, then Nikon got their owl, but we missed it. Our team stayed around a little longer and finally heard the bird call. We spent an hour and a half in the swamp, and we picked up most of our key species like Least Bittern, Sora, King, and Virginia Rails, Barred Owl, Marsh Wren, and Swamp Sparrow. We also picked out Black-billed Cuckoo and Swainson's Thrush by flight call. After getting out of the swamp we headed north towards our first stop in daylight. We missed Long-eared Owl, which we did not have in scouting, and tried for Saw-whet Owl which we also missed in scouting. Luckily Tom bands Saw-whets and he was able to get one to respond. While we were waiting for the owls to respond, an Ovenbird began to sing but then changed to a different song. This confused us then we realized that this was a Brown Thrasher, which can be a difficult bird on big days. The owls did respond after a few minutes.
PRESS RELEASE FROM: Nikon
July 13, 2005
NIKON/DVOC LAGERHEAD SHRIKES WIN AGAIN!Six years equals five wins for the Nikon Sport Optics' Delaware Valley Ornithological Club Lagerhead Shrikes. The Shrikes obtained this unprecedented win on May 14th, 2005 at the New Jersey Audubon Society's 22nd Annual World Series of Birding. With the prestigious Urner-Stone Cup resting safely with their club for another year, the Shrikes find themselves already preparing for next years event.
Finding and identifying a total of 222 species, the Shrikes bested the competitive Bushnell/CT Audubon/New Canaan Nature Center Woodpeckers by 6 species. Shrike team members included veterans Captain Paul Guris and Mike Fritz. Also joining the team for the second year was Bert Filemyr and Eric Pilotte.
The Nikon sponsored Space Coast Coastal Cuckoos youth team was also a new addition in 2005. In this, their first year at the World Series of Birding, the Coastal Cuckoos spotted an amazing 212 species, besting even veteran teams such as the Zeiss Sports Optics/Cape May Bird Observatory Team Zeiss.
Consisting of members Zach Baer, Andy Bankert, Ross Gallerdy and Tom Johnson, the Nikon Space Coast Coastal Cuckoos took home top honors in the World Series of Birding's high school division. Look for them to come on strong in 2006 as they prepare to defend their title against the second place Birders World/Bushnell Bird Bounties.
The World Series of Birding was founded in 1984 by Pete Dunne and the New Jersey Audubon Society as a 24-hour event to raise money for bird protection and conservation. After 21 years, the World Series of Birding boasts worldwide participation, multiple corporate sponsors and has raised millions of dollars in the name of conservation. Nikon Sport Optics is proud to sponsor the DVOC Lagerhead Shrikes and the Space Coast Coastal Cuckoos in such a worthy cause.The Nikon Teams
Nikon Inc. is the U.S. distributor of Nikon sports and recreational optics, world-renowned Nikon 35mm cameras, digital cameras, speedlights and accessories, Nikkor lenses and electronic imaging products.
For more information on Nikon's full line of Binoculars, Spotting Scopes and Rangefinders, contact: Nikon Sport Optics, 1300 Walt Whitman Rd., Melville, NY 11747-3064. 1-800-248-6846. www.nikonsportoptics.com
We pulled into the grasslands of Wantage about an hour before we could expect to get any of our targets. We did not want to run around waiting for stuff to call, so we decided to go to our Vesper Sparrow spot which was on top of a hill. This proved to be a good area for night migrants. Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Gray-cheeked Thrush, and Horned Lark were ticked off, and at 4:20 a Grasshopper Sparrow began to sing. When the migrants began to thin out around 4:35 we moved down to where the Vesper Sparrow had been singing earlier in the week. Right at 4:40 the bird sang and we ran back to the car. Next we tried out that grouse that had been booming earlier in the week. As 5:00 approached we had ticked off several new species, but nothing we wouldn't get later in the day. 5:05- no grouse, but American Woodcocks were calling. 5:06- Thump thump thump, the booming of the grouse, then we ran to our car. Two minutes early and we headed for that pond for the Hooded Merganser. After only a minute or two the bird flew over, so we jumped back in the car and headed for Savannah Sparrow which would be our last bird for the grasslands. While we were listening a Kestrel flew by, two team members heard a Kingfisher fly by, and several distant cars honked their horns to get Wild Turkeys to respond. Our sparrow finally sang, and since we were a little ahead of schedule, we drove down to pick up Willow Flycatcher. Unlike Friday morning, the bird was singing its song "Fitz-bew".
Our next stop was High Point State Park. At the AT&T tower we picked up our reliable Raven, Purple Finch, and bonus Cedar Waxwing. We drove through the state park and rarely stopped. We picked out Canada Warbler, both Waterthrushes, Worm-eating Warbler, and Wilson's Warbler by songs. One stop in a campground produced White-breasted Nuthatch and several woodpeckers, another campground had Red-breasted Nuthatch, Nashville Warbler, Brown Creeper, and Golden-crowned Kinglet. At the end of Sunrise Mountain Rd, we ran into the Nikon team and another team. We pulled out Rusty Blackbird and Lincoln's Sparrow, but missed Olive-sided Flycatcher which other teams had.
In Stokes Forest we ticked off an easy Cooper's Hawk on nest, Black-throated Green Warbler, and Broad-winged Hawk on a nest. I am not sure of the order of a lot of the next few places, but we hit Culver's Lake and identified Warbling Vireo by song (our driver had heard about 10 before that), Yellow-rumped Warbler, and American Black Duck. A side road that has produced several decent birds in the past gave us our White-throated Sparrow and Black-throated Blue Warbler. Van Ness Road held our Golden-winged Warbler and Blue-winged Warbler. We drove to a Magnolia Warbler spot where others had heard one singing earlier in the week, and with our luck the bird was singing. Down the road a little ways we took a bathroom break and ticked off Bald Eagle and the Hermit Thrush we found in scouting. The Common Mergansers were off the bridge where the Zeiss team had them, so we were able to cut out a six minute run to a fairly unreliable spot. In order to save time we moved a small road block that had not been there in scouting. After a few unsuccessful stops we ended up at a Cliff Swallow barn. We think another team had spotted a Goshawk, but all we saw was a flying Red-tailed Hawk. Our last stop in the north was for Winter Wren. After we heard the song we ran to our car, only to hear a team yell back at us telling us that it wasn't actually the wren that was singing. One of their team members was giving the song trying to get a bird to respond. We knew of one a little further down the road, and got that one.
We crossed I-80 at 9:36 with 135 species. Our next stop would be for Red-headed Woodpeckers at Yard Road. They were calling and a bonus Bobwhite called once for us. Now it was time for the long and boring ride down to the southern part of our route.
Once we made our way to the south, we started picking up day birds again. Birch Creek had Pied-billed Grebe, Common Moorhen, and American Coot all really close to each other. There was also a Great Egret and Orchard Oriole in the area. A quick stop at our Pectoral Sandpiper spot got us our Sandpiper as well as Eastern Meadowlark, Spotted Sandpiper, and Bobolink. There were also Glossy Ibis and Snow Geese on the drive to this spot. We missed a Sandhill Crane that had been seen earlier in the week. Mannington Marsh had the Caspian Tern which we had in scouting. We made a quick stop at a Barn Owl box, since we missed that in the north. A stop in Dividing Creek had our final three warblers of the day (Pine, Yellow-throated, and Prothonotary). Unlike last year, we scouted the warblers that were singing in the afternoon. Gravely Hill Road had Summer Tanager singing at the entrance, as well as a Carolina Chickadee.
Our next few stops were for shorebirds, so our day list really grew. At Bivalve we ticked off most of our easy species and also picked out a Wilson's Phalarope. Down the road a little ways we ran into the Cornell team and found a Shoveler, Green-winged Teal, Red Knot, and Ruddy Turnstone. It seemed like we were missing lots of shorebirds, but White-rumped Sandpiper was the only one our team was worried about. We heard White-eyed Vireo and saw Blue Grosbeak on the way to our next stop which had White-rumped Sandpiper. It also had both Night-herons and Blue-winged Teal. Turkey Point had Harrier, but it was harder to find than we thought. We made it to Cape May County around 4 pm.
In Cape May County we made a quick stop for Siskin, which failed. We were lacking Hummingbird, so we went for the one on a nest. After scoping the nest we were off to our Cattle Egret spot. The Egrets were not there, nor were they at our backup spot. Once we got south of the canal, we hit Poverty Beach. This late in the day it was surprising to pull out six new day birds: Royal, Least, and Common Terns, Piping Plover, Sanderling, and Common Loon. The plover was our 200th species of the day. The concrete ship had the Great Cormorant, but no Purple Sandpiper. Our last stop south of the canal was a jetty where Purple Sandpipers had been. No luck there (but we did get our day Oystercatcher), so it was time to go back north towards Stone Harbor and Nummies Island. A short stop near a coastal marsh gave us our Saltmarsh Sharp-tailed Sparrow. A drawbridge was up, so we pulled off the road to look at the water. We found Brant and our only Purple Sandpiper of the day here. Once the bridge went back down we hopped on the road and hit Nummies Island. Nummies held Tricolored Heron and Whimbrel, and we thought it would have Little Blue Heron and Marbled Godwit. Since it would be easier to pick these up when they came to roost we did a seawatch and came back later. The seawatch had nothing, but Nummies had both of our birds when we got back. There was enough daylight to go back south of the canal to the Meadows. The Gadwall were there so we waited for the sun to go down so we could get Snipe or Nighthawk. Great-horned Owl was our only day bird, but it was still a good find.
As it got closer to 8 we hit our Chuck and Whip spots. We got both of these birds putting us at 211, a great total. We thought we were lucky enough to end the day with Black Rail at Turkey Point. There was another team there once we arrived, but both of us failed at hearing the Black Rail. It was 10:30 when we left, so we had to go back to the finish line in southern Cape May. After we arrived and got out of the car a Nighthawk called, giving us a new day bird at 11:40. We turned in our score of 212, which was the highest for a while until Nikon arrived later than expected. Our team tied for 3rd with the Zeiss Team, Bushnell took second (216) and won the non-resident award, and Nikon/DVOC won the whole thing with a score of 222. This was the first year any youth team had broken the 200 mark, and there was another youth team with 200+. The next day I saw a Curlew Sandpiper after the awards brunch.
Melbourne Beach, FL
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