On Saturday, May 14, from midnight to midnight, at least 80 teams of birdwatchers will devote the better part of the day to identifying species of birds all along the Atlantic Flyway, and especially in the great state of New Jersey. While looking at birds, they’ll also be raising money for bird conservation.
Once restricted to participation within New Jersey’s state boundaries, New Jersey Audubon’s World Series of Birding® event now hosts teams from Maine to the U.S. Virgin Islands.
At the beginning of the pandemic in 2020, birders could not travel to New Jersey, so they were invited to participate wherever they were — at least along the Atlantic Flyway, which is North America’s eastern-most “avian highway” during the peak of spring migration. Participation in the event nearly doubled, as individuals joined forces with teams whose members were spread out in numerous states.
Social distancing during the pandemic did not allow for some of the traditional WSB rules, which are common for any “Big Day,” a term used for anyone’s best attempt to identify as many species as possible in a single day. Those requirements will return in 2022 but only for the most competitive teams. They will have to stay together, and everyone on the team must identify every species individually, within a small margin of error. Only 5% or less of the day’s total species can be counted by fewer than everyone on a team and by at least two people. Teams participating for the fun of it and to raise money for bird conservation can take advantage of the flexibility introduced during the pandemic.
The WSB’s humble beginning so many years ago was driven by a simple quest: to identify over 200 species of birds in 24 hours in the Garden State at the peak of spring migration. No one had done it before, and those interested thought adding the element of competition would get folks to take it more seriously — and they were right.
Teams carefully planned their routes, mostly starting at midnight in north Jersey, listening for owls and night-calling birds at Great Swamp, for example, then making their way all the way south and ending up at the lighthouse in Cape May, with a lot of stops along the way.
Over the years, with the right weather conditions, competitive teams have tallied over 230 species by covering the whole state of New Jersey. Other birders wanted to participate but were not keen on the full 24 hours and driving the length of the state. Now, there are numerous categories or “ways to play.” A team can stay in one carefully chosen place, it can remain within the boundaries of one county, it can have all members ride bikes, or it can stay in a neighborhood. There is also a Youth Division, sponsored by Carl Zeiss Optics, which includes a Carbon Free Kids competition, for kids on foot and other non-motorized forms of transportation.
You can join the fun by visiting www.worldseriesofbirding.org and starting a team. Or simply peruse the teams and pick a favorite and make a pledge or donation. Then on May 14, you can follow the action by clicking on the “RESULTS” button in the upper right corner of the website. There you can watch as the list of “Completed Teams” grows as they submit their counts for the day starting around 6 p.m. and concluding a few moments before midnight.
New Jersey Audubon thanks its major corporate sponsors, event sponsor Ocean Wind/Orsted, Carl Zeiss for sponsoring the Youth Division, and Wakefern/Shoprite for sponsoring the NJ county competition, aka, the Limited Geographic Area category. Numerous other companies and organizations sponsor other teams, and well over $1 million conservation dollars have been raised in the 38 years of the event.
To everyone who takes part, have fun — and thank you!