Sunday, May 16, 2010

World Series of Birding Story of the Weekend

Steve Ingraham's Pic of the Day Today

Certainly this weekend the big event is the World Series of Birding. Both the photo above and the photo below (scroll down) are taken by a birder this week. And the Press has an interesting story about the WSOB:

LOWER TOWNSHIP — Janet Crawford, a volunteer naturalist for the New Jersey Audubon Society, has watched birds from many different vehicles — cars, a regular bus, even a school bus.

The resident of the Leesburg section of Maurice River Township decided to switch it up Saturday, boarding a Great American Trolley with a team of other nature enthusiasts to participate in the annual World Series of Birding. The birders bounced across southern Cape May County, clang, clang, clanging from one wildlife hotspot to the next, starting at 5 a.m. and ending at night.

Bird-watching from a trolley sounds a lot more picturesque than the reality. The ride is very bumpy, and it is tricky to hold onto binoculars while the vehicle is in motion, Crawford said. Whipping wind can easily turn hair into a tangled mess.

But Crawford said the trip was “very cool” compared with her other birding forays because the windows are wide and offer a vast viewing range once the trolley stops.

“There isn’t much visibility from a bus,” she said. “In cars, by the time everyone gets out, the birds are already gone.”

Crawford’s group — the Century Run Team — was one of hundreds of teams that raced across the state to count different bird species from dawn to dusk for the annual conservation fundraising event. The World Series of Birding is going on its 27th year and has generated more than $8 million since its inception, said Sheila Lego, New Jersey Audubon’s marketing director. Last year’s count drew 1,100 participants and raised $200,000.

The trolley was chartered by New Jersey Aududon as an alternative mode of group travel. Other environmentally conscious teams decided to travel by bicycle or on foot.

The big wood and metal trolley provided fodder for many jokes along the way.

“It’s the antithesis of speed. See all the cars behind us?” joked Megan Crewe, one of the bird team captains.

“When he rang the bell, I was thinking of the Rice-a-Roni commercial,” said Todd Klein, a graphic artist from Cape May Court House who has participated in 15 other world series.

Mike Crewe, one of the team leaders and a newcomer to the event, said his team was taking a more leisurely approach — they set their bird-watching goal at 100 species. They hit the mark by mid-afternoon with 118 species while wandering around the Villas Wildlife Management Area.

Crewe said the team spotted a few rare birds, such as the white-breasted nuthatch, a “tiny, woodpecker-like” creature that likes to eat wild nuts and pinecones, and the cerulean warbler, which normally breeds further north.

“We come out for a good time and raise money for conservation,” said Crewe, who lives in Cape May Point and works for the Cape May Bird Observatory.

The World Series of Birding and the National Audubon Society’s annual Christmas bird count provide great opportunities to educate the public about different birds and keep tabs on the status of different species, said Patti Domm, of Cape May Point.

Domm said birds act as an “early warning system” on the condition of the environment, and she was thrilled that local and national bald eagle populations are on the rebound. Bald eagles used to be on the endangered species list because eggs were damaged by the pesticide DDT. The bald eagle was delisted in 2007.

Domm said Saturday was her second time participating in the World Series of Birding, and she enjoyed doing so by trolley.

“It’s nice because it’s all open and we can look well and learn,” she said.

Steve Ingraham

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