World Series of Birding

Common Nighthawk

I peered into the darkness as the windshield wipers slapped a path through the driving rain.  The guard lights in the parking lot cast long eerie shadows.  Straining to hear night sounds with my ear angled toward the crack of the window; headlights flashed against the side of the car, sparkling the drops.  More birders had arrived.  It was 2 am and we were headed to Clinton Road to go owling; trying to get a jump on our World Series of Birding list.

The rain did not let up as we stood in the inky black woods surrounded by a chorus of frogs; they liked the streaming wetness.  We fiddled with our hoods; up, down, up, then down again.  It was nearly impossible to hear anything between the incessant amphibian chorale and the drumming of rain on our heads.  Then, a repetitive peeping sounded that was out of sync with its fellows.  It was most definitely not a frog.  Karla, our leader, hissed, “Did you hear it,” I nodded.  We stood frozen, hoping it would call again.  “It’s a Sawhet,” she murmured.  We nodded.  Our first bird of the competition and we had a Sawhet Owl.  Nice.

We continued with our owling; driving from spot to spot, but the only other one we heard was a distant Screech Owl.  No Great Horned. No Barred.  With the clock ticking, we decided to give it up and move on to regroup with the rest of the team.

After loading equipment, snacks, and people in 2 vehicles we headed off for Gould Road and the dawn chorus.  But it was still raining and the sky was not getting perceptively lighter only fading from pitch black to possibly a dark charcoal.  We sat at various places along the road but heard nothing, save a rooster singing lustily from the relative warmth of his coop.  We moved on to the Van Orden power cut.  Finally a lone Rufous-sided Towhee chirped sleepily.  At last.

We retreated to Gould Road where we were regaled with many species of warblers, chickadees, titmice, thrushes, and more Brown Creeper than I have heard in many years.  After ticking off all of the species seen and heard and with an eye on our watches, we dashed back to the power cut to get the transitional species including: Indigo Bunting, Prairie Warbler, Blue-winged Warbler, Chestnut-sided Warbler and Eastern Bluebird.  We stuck to our schedule birded Clinton Road, this time in daylight, picking up highland woodland species and an odd Chimney Swift that flitted overhead before heading down to Garret Mountain.

Ah, Garret, migrant trap deluxe.  The exciting birds of the day were the 10, count them, 10, Cape May Warblers that had been there in the morning.  After birding the park, we met some other birders who told us of a sleeping Common Nighthawk by the earthen dam and a Cape May in the wetland.  We got them both.

It was a fun, exhausting day with much hilarity, great snacks, terrific birds and all for a good cause.  I saw nothing new, but I did see some things I had not seen in quite a few years, like the Cape May.  I would do it again and maybe you will too next year.  Think about it.

Oh yeah, the point of doing a century run is to get to 100 species and we surpassed that.  The Passaic Pewees ended up with 113 species.


Filed under Local schmocal

3 responses to “World Series of Birding

  1. RH in CT

    “…we decided to give it up and move on to regroup with the rest of the team.”

    Doesn’t the WSB follow the ABA big day rules? That would require that the entire team be together during all birding, but it sounds like you did not all participate in the owling.

    “After loading equipment, snacks, and people in 2 vehicles…”

    Travel in two vehicles is not prohibited by ABA, but it does require a “time-out” which would be very restrictive. As the ABA rules explain, “A bird first seen or heard during a time-out may not be counted, nor may the same individual be counted if located during regular counting time.” So using two vehicles means you can’t count anything while traveling, or even stop because you see or hear something.

  2. I don’t know the ABA Big Day rules. Our team birded in a Local Geographic Area (Passaic County only) and was affiliated with a NJ Audubon Center. The rules state that there must be at least 3 members of a team but all members do not need to be in the field at the same time. We picked up the rest of our team at 4am, the latest a team can get new members. We had walkie-talkies in the cars and were in voice contact the entire day. I have not seen anything about a multiple car rule or a “time-out”.

  3. Wow..I have heard allot about Garret mountain lately. I have put it on my list of places to go for spring migrants.
    We are now in Delaware, on our way to Cape May tomorrow for some birding and then to NYC for a week…to MA and Ct.. Hoping to catch up to some of those cool warblers you are seeing.

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