Fickle weather, disappearing migrants, and mechanical meltdowns were all part of the mix at the 26th annual World Series of Birding, held in New Jersey this past May 9. For the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s birding teams it was a sleep-deprived, rain-soaked, mad dash to identify as many species as possible by sight and sound in the 24 hours of the event.
Team Sapsucker, covering the entire state, tallied 221 species, taking third place in the overall competition—eight species shy of the winning total posted by the Delaware Valley Ornithological Society. Our student team, the Redheads, won the Cape May County division with 187 species. Combined, Team Sapsucker and the Redheads raised more than $200,000 for bird conservation programs and undergraduate research, setting a new fund-raising record for the event. All of the funds raised go to these causes, because Swarovski Optik generously covered both teams’ expenses for the Big Day.
The Sapsuckers hit a major snag when the rear tire on their van went flat at 2:30 A.M. in a driving rainstorm, and they found that their spare tire was inadequate. Two vehicle changes followed and, despite the hour-and-a-half setback, the team rallied for a remarkable finish.
“I think the cool thing is how partnerships and friendships helped us out of a difficult situation,” says Sapsuckers captain Chris Wood. “It’s the way the entire Lab operates. A lot of our successes at the Lab are because of our partnerships and the support of our members.”
The Big Day was a much smoother ride for the Redheads. They birded Cape May County and captured the championship while tallying the team’s highest-ever species total.
“The day was a lot of fun and every member of the team played a vital part in our success,” says Redheads captain Shawn Billerman. “We feel really happy that we’re birding for a good cause, helping to fund future undergraduate work.”
To see photographs of the event, visit the Big Day website. Many thanks to all of our donors and supporters for making this event another big win for the birds!