May 21, 2007
Repeat Victory at World Series of Birding
May 21, 2007
Cornell Lab of Ornithology team tops $2 million for bird conservation
Ithaca, NY—For the second year in a row the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s competitive birding team has come home victorious in the World Series of Birding, an annual event sponsored by New Jersey Audubon. Team Sapsucker identified 230 species by sight or sound during a 24-hour mad dash across New Jersey on May 12. That’s a new team record, one short of the all-time event record, and three species ahead of the next highest teams. The Sapsuckers brought in more than $160,000 in pledges. Since the Lab first began competing in 1984, its Big Day teams have raised more than $2 million for bird conservation.
The Lab launched its first student team this year, the Redheads. The team members, all students at Cornell University, competed in the “limited geographic region” division, birding exclusively in Cape May County. The Redheads turned in a list of 174, second only to a veteran Maryland team that identified 184 species. Go here for a list of winners in all categories.
All funds raised go directly into bird conservation programs and undergraduate research in ornithology, thanks to sponsor Swarovski Optik, which underwrites the teams’ expenses.
The Sapsuckers got a great start at the stroke of midnight. “It was phenomenal,” said cocaptain Ken Rosenberg. “Right away we got Sora, Virginia Rail, King Rail, Eastern Screech-Owl, Swainson’s Thrush, Black-billed Cuckoo and Yellow-billed Cuckoo.” Mishaps along the way included an incident when the team accidentally tripped the van’s panic alarm while two dozen other teams were listening for Vesper Sparrow. The Sapsuckers’ last bird of the day was a Nelson’s Sharp-tailed Sparrow at 8:22 P.M., a new bird in the team’s history.
For the Redheads, the day started with a Marsh Wren and ended with a Royal Tern spotted by sophomore Shawn Billerman at 7:15 P.M. Captain Ben Winger says, “We had a great day and set a high mark for future Redhead teams to aspire to.”
This year’s competition was the swan song for Lab director John Fitzpatrick and director of information science, Steve Kelling, who are retiring from the team after 12 and 14 years, respectively. “The experience of birding with these guys has just been spectacular,” said Kelling. Fitzpatrick said, “In the end, Big Day has taught me that the best thing about life is that if we can keep our ears open, we never, ever stop learning. I’ll remember this Big Day vividly all my life. It was an amazing day of birding, camaraderie, and competition.”
Congratulations to Mildred O'Neill from Webster, South Dakota, who won the Swarovski binoculars.