Cape May, New Jersey May And The World Series Of Birding May 2008

Back in May 2008 we were on our big adventure The Biggest Twitch and here is what we were up to...

A fall of Yellow-rumped Warbler was just one of the amazing sights at Cape May.

Somewhere between the west coast of Canada and the east coast of North America we had lost four hours, very careless! It meant that it was a very short night in New York. It was with some trepidation that we headed out into the mad traffic of a Big Apple rush hour. We were immediately immersed in a vast moving mass of metal like some army ant column on the move, cars crowded in all around us. The pace was slow due to the sheer weight of traffic so once in it, it wasn’t that frightening. Route-finding was easy with plenty of huge direction signs over the freeway, the only problem was changing lanes to reach the one we needed. With cars crowded bumper to bumper no-one wanted to give way and let other motorists in front of them. The drivers seemed totally unaware of anyone else, perhaps they were dreaming of the next mega bucket of fast food and did not notice things like flashing indicator lights? At one point we crossed a bizarre double-decker bridge over a river, two four-lane highways, one on top of the other all jammed with traffic - it looked crazy. Once over this jumbo bridge, we peeled off south and thankfully the traffic thinned and we could pick up speed.

Given our recent experience in Canada we decided to check into our motel and dump our non-essential gear before heading off birding at Cape May. The Hyland Motor Inn was some way north of Cape May point so was en route. It was a little tired-looking but clean, and we were given a good-size room. Less good was the gang of hairy bikers hanging out in front of the room next door. These massive ugly-looking brutes were swilling beer, smoking and guffawing loudly. Luckily they totally ignored us.

Ruth was pleased that we had four whole nights at this one motel so could actually unpack her case for once! It was a rare luxury to sleep four nights in the same bed in 2008, and even I had to admit it would be nice not to have to pack up each night and move on. I just hoped the migration would be good and new birds would come quicker than in Canada.

A short drive had us at the Cape May Bird Observatory and we called in to see what was happening. The World Series of Birding was happening! By far the busiest time for the staff and volunteers here as they organised the massive twenty-four hour bird race across New Jersey which finished here at Cape May. What’s more, it was the 25th Anniversary of this huge event. According to the official Cape May Bird Observatory website, this is how the event got started:

“It was back in 1983 that a flock gathered at the usual haunt, the C-View Inn, for some frosty beverages after a day in the field. When birders swap tales it mirrors those of fisherman boasting about an unbelievable catch. Such stories often evolve and a few drinks later the genius ideas begin to flow... On this occasion the idea was genius and is to date the world’s premier birding event. The World Series of Birding quickly transformed from an idea to a 24-hour marathon. This year we celebrate 25 years of history in the making.

Many great birders have raised glasses in this event over the years. It all began at midnight on May 19, 1984, when 13 teams set out on a treasure hunt. Their mission was to tally as many species of birds by sight or sound in a 24-hour period within the state of New Jersey. Their objective was to raise money for their favourite environmental cause, and to focus attention upon the habitat needs of migratory birds. They succeeded beyond anyone’s dreams.

The event is also fun. Rick Bonney, a founding member of the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology “Sapsuckers” team, expressed it best. Said Rick, “When I was a kid, I used to measure the passage of time by Christmases. Now it’s the World Series of Birding that marks time.”

Since 1984, this event has changed the birding landscape and has raised over $8,000,000 for bird conservation. Through the competitive efforts of WSB teams, money has been raised to benefit a number of causes, clubs, and organizations. NJAS provides the playing field and the team chooses where they want their pledges to go, it is that simple. So gather your team mates and share in the excitement of North America’s most celebrated conservation event – the World Series of Birding.”

Despite being so very busy with organising this major event the staff at the observatory, Sheila Lego and her staff immediately made us very welcome and were excited to hear that The Biggest Twitch had arrived at Cape May and promised to do everything possible to help us see lots of birds. We learnt that 120 teams of birders were competing in The World Series in 2008 so the area would be crawling with observers; if a migrant arrived, it would be seen! We were given a mass of information leaflets, maps and a check-list to help us get the most from our stay at Cape May. We were blown away by the scale of the event and the wonderful enthusiasm of everyone involved in it.

It was time to see what Cape May had in the way of birds so we headed out to explore. With little daylight left we visited the nearby “Hidden Valley”, a migrant trap. This area of woodland and grassland was busy with birds and within minutes we were drooling over our first new bird, male Black-throated Blue Warbler. Very drab by comparison, but still new for the year, was a drake Black Duck on a small woodland pool.

Royal tern inbound

Royal Terns were wonderful to see but not new for our 2008 year list.

We still had time for a dash to the beach and scanned the sea, Least; Common, Forster’s and Royal Tern were all here, though none new for our list. Then we picked out two dark birds moving quickly north offshore, Parasitic Jaegers or Arctic Skuas as we know them in the UK. By either name they were new for 2008.

A large brown duck was riding the surf close in and with the scope we confirmed a female Common Eider, also new for the year. Pleased with first excursion at Cape May we headed out to find food. As we passed through a woodland we heard

“Cah, cah, cah”

The calls belonged to a flock of Fish Crows which flew into the trees to roost, one more for the list.

We found a nice downtown restaurant and as we waited for the food to arrive, Ruth asked,

“Can you check my neck? I think there is something on it.”

There was indeed “something”, a large tick! Yuck! The black tick looked like a flat crab and was gripping Ruth’s neck tightly as it feasted on her blood. Somehow, Ruth held in her scream and I removed the offending creature. Later we heard that these ticks are very common on the Cape May peninsula and this was not the last we encountered here.

We counted up our bird list; we had reached 2,178 species for 2008.

High winds were battering the Hyland Motor Inn when we woke up, it didn’t sound like a good day for finding small warblers. Down at Cape May Point, our fears were realised and we failed to find any newly-arrived birds. Looking at our new shiny map we thought that the area known as The Beanery might be sheltered; wrong, and no new birds. Next we worked Higbee Canal where the story was the same, high winds kept birds in hiding. Eventually we did find some shelter and quickly added Ruby-throated Hummingbird to our list; two of these tiny delicate birds were feeding around a flowering bush. We marvelled that these smallest of birds could migrate north from Central America, crossing the Gulf of Mexico and all the way to New Jersey. Bird migration is truly amazing and was certainly one of the factors that got me hooked on birds when a boy and still keeps me fascinated all these years later.

The stunning Black-throated Blue Warbler a delight to watch.

This same sheltered patch had a good number of birds, no more new ones, but we enjoyed great looks at another Black-throated Blue Warbler and a gang of Cedar Waxwings that fell out of the stormy sky.

With the paucity of passerine migrants we changed tactics and hit “The Meadows”, a wetland reserve just behind the beach not far from the bird observatory. The shallow pools here were teaming with birds: waders, wildfowl and gulls. These birds would all be mega-rarities back home in the UK but none were new for 2008. A lone Snow Goose was a left over from winter and would be a great addition for the World Series teams if it lingered two more days, but we had seen it back in January in Arizona.

An excited group of birders came over the dunes from the beach and told us they had just found an Iceland Gull, a good bird here, and one we needed. No second thoughts, we were over the dunes and scanning the beach. Luckily the gull was still there roosting with American Herring Gulls.

We checked in at the bird observatory where we learned we were not the only ones finding it hard-going; very few reports had come in, none of birds we needed. This was not good; after our slow going in Canada we had hoped to quickly pick up new birds here. It was spring, a prime birding time and we were struggling. We worried this might cost us the world record.

Spreading out the map again we looked for sites that might be sheltered and perhaps get our list moving again. On the east side of the Cape May peninsula, lay a vast area of saltmarshes and lagoons which looked worth a try. The whole coast was heaving with birds: swirling flocks of waders, squadrons of Brent Geese, and flotillas of wildfowl filled the marshes, but not one new bird.

But we did find a small flock of “Golden-crowned Queenlets”; no you won’t find these in your field guide, this was a group of hard core birders scouting ahead of the World Series. The Queenlets were three ten-year old girls and had the look of a team that was focused on winning. It was amazing chatting with these young birders; they were so fired up and birding hard and fast. It soon became obvious they were not just ticking birds off but really knew their stuff and were able to offer us advice on good birding sites to try. The girls had won their section of the big race last year and were determined to win again now they had moved up into the next age group. One of the Queenlets’ fathers was driver and scope-bearer and was justly proud of the girls. We wished the team luck and continued up the coast, but no new birds came our way. We were worried.

In the evening we had been invited to “Swap Evening”! This was a new experience for us, swapping back in the UK is a very dubious pleasure where couples swap partners for some sexual fun! Luckily here at Cape May it was very different and the only swapping would be of bird information! No car keys would be thrown into a bowl and no couples would be heading off to bedrooms with temporary partners! Even after nearly five months of being constantly in each other’s company we were not ready for entertainment of that type!

A Swap Evening at Cape May involved a room packed full of birders all keen to share bird sightings with fellow competitors in The World Series. It was a chance for birders to hear where they might find that tricky species they needed a site for on the big day. We thought it was a great idea and it brought everyone together in shared enthusiasm for the event and birds. We were not sure if this would work in the UK, birders at home are a lot less inclined to share such information before a bird race. News would be jealously guarded, vital sites seen as an advantage on the day, not to be shared with competitors. The World Series is a huge fundraising event for bird conservation and everyone takes the stand that more birds seen by more teams equals more sponsorship cash rolling in.

Walking into the hall where the meeting was held, we had a very pleasant surprise: the familiar face in the crowd of our great friend Paul Hackett from the UK. Paul was competing in the event in the digi-scoping section with the Zeiss team. The teams in this section had to digi-scope as many species as possible during the 24 hours of the race; the team with the most species photographed wins the category. As always Paul was buzzing with excitement and wanted to hear all about our adventures and told us he couldn’t wait for the competition to begin.

The evening was presided over by “Mr. World Series”, Pete Dunne. Pete has been in from the start and his infectious enthusiasm is a major part of the huge success of the event, and the fact that after 25 years it is still growing! Pete went through the New Jersey bird list and gave sites where the tricky birds had been seen recently. Birders had the chance to ask for more details and ask about any species their team was struggling to find. Pete kept good order and with his ready wit and massive knowledge of the event made it a really great night. It was so good to see birders that would be arch rivals in a few hours, all helping each other swapping vital bird information. After the swap, the event became a social evening with plenty of drinking, eating and tales of World Series past. Swapping over, we headed back to the motel, still together, after a great evening. But despite all the fun of the Swap Evening, we were still a little worried that we had added just two new birds to our year list which now stood on 2,180 species.

The wind had been bad, but we opened the door the next morning to torrential rain. We felt like shutting the door and going back to bed. But with the slow birding so far we could not possibly ease up, we needed birds urgently. One of the great things about birding in the USA is that many of the sites are set up for birding from the car, so at least we could do some birding even in the downpour. These drive-in nature reserves are ideal for the infirm, elderly, lazy and people like us who want to bird in appalling weather. We splashed north to Forsythe Wetland Nature Reserve, Brigantine division, a huge wetland area which happily has a lengthy driving loop, ideal for birding from the car in the rain.

First we had to pay our entrance fee to this enormous reserve. We parked as near the reception building as possible and dashed through the downpour and in through the door. No-one was at home, it was like being aboard the Marie Celeste; the lights were on, books were open on desks, a pot of coffee gurgled and plopped away in the corner, but no people. Had they fled in terror at the approaching Brit visitors? Two large doors lay at the end of the reception area and looked inviting so we breezed through them, still dripping water, straight into the middle of an exam! A dozen students’ heads snapped round from their exam papers to see who had disturbed their concentration. We froze mid-stride as all eyes fixed upon on us. We managed a quick apology, then backed out as fast as we come in and hoped we had not cost anyone their pass mark!

We saw another door and this time we crept up and peeked carefully inside. Luckily it was an office for reserve staff and we were able to pay our entrance fee and head out into the lashing rain. Our route took us out onto a raised embankment: to our left stretched a huge freshwater marsh and to our right an even bigger area of saltmarsh, and both were busy with birds. Waders were all over the place and we did not know where to look first. On both sides, flocks of birds wheeled and banked one way then the other, an ever-changing kaleidoscope of movement and colour! It soon became apparent that the vast majority of the birds were just three species, Short-billed Dowitchers, Least Sandpipers and Dunlin. There were thousands and thousands of each in swirling masses.

By carefully working through the flocks, we slowly picked out a good variety of species amongst the “big three”. Breeding-plumaged American Golden Plover were beautiful in their gold, black and white finery. Spotty Spotted Sandpipers scuttled along the waters edge, rear ends bobbing madly. Hundreds of Lesser Yellowlegs flew in and circled above the track before landing on the fresh marsh.

Next a passerine flew up from the sodden grass by the side of the dirt road and flew ahead of us before diving back into long grass. We couldn’t identify it from the brief view but it looked like a sparrow and we hoped it would be a new one for the list. We slowly drove nearer and waited patiently for another view. The windscreen wipers swept rhythmically back and forth sending a spray of water onto the grass. Then it was there! The sparrow was sat up in the grass and we had a good look before it hopped down out of sight again. We were pretty sure we had a new bird; a quick look at the Sibley Field Guide and yes that was it, male Nelson’s Sharp-tailed Sparrow! New, and a very handsome little chap. We spent the next quarter of an hour watching this dapper bird as he moved about in the dripping grass.

Terns were the next thing to catch our attention: a pair of Gull-billed Terns sat close to the road and allowed us to draw alongside them. If the weather had been better we could have taken full-frame pictures; then again, the terns would have probably flown a lot earlier. Next, a breeding-plumaged Black Tern danced across the track and vanished into the curtain of rain.

We had only driven a few hundred metres when a large, dark finch flushed from the trackside and flew into a clump of reeds. Luckily, the bird landed high up in the vegetation and we had a clear view: a male Bobolink! What a looker, and the first of the year for us.

The place was crawling with great birds, despite the rain: Black Skimmers, Black Ducks, Great and Snowy Egrets, Glossy Ibis, Ospreys. Everywhere you looked there were birds. But there is always a but. We had not found one particular bird we had heard should be here: White-rumped Sandpiper. The news at the swap meeting was that small numbers of these migrant waders could be seen here, you just needed to find them amongst thousands of other waders. Scanning ahead we could see a mass of waders feeding on mudflats in the distance. We also saw to our dismay, that the tide was rising fast and pushing the waders off and the birds were flying off into the distance. Panic! We tore along the track, smashing the speed limit, and reached the vanishing mudflat with only minutes to spare before the whole area was flooded. Frantically we scanned the heaving mass of birds before us. Thousands of waders were taking to the air and flying high and away into the rain-soaked sky. Then we had one, a White-rumped Sandpiper! Whew! Then we found another and another, and then they were gone! We had watched them for no more than two minutes before they and all the remaining birds lifted and fled the rising waters. Talk about ‘Just-in-time Birding’!

Leaving the flooded marshes, we headed inland and drove very slowly through woodland looking and listening for signs of migrants. The rain kept falling. Eastern Bluebirds were somehow managing to find flies to chase under the canopy and a fall of Yellow-rumped Warblers had occurred with dozens of these delightful gems feeding avidly in every tree. Maybe the rain had done us some good? A movement in the leaf litter ahead of the car and we found our first Eastern Towhee. A long-tailed bird, black above, white belly with lovely rufous sides, it shuffled about scratching through the fallen leaves for tasty snacks.

We left Brigantine, still dry thanks to the great viewing from the car, and headed inland to Belleplain Forest in search of warblers. Here the rain was even heavier, just torrential. The first birds we saw were waders! A Spotted Sandpiper and four confiding Solitary Sandpipers were feeding by a small lake in the forest. But it was warblers we needed so we pulled on our waterproofs and braved the downpour. We trudged along the muddy forest tracks with very low expectations in the awful conditions. Every time we attempted to look up into the canopy huge drops of water exploded into our eyes and drenched our bins. But persistence paid off and a gorgeous male Yellow-throated Warbler, new for the year, fed just above us. Yankee warblers are wonderful: even if you do not know the name of the one you are watching, you have a good chance of guessing! Looking at the bird above us, what was the striking feature? A bright yellow throat, so Yellow-throated Warbler it is! But there was more, the throat was bordered black, upper-parts were blue-grey, white below, two white wing-bars and white outer-tail feathers, a little cracker. Next up was another classic example: Black and White Warbler, exactly what it says, a warbler that’s black and white. If only all bird names were so logical!

The wet woods also held damp examples of both Scarlet and Summer Tanagers, Blue-grey Gnatcatchers, Wood Thrush and Northern Flicker, none new but all great to see. Then a more taxing bird popped up, a small drab flycatcher, one of the Empidonax family, notoriously difficult to identify in good conditions let alone in heavy rain with poor light. But we like a challenge, so we stood still and watched this little chap trying to find food in the downpour. After the gaudy warblers and tanagers, it was good to have to put the brainpower into action and think through the identification. The flycatcher showed pretty well and we used the Dictaphone to note the features and when we were happy we had all the details, we headed back to the car. In the dry, we could get out the field guide and compare our notes to the plates and text. A long broad bill, greenish upperparts, narrow eye-ring, clear wing-bars and long primary projection led us to Acadian Flycatcher. We checked this distribution map and that seemed very likely, so were happy with another new bird for the list. Birding in the rain ain’t so bad sometimes.

Well pleased with our wet birding in the north, we headed back south and down to the Cape May Bird Observatory to see what had been found. Well, the answer was short: not a lot. Had bad weather stopped play or perhaps with just a few hours left before the start of The World Series, birders were playing their cards close to their chests now? Whatever the reason, we heard of no new birds that we needed so felt very pleased that we had made the move north and collected some great additions to our list.

May 10th dawned and The World Series of Birding 2008 was well underway, the most fanatical teams had kicked off at midnight searching for owls, nighthawks and any other birds that might hoot, squeak or make a sound that could be counted on the big day list. Hundreds of birders were out there criss-crossing the state of New Jersey leaving no bird unseen as they headed for the finish line at midnight at the Cape May Bird Observatory.

We, of course, were playing the long game of breaking the world record for the number of species recorded in a whole year, so a day list was not for us, was it? No, of course not! It would be very stupid to chase day ticks not year ticks. Sure we kept a list of birds seen, we did that every day of 2008 anyway, but we needed year ticks, not a big day list. No matter how wrong we knew it was, we just couldn’t help getting swept up in the excitement of The World Series of Birding and found ourselves trying quite a bit harder to clock up new birds for our day list despite the fact that we had already seen them in 2008!

We were still chasing new birds of course and this day’s main target was the aptly-named Saltmarsh Sharp-tailed Sparrow. We headed for the west side of the Cape May peninsula where we knew, from the swap meeting, they could be found. Here lies a vast area of prime habitat where only a small number of sparrows lived; it looked like a tough ask. Our first stop was a remote boat ramp at Jakes Landing where the sparrows had been seen recently, and we hoped our luck would be in.

As we neared the boat ramp we passed through a wood on the edge of the saltmarsh and soon realised that there were birds here, lots of birds! We quickly parked and jumped out to see what migrants had arrived. A beautiful Northern Parula sang loudly right by the car; a gang of red, black and white Rose-breasted Grosbeaks came muscling through the low trees just above our heads. This looked good! Both Red-eyed and Yellow-throated Vireos were here in numbers, a fall of birds was happening all around us! Then two White-eyed Vireos joined their bigger cousins as a Brown Thrasher was on the ground energetically tossing the leaf-litter into the air, in search of its breakfast. Both Pine and Yellow-rumped Warblers were here, adding splashes of colour to the feeding frenzy all around us. This is how we had imagined Cape May birding to be!

Then we remembered why we had come here, the sparrow! An hour had just flown by in the wood; we had enjoyed fantastic birds, but not one was new for our year list.

At Jakes Landing we realised the size of our task, the saltmarsh was just huge and stretched away into the distance. How could we find a small bird out there? We scanned the grasses and quickly saw the area was busy with birds but each one we managed a good look at was either a Marsh Wren or a Seaside Sparrow, nice but not new.

We were distracted from our search by a dark shape cruising across the sky: a Bald Eagle! This magnificent raptor soared and we gazed in awe, the huge hooked bill glowing yellow. This wasn’t the only raptor. Two Ospreys fished the creeks of the marsh and a Northern Harrier floated over the sea of grass flushing many small birds, all of which immediately dived for cover unidentified.

We had heard our saltmarsh-loving sparrow could also been seen at East Marsh where an even bigger saltmarsh lay. What chances of finding one small brown bird here? None, as it happened. No matter how hard we looked, there was no sign of a single Saltmarsh Sharp-tailed Sparrow. Two Eastern Kingbirds flew in and landed on the marsh, perhaps newly arrived migrants?

At the nearby beach we witnessed an amazing spectacle of nature. Thousands of Laughing Gulls were involved in a feeding frenzy along the tide line. The air was full of beating wings and stabbing bills as the birds swooped and dived into the shallow water right in front of us. We soon realised they were feeding on the newly-laid eggs of the weird prehistoric-looking Horseshoe Crabs. Amongst the gulls, waders fought for a share of nature’s bounty; it was a spellbinding event. A small number of the Horseshoe Crabs had become marooned on the beach and these unfortunate creatures had themselves become meals for the larger American Herring Gulls. The crabs were reminiscent of squat battle-tanks with their heavily-armoured shells, the long thin protruding tail mimicking a mighty canon, and like tanks, once on their backs, they were helpless, legs kicking in thin air and at the mercy of the hungry gulls.

We headed inland through the marshes and came to some huge lagoons and stopped dead. Before us lay a massed army of regimented flocks. Thousands and thousands of waders were crowded together at this high tide roost. What a wonderful display. Setting up the scopes, we quickly realised that we had quantity rather than variety. Just three species made up the vast majority of the huge flocks: Short-billed Dowitchers, Dunlin and Semi-palmated Sandpipers in their thousands. Of course there were other species but these were represented in much smaller numbers. We managed to pick out American Golden Plovers, Black-bellied (Grey) Plovers, Semi-palmated Plovers and both Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs. A flock of 46 Black Skimmers was also roosting here, such bizarre birds with their weird bills with the lower mandible is considerably longer than the upper. As they fly, the lower mandible skims through the water and when it comes into contact with a fish, the upper mandible snaps shut on the unfortunate prey item. I was in my element here – waders galore! I could have stayed at this site all day. I loved the challenge of searching through these vast flocks hoping to pick out that one lost vagrant that gives you a massive adrenalin rush. Ruth interrupted my scanning by reminding me we were supposed to be looking for new birds and we had already seen every wader possible in this area. It hurt to leave this magical place but of course it made sense.

We had heard that a Black-billed Cuckoo had been seen over at a site called Villas, an disused golf course so we tried for that, but again our luck was just not in. No cuckoo.

Heading back to The Beanery near the point, we yet again drew a blank for new birds though it is hard to be too disappointed when you are watching American Redstart, Blue-headed Vireo, Yellow Warbler and one of my all-time favourite American birds, a male Prothonotary Warbler. The intensity of the yellow body and head makes the large beady black eye stand out, the upper parts are green merging to blue on the wings and tail, an exquisite bird. This male was building a nest in an area of wet woodland and we watched as he ferried moss back to his new home. On again, this time down to The Meadows to check out if anything new had dropped into the wetland. As ever, the place was teeming with birds, but yet again, not a single new bird for our year list. Out on the open beach, we enjoyed great views of a local rarity, Piping Plover, but of course we’d already seen this bird back in Texas in April. Bottle-nosed Dolphins were playing just beyond the breakers leaping clear of the water in spectacular fashion. With the sun sinking fast towards the horizon, we headed for the appropriately-named Sunset Lake and enjoyed watching huge flocks of Pale-bellied Brent Geese and close-up views of Common Loons (Great Northern Divers). It had been a great day’s birding but not a single new bird for The Biggest Twitch. Our thoughts turned to all the other birders out there taking part in the World Series. How had they fared? Who had recorded the largest number of birds and what rarities, if any, had been found? We would have to wait until morning before these questions were answered. Our list was stuck on 2,186.

It’s not very often we get invited out to breakfast so we thought we really should accept the invitation. This was no ordinary breakfast; this was the post-World Series of Birding Breakfast and Award Ceremony! We did feel a little nervous and out of place attending the event as we were not officially competitors but as soon as we entered the huge ballroom in the Seafront Hotel, we knew we had done the right thing. The place was packed with hundreds of birders, all talking ten to the dozen about their adventures. It was a great atmosphere and we were soon in the thick of it chatting to so many people about their best birds and their worst dips. An enormous buffet-style breakfast was laid out and we joined the queue, heaping huge amounts of wonderful food onto our very large plates. Once the majority of the eating was finished, Mr World Series of Birding, Pete Dunne, took to the podium and began reading the results. The World Series of Birding should be subtitled the Pete Dunne Show. He is the driving force behind, and figurehead of, the event, and obviously loves the limelight. Pete is very charismatic and had the room’s undivided attention as he ran through a history of the event and introduced the founding members, before moving on to the all-important results. The overall winners were the Lagerheads Team, with a very impressive tally of 229 species recorded during the 24 hours. The guys received the wonderful Urner Stone Cup and vowed to be back to defend their trophy the next year. But perhaps the most outstanding result was recorded by the Wild Bird Team, that racked up 145 species, all of which were recorded south of the canal near Cape May Point, a tiny recording area. For us it was great to see so many youth teams involved in the event, each and every one of these had their moment on the podium to give their personal highs and lows and to quote Pete Dunne, ‘the future of the event looks safe’. We would certainly love to return one day and compete in the World Series of Birding.

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