I have had to explain time and time again that I prefer “birder” to bird watcher. To others, one may as well be the other, and I imagine the distinction is made even less significant somewhere shortly after I start explaining that there are many different species of birds and that I search them out all over the country. I may as well have mentioned that I travel to Star Trek conventions or sell home made buttons at craft fairs on the weekends. (Both of which I am sure are worth while affairs mind you) It’s just another thing they don’t get or care to. So, when a birding event comes along that, even for a brief moment, connects with the “masses” it is reason to appreciate what has given non-birders that glimpse into “our” window. The 2010 World Series of Birding is just such an event.
Being a “non-birder” not so long ago, I feel that the competition of birding is one lost on most. We can debate the merit of this perception on the hobby as a whole but it certainly connects with people in a way that descriptions of undertail coverts and premature molts simply can’t. People get the idea of trying to see more types of birds than the next guy. What is usually so shocking (and believe me I know I am not stumbling onto something new, I am just telling my interpretation) to people is the amount of species we have in the state and the country for that matter. No other day do I get more questions on “why are there so many people with binoculars?…” or a 2010 fav “Are you a part of the bird watching super bowl thing?…” The difference with this day is people are usually legitimately interested in hearing your answer.
So when the WSB comes each year Jeanette and I take the opportunity to throw ourselves into the day as proud “birders” on our own personal stage. (It is also an excellent excuse for me to drag Jeanette around on a full day of birding that covers a large portion of the state) We start at our favorite Spring Warbler spot Garret Mountain.
The morning got off to a rough start after an over use of the snooze button on my part got us off to a slightly late start. We made up most of the time and got to Garret with high hopes and even higher spirits. One of the great things about the World Series is that everything is new again! That House Sparrow out by the car is going to be just as important as the Black-billed Cuckoo munching down on tent caterpillars. So it was on and we started off at the “top” of the ridge at Garret. We parked across from the castle and quickly got on a Chestnut-sided and Magnolia Warbler. A female Scarlet Tanager, a Least Flycatcher, a Veery and a Swainson’s Thrush had us well on our way! We tried a few other spots along the ridge but it was a little windy and we decided to move down some. We parked across from the Basketball Court and joined other birders in a show of Spring Spectacular. Blackburnian, Black-throated Green and Blue, White-eyed and Red-eyed Vireo with a side of Canada and Blue-winged Warbler. A walk towards the picnic area brought Lincoln’s Sparrow and a calling Black-billed Cuckoo. It was going to be a good day. Along the way we met up with birder friends we hadn’t seen in a while and again the significance of the WSB was not lost on us.
We left Garret (reluctantly I might add) with 67 birds (a little lower than last year with some pretty easy birds missed) but we were determined and excited to see more. We hit the Garden State Parkway and headed towards the Brig. A Bar-tailed Godwit has been spotted recently and what a WSBird that would make! Unfortunately, we missed the Godwit that day (and the next :() but we picked up a lot of Shorebirds, Terns and Gulls. Caspian, Gull-billed, Forsters and Least Tern showed their stuff and Whimbrel and Clapper Rail gave up their checkmarks too. The Brig was fun but it was off to Cape May.
Cape May has always been a thrill for us and we have always done well there. We have met some great people and seen some great birds near the southern most point in New Jersey. This again was the case and we were thrilled to tally Bank Swallow and Belted Kingfisher to name a few. Not yet done we turned for home. We had seen 18 Warbler species at this point and we still had a stop at Belleplain State Forest planned. Another one of my favorite warbler spots Belleplain holds good numbers of some of the more “southern” NJ warbler species. Although they can be had elsewhere it is a great spot for Prothonotary, Worm-eating and Yellow-throated Warblers. Jeanette and I added two more warblers to make the total warbler species count 20 and a total of 121 for the day!
This number pales in comparison to the team winning totals over 200 but for us it isn’t just about the numbers. We are “birders” on this day and I like to think that while Bird Watchers observe their quarry from afar we “bird-ers” have a more personal and integrated connection. A connection shared with many others across the state on this day and one that benefits the targets of our adoration with the donations of birders and non-birders alike all “collecting” for a common cause.