Grab Your Binoculars: 35th Annual World Series of Birding Returns to NJ May 12

Photo credit: New Jersey Audubon

The World Series of Birding is about to begin. This round-the-clock treasure hunt of sorts, now in its 35th year, invites ornithologists of all levels to identify as many birds as possible – by sight or by sound – within a 24-hour period throughout the Garden State. This year’s rain-or-shine event, which serves as a key fundraiser for New Jersey Audubon, takes place Saturday, May 12.

Photo credit: New Jersey Audubon

“If you like birds, this is an incredible moment and plenty of fun,” said Pete Dunne, ambassador of birding for New Jersey Audubon, who launched the World Series of Birding in 1984 with 13 teams, in a press release. “This is the first competitive birding event in the United States.”

The event has garnered the attention of The Wall Street Journal as well as The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, which covered it with boots-on-the-ground correspondent Steve Carell in 2000.

But in order to participate you don’t need to traverse the state. In fact, the majority of participants skip the harried 300-mile statewide quest that culminates in Cape May Point State Park, explains Lillian Armstrong, special events director for New Jersey Audubon. Instead, many join local county competitions, in which a “par” is set for the number of bird species they need to identify over the 24 hours. The par varies per county, based on the diversity of birds potentially existing at the local level.

Great local spots for sighting these feathered friends include the Cape May Bird Observatory, Cape May Point State Park, or the NJ Audubon Hoffman Sanctuary in Bernardsville, or Sandy Hook, Armstrong noted. A separate competition for children, from grades 1-5, grades 6-8 and grades 9-12 is also held.

The WSB began with a mission of tallying as many species of birds by sight or sound as possible while raising money for favorite environmental causes, and, at the same time bringing worldwide attention to the habitat needs of migrating birds. According to New Jersey Audubon, this event has not only changed the birding landscape but has also raised close to $9 million for bird conservation during its more than 30-year run.

The World Series of Birding is endorsed by the American Birding Association, Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology, and sponsored by numerous environmental, conservation-minded businesses and individuals.

Where technology and nature collide

Again this year, NJ Audubon will be using the highly-successful WSB phone App, which can be used on both iPhones and Androids. Teams will be able to submit their sightings throughout the day, and then submit their final list via their phones. By using the app, various species will be “flagged” for time and location, and the rules for rarities (aka “Write-ins”) will still apply and be submittable via the app.

Over the years, many birding teams have tried to hit the coveted 200 number. Dunne noted that the standing record for the World Series of Birding is 232 species, courtesy of the “Kowa Birding Team” of Canada, which participated in similar competitions across America. Last year, there were a total of 266 species identified by all participating teams in the World Series of Birding.

The Awards Brunch will take place on Sunday, May 13 at the Grand Hotel Grand Ballroom, with doors opening and hot breakfast at 9 am, and the Awards Ceremony beginning promptly at 10 am.

To register a team, visit the website.