This year, a fellow DVOC club member and friend asked if I would participate on the 1,000 Birds team to do a full state run. Why not? The team consists of Ken Walsh, Marc Chelemer and a few other guys that couldn't make it this year so they filled in with me, Harvey and Nicole Koeltzow. Marc, Ken and Harvey are all birding friends. You may remember Nicole from my trip to St. Paul Island in Alaska last September. She did a big year and won with 774 birds. We helped her get #750 White-tailed Sea Eagle and a few others. You might remember this post: https://www.phillybirdnerd.net/2018/09/birds-of-st-paul.html Nicole is pictured in the Sea Eagle photo.
Doing the full state competition is really tough. You start up north in the Great Swamp at midnight and bird all night and day and end up in the south at Stipson's Island marsh at 10 PM or later. We put hundreds of miles on Harvey's mini van and counted 180 bird species in total. Don't confuse this contest with "birding". It isn't birding. It is identifying and checking off bird species. We rarely stopped to look at any birds. We mainly listened for their call or caught a glimpse of them before moving on to our next target and destination.
Our first bird was Great-horned Owl at midnight sitting atop a dead tree in the great swamp. We could see the silhouette against the night sky. We heard many other marsh birds including Virginia Rail, Least Bittern, Solitary Sandpiper ( a shorebird that happened to call out in the night ), Woodcock and then heard a King Rail which is an uncommon bird. We traveled to various marshy destinations until sunrise. My best bird of the night was Eastern Screech Owl which I called in by imitating its "whinny call". I whinnied and it whinnied back! Check. Let's move on.
Honestly, the morning was a blur of stopping at this lake or in these woods listening for birds. I was driving the van. Ken was navigating. Turn left, turn right, go straight, STOP! I had no idea where we were but Ken and Marc had the route planned out to the minute. We did a pretty good job of staying on time until the afternoon.
Another of my best birds of the day was Common Raven. We drove up to the highest point in NJ to look for them at the nest site on the AT&T cell tower but they were not there. We stopped at a parking area at the bottom of the mountain where the road crew has piles of stone stored. We were looking for warblers but didn't see any. I had to pee so I ducked behind one of the stone piles. Everyone else did the same. With my pants down, I spotted 2 Ravens soaring overhead and yelled out to the others. All 4 of us got the Raven with our pants down! Check. Let's move on.
You'll notice the lack of photos in this post. There is no time for photos when you are in the competition. I did manage to get a shot of another bird that I found - White-crowned Sparrow.
The first place team had 207 species. That team is made up of Cornell University Ornithology majors and they win every year. Maybe next year we'll break the 200 mark.
We are raising money for the DVOC Interns Fund. If you are inclined to donate, here is a link:
http://dvoc.org/Committees/Interns/Interns.htm Please enter 1,000 Birds in the comment section. Or, send me a check.