This week, some 62 teams are converging on Cape May, New Jersey, for the World Series of Birding, now in its 29th year. Starting at 12:00 a.m. Saturday morning, those birders will cup a hand to their ears and start counting birds. And they won’t stop until the following midnight.
Our own student team, the Redheads, will be among them, scouring Cape May County for somewhere close to 200 species. Each year as soon as they finish their final exams, the team scoots down to New Jersey to scout their World Series route. The results are impressive—they’ve won the Cape May County division four years in a row, with 163 species last year (on a slow migrant day) and a whopping 187 in 2009. Donations to the Redheads team go into a special fund for student research projects at the Cornell Lab.
Like all college teams, the Redheads lineup shifts as team members graduate and new faces appear. Last year, freshman Hope Batcheller was one of the new members of the team; this year she’s the team captain. Joining her are junior Jack Hruska and freshmen Ben Barkley, Eric Gulson, and Brendan Fogarty.
Though the team is young, they’re by no means inexperienced. This will be Hope’s fifth World Series in all. Ben has competed three times already, and last year headed the team that won the Big Stay category (birding all day from a single spot). Jack and Eric have extensive tropical experience having lived in Nicaragua and Mexico, respectively. And Brendan’s youth team last year came away with the third highest total of any team in the World Series, period.
The rest of us here at the Cornell Lab are thrilled to have so much young talent in our midst. When these students aren’t out birding, many of them work here on projects with our eBird, All About Birds, and Neotropical Birds websites, as well as on student research projects. When you donate to the Redheads, you help grow a fund that enables Cornell students to get out into the field and do research first hand. For example, we’ll have students working with Project Puffin in Maine, learning documentary film-making with our Multimedia department, and helping to study birds and army ants in Ecuador.
We do have one other team headed down to Cape May this week. Our birding-by-bicycle team, the Anti-Petrels, will defend their own title in the Carbon Footprint Challenge. They won the category in 2010 and 2011, each year riding 100 miles and tallying 150 and 144 species, respectively. You’ll hear more from the Redheads and the Anti-Petrels right here and on Facebook, as the scouting begins. Thanks for your support.
(Image: L to R: Brendan Fogarty, Hope Batcheller, Jack Hruska, Ben Barkley, Eric Gulson. Photo by Jessie Barry.)