Monday, May 17, 2010


"I'm probably the only sane person in the room, and not by much." -- Tom Gilmore, President, NJ Audubon Society, at the World Series of Birding day after brunch.

It is ~3 am, and I'm standing in the middle of the Great Swamp NWR with my friends Kristin and Greg (a bit later Nellie and Tom will join us). Listening.

For birds.

We hear a chorus of green frogs. And a few scattered fowlers toads. And a bull frog or two.

Finally, we hear birds, Canada Geese! Woo Hoo!

Yeah, a little bit insane.


Flash back to Friday morning. I wake at 5:30 am. In Marina Del Ray (just north of the Los Angeles airport). Twenty-five hundred miles from home. My flight touches down in Philadelphia at 6:35 pm (on time!). I walk in my front door around 7:45. I unpack and repack. I'm in bed by 8:30.

Honing my skills: House Sparrow in the LA Airport

Klaxons going off! 

My iPhone alarm. Three and a half hours of sleep. Kristin reports she got a bit over two. Greg, watching movies all night, unable to sleep, but one. 

Good thing I'm the driver …


"That's a nice flashlight you got there."
"Um, thanks."
"What cha doin' out here?"
"What are you doing out here?"
"Ghost hunting. You?"
"Looking for birds."
-- Chris Aquila, Tale relayed as part of his victory speech

For the last twenty-seven years, each May an increasing number of crazy people have been competing in the curiously named World Series of Birding. The rules are simple. For a twenty-four hour period, midnight to midnight, find as many different bird species as possible in New Jersey. That's it. 

Over those twenty-seven years over nine million dollars have been raised for various conservation organizations. And a lot of semi-awake people have been seen wandering about in the woods at night. Perhaps occasionally mistaken for ghosts?

Ghostly Kristin

We do pretty good at the Great Swamp, getting over forty species. We start to make our way south, stopping here and there to add to our total. to eventually arrive in Cape May. Mecca of New Jersey birding.

We, like everyone else, arrive very tired.


"Turn here!"
"That was a stop sign!"
Bump!  "Hey, what!"
-- Kristin and-or Greg

Along the way I run only one stop sign and back into only one tree (tree and car are fine). Maybe it wasn't so good that I was the driver.

And we find 135 different species of birds. 

A disappointing total, as we were hoping to be in the 160's. Damn uncooperative birds. Don't they know what day it is?

Where Are They?


At one point we had more laughs then birds -- unidentified WSB participant.

We've been up over twenty-four straight hours. Looking for birds.

Certifiably insane.

But we've had a hell of a good time. And raised a couple of thousand dollars for Citizen Science at NJAS.

Maybe not insane after all.

Nellie, Greg, Steve, Tom, Kristin
The Emilcott Chickadees

"Where Are They" and group portrait images courtesy of Kristin Mylecraine.


Ron a.k.a. Danudin said...

Wonderous report! I can't wait to see the Opera after you have finished honing it!

Susan Treesh said...

I cannot believe you unpacked and repacked (mentally too) - California to the Great Swamp in a few hours. Talk about the red-eye - that was your vehicle!

Chesney said...

This sounds (and looks) like an insanely fun day! :)

Susan Gets Native said...

Crazy is as crazy does, sir.

LauraHinNJ said...

lol... it was a great day for us at Sandy Hook!