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World Series of Birding: Birding with adrenaline

On Friday night, as the clock approached midnight, hundreds of birders readied themselves for the world’s premier birding competition—the World Series of Birding.

Although birding has the reputation of being an activity reserved for those looking for a relaxing escape from the burdens of everyday life, there are those who seek the exciting and adrenaline-inducing side of birding.

For a 24-hour period, beginning at midnight Friday and ending midnight Saturday, groups of birders in New Jersey embarked on a competitive quest to spot or hear as many different bird species as possible.

The World Series of Birding is broken down into several levels. For example, a team can search for birds throughout the whole state of New Jersey, in a limited geographic location like a county or a spot as small as a few square feet. There are also youth and senior birding levels.

Prior to the 29th Annual World Series of Birding, which took place Saturday May 12, I spoke to participant Dennis Briede, the stewardship manager at the Land Conservancy of New Jersey, on what it was like to take partake in previous World Series of Birding competitions.

“You get pumped up beyond the limit when you first start,” Briede said. “You’re usually in position about 15 to 20 minutes before midnight to get the best spots where you can see bitterns, owls and night birds. The rest of the day, you’re not really exhausted because you just keep going with the adrenaline.”

Competition exposes an entirely different aspects of birding that’s much more high-stakes and exciting. Although you don’t get to appreciate the birds as much as casual birding, it could help you appreciate common birds you’ve seen thousands of times. Also, the event brings out the competition in people.

“I’m not a gung-ho competitor, but you always want your team to be number one,” Briede, said. “You don’t have a lot of time to observe the birds, but you learn a lot about habitats and calls.”

Briede, whose team with the land conservancy is called Highland Hawks, said preparation is key to a successful outing.

“If you’re completely crazy, a lot of preparation goes into the competition,” he said. “Some people spend weekends and days off scouting because birds will usually sing from the same perch. You need to know what spot they’re at and how long they stay there. Traveling throughout New Jersey gets pretty intense timing-wise. ”

The competition was started in 1984 by Pete Dunne, currently director of the Cape May Observatory where the event is based, to raise awareness and money for birds and habitats. Since its inception in 1984, when 13 teams originally set off on the hunt, the event has raised $9 million and exploded in popularity and attendance.

Currently, there are far more teams than the early competitions. When Briede first started competing in the early ’90s, he said about seven to 10 teams competed, but now there are more teams with different categories. He also said his early teams won with about 200 species, but more energy, effort and time are put into the event these days.

The winning team this year, Team Zeiss, tallied 207 species in the state competition while the Limited Geographic Area award went to the Meadowlands Marsh Hawks at 139 species. The Highland Hawks counted 145 species in Sussex County, but it was three fewer percentages than the Meadowlands Marsh Hawks’ count in Bergen County.

If you’re interested in participating in the 30th Annual World Series of Birding in 2013, it’s never too early to start planning.

To help raise money and awareness for birds, please donate to or join the Land Convervancy of New Jersey and the Cape May Bird Conservancy. You can also check out the land conservancy’s blog here.

Timothy Martinez Jr. is a writer and freelance journalist. His work has been published in The Times-Picayune in New Orleans, Remapping Debate in New York City and other publications. He’s been a bird lover since he was young and currently lives in New Orleans, L.A.

1 Comment

  1. Hi. Do you know the dates of the World Series of Birding for 2013?

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