World Series of Birding 2013

Number of species: 158
Area covered: Entire state of New Jersey
Team: Nick, Jonathan, Steve, Cliff

We entered this year’s World Series of Birding with high hopes. We had done our homework and put in a good amount of time on scouting. We got loads of great advice from past winners and legends of this event (Paul G. and Bert F. /DVOC Loggerhead Shrikes), good intel from Sussex Co. super birders (Alan B. and xyz) and Bob H. briefly came out of retirement to help out with scouting. However, optimism turned into skepticism as we neared the event. Cold weather had delayed the arrival of some of the key birds and the weather forecast called for rain and wind throughout the day of the event.

We entered this year’s World Series of Birding with high hopes. We had done our homework and put in a good amount of time on scouting. We got loads of great advice from past winners and legends of this event (Paul G. and Bert F. /DVOC Loggerhead Shrikes), good intel from Sussex Co. super birders (Alan B. and xyz) and Bob H. briefly came out of retirement to help out with scouting. However, optimism turned into skepticism as we neared the event. Cold weather had delayed the arrival of some of the key birds and the weather forecast called for rain and wind throughout the day of the event.

We gathered at my house on Friday evening to go over strategy and make last minute changes to our route. Salem County had been ruled out by Steve since some of the birds that were seen there early in the week were not there in subsequent visits on Wednesday and Thursday. The Great Swamp was iffy but we thought that it was the best spot for Woodcock and Virginia Rail so it stayed on the route. We figured that even with the rain, we would stick to the plan and see what happens.

We arrived at the Great Swamp at 11:15 which gave us enough time to walk to our first spot and get a feel of what was out there. It was partly cloudy and there was no hint of rain so we thought maybe we’ll get lucky. Am. Woodcock were constantly peenting and a Sora sounded off at 11:45pm. Right before midnight, the rains came and with that, just about everything got quiet. We spent about an hour and 45 minutes at the swamp and we only heard Swamp Sparrow, Barred Owl (distant), Great horned Owl and Canada Goose. No Sora, Virginia Rail and Woodcock! – We missed all those birds on the day.

Wet and disappointed, we drove to our next stop which was the Lewisburg marsh some 50 miles away. By now the rain was not as intense but it still gave us fits. We saw 3-4 other teams there and in the 30 minutes we were there, we managed to hear a Common Gallinule but not much else (we were hoping for Sore and Pied-billed Grebe among other things). Owens Station Rd swamp was next and by now the rain had stopped. We heard plenty of Swamp Sparrows and both Barred and Great-horned Owls and our first and only Green Heron for the day. We made a fruitless quick stop at the Unionville swamp before we headed to the Wantage Grasslands and Vesper Hill and got there right on schedule (4:45am).

I had staked out a spot for Grasshopper Sparrow but did not have any luck with Vesper during scouting. We waiting for what I thought was hours before we finally heard a call of a sparrow. To my surprise, it was a Vesper and not a Grasshopper. As we headed back to the car we started ticking off some of the local birds (Ring-necked Pheasant, Wild Turkey), visited stakeouts for American Kestrel and Eastern Screech Owl, picked out Green-winged Teal and Solitary Sandpiper in a small pond but missed out on Brown Thrasher and Bobolink.

We skipped a visit to the AT&T tour although we slowed down as we drove by hoping to see or hear a Common Raven or Purple Finches. I quick run to Sawmill Rd for Hermit Thrush did not yield anything. For the next 2 hours (5:30am-7:30am) High Point SP (Ridge Rd, Steam Mill, Ocquitunk Camp, Hotalen Rd) produced the bulk of our warblers including Golden-winged, Blue-winged, Hooded, Cerulean, Bay-breasted, Blackburnian, Chestnut-sided, Black-throated Green and both Louisiana & Northern Waterthrush. We also had most Vireos (Yellow-throated, Red-eyed, Blue-headed and Warbling). Brown Creeper, a flyby Hermit Thrush, Least Flycatcher and Rudy Hummingbird were also good additions. We knew we were in trouble though as we struck out on birds that we would not be able to find further south – some of the notable misses were Purple Finch, Common Raven, Spruce Grouse, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker & Pileated Woodpecker.

We spent another two hours heading South through Stokes State Forest. Notable birds were Common Merganser (Dingman’s Ferry), Bobolink, Eastern Meadowlark (Layton Cemetary), White-throated Sparrow, American Wigeon & Bald Eagle on a nest (Culvers lake), White-crowned Sparrow (Ennis Rd lake) and Cliff Swallow (DOT barn). We dipped on Belted Kingfisher among others and by the time we started the long drive down south (9:45am) our species count was a tad under 100 – well below our target of 120+.

We decided to skip Salem county and head straight to Cumberland county. By the time we arrived at the Millville airport area at 12:45pm the sun was out and in the next 20min we had Horned Lark, Prairie Warbler, Grasshopper Sparrow, Blue Grosbeak, Indigo Bunting and Orchard Oriole. Next stop was Beavan WMA where we had Peregrine Falcon, Bank Swallow, Summer Tanager, Prothonotary and Yellow-throated Warbler and a surprising Common Loon. Heislerville was next and we picked up most of the birds you’d expect to see there, including Solitary Sandpiper, Black Skimmers and Ring-billed Gulls but missed out on any lingering ducks as well as Yellow-breasted Chat, Yellow-crowned Night-Heron and the rare Curlew Sandpiper. We arrived at Stipson’s Island Rd, our next stop at 3:15pm and got Northern Harrier and Seaside Sparrow but no White-faced Ibis or Willow Flycatcher.

We were burning daylight so we decided to skip nearby Bellplain and a chance at Acadian Flycatcher among others. So, we made a quick stop at Norbury’s Landing which yielded Sanderling but nothing else that could be added to our count. Off to Cape May Island and Higbee’s was our next stop. We were pleased to pick up Uprle Sandpiper at the jetty and a surprising Ruby-crowned Kinglet (a 1st in our team’s 8 years in the competition).

Driving through Cape May Point streets did not yield the resident Eurasian Collared-Doves and sea watching produced Northern Gannets but no lingering Scoter or Jaegers. The beach produced the usual suspects (Piping Plover, Least Tern, American Oystercatcher) as well as a Common Tern and a Lesser Black-backed Gull. A drive through Nummy’s Island produced a Ruddy Duck and Whimbrel but no Great Cormorant, Little Blue or Tri-colored Heron. Avalon gave us a Yellow-crowned Night-Heron but by now it was 7:30 and we had very little daylight left. We opted to go to John Wesley Cemetery next and listen for both Chuck’s and Whip. The rain started coming down heavily again which made it very hard to listen for their call and stay somewhat dry. We managed to here a distant Chuck-will’s Widow but that was it.

Exhausted we had very little drive left but we somehow managed to talk ourselves into going to Jake’s Landing for another shot at a Virginia Rail and an outside chance of bagging a Black Rail. Neither one of them materialized and called it a day a little after 9:00pm. We knew our score of 158 was very low but when we got to the finish line, we realized that all teams had lower scores than normal. In the end, we finished a respectable 9th place although we did manage to get beat by 3 youth teams!

2013 Checklist
  Time Location 2013 Total
  SWAN, Mute 2:20p Heislerville WMA
  GOOSE, Snow      
    Brant 5:15p Cape May SP
    Canada 12:15a Great Swamp NWR
  DUCK, Wood 2:00p Haleyville Road
    Gadwall 5:30p Cape May SP
    American Wigeon 8:00a Culvers Lake  
    American Black 2:25p Heislerville WMA
    Mallard 7:55a Culvers Lake
    Blue-winged Teal      
    Northern Shoveler        
    Northern Pintail      
    Green-winged Teal 5:40a Beemer Rd/Wolfpit Rd
    Greater Scaup        
    Lesser Scaup      
    Common Eider      
    Surf Scoter      
    White-winged Scoter        
    Black Scoter      
    Common Goldeneye        
    Hooded Merganser      
    Common Merganser 7:00a Stokes State Forest
    Red-breasted Merganser      
    Ruddy 7:05p Stone Harbor Causeway
  PHEASANT, Ring-necked 5:45a Beemer Rd/Wolfpit Rd
  GROUSE, Ruffed      
  TURKEY, Wild 5:40a Beemer Rd/Wolfpit Rd
  BOBWHITE, Northern        
LOONS – HERONS        
  LOON, Red-throated      
    Common 1:35p Bevan WMA
  GREBE, Pied-billed      
  SHEARWATER, Sooty        
    Storm-Petrel, Wilson’s        
  GANNET, Northern 5:30p Cape May SP
  PELICAN, Brown        
  CORMORANT, Great        
    Double-crested 2:30p Heislerville WMA
    American Bittern      
    Least Bittern      
    Great Blue 7:55a Culvers Lake
    Great Egret 2:30p Heislerville WMA
    Snowy Egret 2:35p Heislerville WMA
    Little Blue      
    Cattle Egret      
    Green 3:30a Owens Station Rd
    Black-crowned Night- 2:40p Heislerville WMA
    Yellow-crowned Night- 7:25p Avalon
  IBIS, Glossy 2:30p Heislerville WMA
  VULTURE, Black 8:50a Layton Grasslands
  Turkey 1:00p Millville Airport
  OSPREY 1:05p Millville Airport
  KITE, Mississippi      
  EAGLE, Bald 8:30a Culvers Lake
  HARRIER, Northern 3:20p Stipson Island Rd
  HAWK, Sharp-shinned      
    Northern Goshawk        
    Red-shouldered 7:15a Stokes State Forest
    Red-tailed 1:10p Millville Airport
    American Kestrel 5:45a Beemer Rd/Wolfpit Rd
    Peregrine 1:35p Bevan WMA
  RAIL, Black      
    Clapper 3:20p Stipson Island Rd
  MOORHEN, Common 3:20a Lewisburg Marsh
  COOT, American      
  PLOVER, Black-bellied 2:30p Heislerville WMA
    American Golden-        
    Semipalmated 3:30p Stipson Island Rd
    Piping 5:30p Cape May SP
    Killdeer 5:00a Vesper Hill
  OYSTERCATCHER, American 5:30p Cape May SP
  AVOCET, American        
    Greater Yellowlegs 1:55p Haleyville Road
    Lesser Yellowlegs 2:40p Heislerville WMA
    Solitary 2:05p Haleyville Road
    Willet 3:20p Stipson Island Rd
    Spotted 2:00p Haleyville Road
    Whimbrel 7:00p Stone Harbor Causeway
    Marbled Godwit        
    Ruddy Turnstone 4:10p Norbury’s Landing
    Red Knot      
    Sanderling 4:10p Norbury’s Landing
    Semipalmated 2:40p Heislerville WMA
    Least 5:45a Beemer Rd/Wolfpit Rd
    Purple 4:30p Higbees Beach
    Dunlin 7:00p Stone Harbor Causeway
    Short-billed Dowitcher 3:20p Stipson Island Rd
  SNIPE, Wilson’s      
  WOODCOCK, American      
  PHALAROPE, Wilson’s        
GULLS & TERNS        
  JAEGER, Parasitic      
  GULL, Laughing 1:15p Millville Airport
    Ring-billed 8:15a Culvers Lake
    Herring 1:30p Bevan WMA
    Lesser Black-backed 5:30p Cape May SP
    Great Black-backed 2:30p Heislerville WMA
  TERN, Gull-billed      
    Common 5:30p Cape May SP
    Forster’s 2:30p Heislerville WMA
    Least 5:30p Cape May SP
  SKIMMER, Black 2:35p Heislerville WMA
  DOVE, Mourning 12:50p Millville Airport
  PIGEON, Rock 1:15p Millville Airport
  CUCKOO, Black-billed      
  OWL, Barn        
    Eastern Screech- 5:20a Beemer Rd/Wolfpit Rd
    Great Horned 12:30a Great Swamp NWR
    Barred 12:45a Great Swamp NWR
    Northern Saw-whet        
  NIGHTHAWK, Common      
  CHUCK-WILL’S-WIDOW 8:00p John Wesley Cemetery
  SWIFT, Chimney 12:55p Millville Airport
  HUMMINGBIRD, Ruby-throated 7:20a Stokes State Forest
  KINGFISHER, Belted      
  WOODPECKER, Red-headed      
    Red-bellied 6:15a High Point SP
    Yellow-bellied Sapsucker      
    Downy 5:10a Vesper Hill
    Hairy 8:20a Culvers Lake
    Northern Flicker 6:15a High Point SP
  FLYCATCHER, Olive-sided        
    Eastern Wood-Pewee 1:30p Bevan WMA
    Least 6:20a High Point SP
    Eastern Phoebe 5:15a Vesper Hill
    Great Crested 6:20a High Point SP
    Eastern Kingbird 9:00a Layton Grasslands
  VIREO, White-eyed 1:30p Bevan WMA
    Blue-headed 6:30a High Point SP
    Yellow-throated 6:15a High Point SP
    Warbling 9:00a Layton Grasslands
    Red-eyed 6:25a High Point SP
  LARK, Horned 1:10p Millville Airport
    Purple Martin 1:15p Millville Airport
    Tree 8:15a Culvers Lake
    Northern Rough-winged 8:20a Culvers Lake
    Bank 1:40p Bevan WMA
    Cliff 9:45a DOT barn
    Barn 8:15a Culvers Lake
  JAY, Blue 6:40a High Point SP
  CROW, American 7:00a Stokes State Forest
    Fish 2:45p Heislerville WMA
  RAVEN, Common      
  CHICKADEE, Black-capped 6:00a High Point SP
    Carolina 2:45p Heislerville WMA
  TITMOUSE, Tufted 5:15a Vesper Hill
  NUTHATCH, Red-breasted      
    White-breasted 7:05a Stokes State Forest
  CREEPER, Brown 7:25a Stokes State Forest
  WREN, Carolina 5:20a Beemer Rd/Wolfpit Rd
    House 5:10a Vesper Hill
    Marsh 3:40a Rockport Marsh
  KINGLET, Golden-crowned      
    Ruby-crowned 4:40p Higbees Beach
  GNATCATCHER, Blue-gray 6:25a High Point SP
  BLUEBIRD, Eastern 8:10a Culvers Lake
    Veery 6:45a High Point SP
    Hermit 6:40a High Point SP
    Wood 6:15a High Point SP
  ROBIN, American 5:10a Vesper Hill
  CATBIRD, Gray 6:15a High Point SP
  MOCKINGBIRD, Northern 12:55p Millville Airport
  THRASHER, Brown      
  STARLING, European 6:15a High Point SP
  PIPIT, American      
  WAXWING, Cedar      
  WARBLER, Blue-winged 6:00a High Point SP
    Golden-winged 6:00a High Point SP
    Northern Parula 7:10a Stokes State Forest
    Yellow 6:15a High Point SP
    Chestnut-sided 7:20a Stokes State Forest
    Cape May        
    Black-throated Blue      
    Black-throated Green 7:10a Stokes State Forest
    Blackburnian 8:40a Flatbrook Roy WMA
    Yellow-throated 1:45p Bevan WMA
    Pine 1:40p Bevan WMA
    Prairie 1:10p Millville Airport
    Bay-breasted 7:10a Stokes State Forest
    Cerulean 6:20a High Point SP
    Black-and-white 6:30a High Point SP
    American Redstart 6:30a High Point SP
    Prothonotary 1:45p Bevan WMA
    Ovenbird 1:40p Bevan WMA
    Northern Waterthrush 6:20a High Point SP
    Louisiana Waterthrush 6:55a Stokes State Forest
    Common Yellowthroat 1:40p Bevan WMA
    Hooded 7:10a Stokes State Forest
    Yellow-breasted Chat      
  TANAGER, Summer 1:45p Bevan WMA
    Scarlet 6:40a High Point SP
  TOWHEE, Eastern 6:20a High Point SP
  SPARROW, Chipping 5:15a Vesper Hill
    Field 5:15a Vesper Hill
    Vesper 5:00a Vesper Hill
    Grasshopper 12:55p Millville Airport
    Nelson’s Sharp-tailed        
    Saltmarsh Sharp-tailed      
    Seaside 2:55p Heislerville WMA
    Song 6:20a High Point SP
    Swamp 1:00a Great Swamp NWR
    White-throated 5:40a Beemer Rd/Wolfpit Rd
    White-crowned 9:25a Ennis Rd Pond
    Dark-eyed Junco      
  CARDINAL, Northern 5:13a Vesper Hill
  GROSBEAK, Rose-breasted 6:40a High Point SP
    Blue 1:10p Millville Airport
  BUNTING, Indigo 1:15p Millville Airport
  BOBOLINK 9:05a Layton Grasslands
  BLACKBIRD, Red-winged 6:40a High Point SP
  MEADOWLARK, Eastern 9:00a Layton Grasslands
  BLACKBIRD, Rusty        
  GRACKLE, Boat-tailed 2:50p Heislerville WMA
    Common 1:40p Bevan WMA
  COWBIRD, Brown-headed 5:15a Vesper Hill
  ORIOLE, Orchard 1:10p Millville Airport
    Baltimore 5:15a Vesper Hill
  FINCH, Purple      
    House 9:00a Layton Grasslands
  CROSSBILL, Red        
  SISKIN, Pine        
  GOLDFINCH, American 6:20a High Point SP
  GROSBEAK, Evening        
  SPARROW, House 5:10a Vesper Hill
    Curlew Sandpiper      
    Black-necked Stilt      
    Eurasian Collared-Dove      
    Total     158 231
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