The Delaware Dunlins Youth Birders Club is celebrating the third year of offering great birding opportunities for youth and their families. We are very blessed to have some incredibly talented young birders involved, and once again this year we invited our most veteran youth birders to take part in the biggest birding competition in America: The World Series of Birding!
Allow me to introduce the two young men who led our Delaware Dunlins team into battle against the best birders in the world:
Nick Mielnickiewicz, age 18, has grown up around bird thanks to his parents nurturing of his interest in nature. I have had the pleasure of birding with Nick since he was 9 years old, and his birding skills are very well-honed. Nick always manages to spot the great birds on our Big Days.
Mike Hudson, age 15, is the founder of the Friends of the Red Knot (FORK), a grassroots conservation group dedicated to saving the Red Knot. Mike has super knowledge of bird identification and distribution. We count on him for providing great scouting information and knowing what look for on our Big Days.
Here are the stories of our World Series experience, in the words of these young men.
Everyone was getting tired. It was mid-afternoon and we were ready for some easy birds. We had been birding since 1:00 am and had done respectably so far, but we had a lot of ground to cover and each minute we lost a little bit more daylight. Our aim was a rookery of Yellow-crowned Night-herons where we hoped to be able to pick up some easy birds on the edge of town.
Much to our surprise, the quest led us to a little strip of pine trees on the edge of an active intersection. In these little pine trees we were once again surprised when we looked up and noticed a small colony of our target birds. Above us several Night-heron nests were tucked into the branches of the pine trees. Even stranger than the location of the nests was the way they had been constructed. They were placed on the edges of the little pines and some of them looked like they were two sizes too small for the birds that sat upon them!
While we were all marveling at this strangely charming little rookery we had another shock on the way. I noticed a small bird flitting along next to the trunk of one of the pines. A called the others over, assuming I had a warbler. I judged it as a Black-and-white by its tree-hugging behavior. However when I raised my binoculars to my tired eyes and gazed properly at the spritely little bird, I was amazed that the bird I was looking at was a nuthatch; not just any nuthatch either, a Red-breasted Nuthatch! These birds may be common enough at feeders in the dead of winter, but to see one happily hopping along in May was quite a tremendous surprise! After several more minutes snapping pictures and praising our remarkable good fortune, we headed back into the cars to continue our long Big Day. After an experience like that, we were all left thinking: if we can see birds like that, who knows what else may be waiting for us just down the road.
We began our journey to New Jersey with much haste as we had a big day planned for the World Series of Birding. Almost immediately upon entering New Jersey did our journey begin when we was a pair of American Bittern’s in flight, as well as a Black Crowned Night Heron. After a quick dinner and a short nap at the cottage we were staying at, we began our quest through Cape May County as participants of the World Series of Birding.
In the early hours of the event, we trekked through the quiet night, occasionally coming across a chorus of frogs, with rails and nightjars mixed in amongst the natural choir. As dawn came and went, we listened to the many song birds make their early morning songs, though fewer appeared before us this year than the last, we had some satisfactory meetings, including a Summer Tanager, a Wood Thrush, and a flock of Turkey. As our day progressed, we carried on across many locations within the county, finding such notable birds such as a Whimbrel, a Parasitic Jaeger a Pileated Woodpecker, a Merlin, and a White Faced Ibis. Some birds that we had encountered in the past but were unfortunate to miss this year included the Red Headed Woodpecker, but we did not falter in our search, no matter the rain, nor the mosquitoes. Finally, after going through clouds of mosquitoes, we found our final bird of the day, a Sora whistling in the distance. With that, we made our way to the finishing line, entered our list in, and returned to our cottage for some much needed rest.
The next day was as fun as it was the year before. Good food was enjoyed as the bird groups were given the opportunities to give their stories. An interesting twist this year was the departure of the veteran group, the Lagerhead Shrikes, who were reigning champions of the event. Though it was their last WSB event, their story, and the stories of the many other teams inspired me, and make me look forward to the next time I participate in this momentous, yearly, event.
In the end, after 21 hours of birding, our team had observed 141 species of birds in Cape May County. We celebrated at the finish line, and discovered that we had finsished 5th out of 60 teams covering Limited Geographic Areas (county level or smaller). The other 11 teams had taken on the whole state of New Jersey, and our friends on the Lagerhead Shrikes came in first place with an impressive total of 221 species!
To view our official list of birds observed, click on Delaware Dunlins World Series of Birding 2011 checklist .
If you’d like to see a video of highlights of our day, visit Delaware Dunlins World Series Video.
We appreciate everyone who has supported the Delaware Dunlins. If you would like to support our World Series efforts to raise funds for the Delaware Bird-A-Thon, you can visit the DOS website and make a contribution via the secure PayPal login. Click here to donate! (Do so by June 12 and your contribution will count towards this year’s Delaware Bird–Thon)
Thank you all and enjoy the birds!
Your Delaware Dunlins World Series Team