DVOC Main Page > World Series of Birding > 2002 Report


May 10, 2003

Team Members - Paul Guris (Captain), Adrian Binns, Mike Fritz, Rick Mellon, Bill Stocku.
Species Seen - 231
Place - 1st Place
Sponsor - Nikon Sport Optics

Paul Guris (Captain), Rick Mellon,
Bill Stocku, Mike Fritz, Adrian Binns
Back Row - Adrian Binns, Rick Mellon, Bill Stocku
Front Row - Paul Guris (Captain), Mike Fritz

Photos:© Mike Fritz

Report by Adrian Binns

At the stroke of midnight on a calm but cloudy evening the Great Swamp was alive. Through the abundant calling Sora's (why is it that some years they seem so elusive?) Gray-cheeked and Swainson's Thrush; Barred, Screech and Great Horned Owl; Least and American Bittern; King and Virginia Rail; Yellow-breasted Chat, Woodcock, Snipe and both Cuckoos called. Leaving the Swamp at 2:15AM we headed north to Libertyville Marsh in Sussex County, where we dipped on Pied-billed Grebe and Moorhen, though we did get a real bonus, a Barn Owl calling a half dozen times as it flew around the area.

Our first daylight birding was on Sally Harden Road. A 10-minute hike to the top and backside of the grasslands produced Vesper Sparrow, Raven, Grasshopper and Savannah Sparrow, all of which called by 5:10AM. Around the corner at Beamer Road and its hedgerows we picked up White-crowned Sparrow and Pheasant. From here it is on to the Black Spruce Bog in High Point State Park, where 2 Ruffed Grouse were drumming and Northern Waterthrush was signing but missed Purple Finch and Blue-headed Vireo. At the hemlock grove at Cat Swamp we picked up Blue-headed Vireo, Least Flycatcher and Canada Warbler and at the Sawmill Campground we had Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, White-breasted Nuthatch, Hairy Woodpecker, Warbling Vireo and Cerulean Warbler. While exiting Sawmill we had a Rusty Blackbird fly over. We got the Common Merganser at Deckertown Pike without stopping. In Stokes State Forest on Aquatong Road we picked up the Broad-wing Hawk on its nest across from the spruce grove and Magnolia, Pine, Hooded, Black-throated blue and Sharp-shinned Hawk in the campground. Along Flatbrook Road a Junco is flushed off the road. How lucky can we get? At Culver's Lake Horned Grebe, Red-breasted Merganser and Common Loon where on the water. We missed the Wilson's Warbler but got Cedar Waxwing and Solitary Sandpiper. On Rte 206 we had to make our way up the steep side of an evergreen grove to get the Golden-crowned Kinglet and then onto Rte 560 towards Dingman's and behind the Sandyston Consolidated Elementary School for Bobolink and Eastern Meadowlark. On Van Ness Road we had 2 Golden-winged Warblers as well as Chestnut-sided but no Mourning. On Mettler Road across from the nursery a Red-breasted Nuthatch is found close to its nest hole; Indigo Bunting at the feeder and around the corner on Van Arkin a Belted Kingfisher. At the beaver dam off of Walpack and Old Mine we pick up Lincoln's Sparrow. Further along Walpack Road we find Purple Finch, Worm-eating Warbler and a Ruby-throated Hummingbird at a feeder. At the pond across from the Cock-a-doodle restaurant a Moorhen responds to Paul's call and a drake Ring-necked Duck is in the middle of the pond. Our last stop "up north" produces Cliff Swallows at the DOT barn at Squire's Corner. Crossing Rte 80 at 9:05AM we had 131 species. Considering the lack of migrants (we had missed Blackpoll Warbler) it was very efficient.

South of Hope, we stopped at a reported active Kestrel box and in no time find a Kestrel doing a great flight imitation of an Upland Sandpiper! At Merrill Creek a pair of Bald Eagles were sitting in the trees but the Red-necked Grebe was not to be found. In Huntingdon County on Rte 579 Rick slammed the brakes on as a pair of Cooper's Hawks flew over the road. Bailing out, several of us get a glimpse. Backtracking we eventually locate one in flight - everyone has the bird.

Swinging into Florence, Great Cormorants are on the near marker and Lesser Black-backed Gull and a 2nd year Glaucous Gull on the Delaware. It takes a little while but eventually an Iceland Gull shows itself on the landfill. A pair of Peregrines, under the turnpike bridge, are easily seen from the road (not going in, cost us a signing Blackpoll, but how were we to know?). After a quick gas stop it was onto Gloucester County, where we pick up a calling Pectoral Sandpiper at Raccoon Creek and Coot and Pied-billed Grebe at Birch Creek. Salem County has Snow Geese and Ruddy Duck on the pond at Featherbed Lane, and a Black Vulture and Northern Harrier flying over a field south of Sharptown. The Lesser Scaup Art McMorris found at Mannington Marsh performed well and Caspian Tern, Green-winged Teal and a White-rumped Sandpiper were picked up there as well. We crossed the Cumberland County line at 1:45PM and Mike now had the time he needed to work the South.

On the edge of Millville WMA we pick up Blue Grosbeak and Bobwhite at Shaw's Mill Road; 2 of us see the Red-shouldered Hawk fly across the road and it takes a Great-horned Owl imitation to get it to call so the rest can count it. Summer Tanager and eastern Wood Pewee were calling at Ackley and Railroad Ave; a little further down we stop for Yellow-throated Warbler and pick up a couple of migrants that we missed in the north - Bay-breasted and Tennessee Warbler, but still no Blackpoll. In a large sand pond on Rte 555 just north of Dividing Creek, something awakes a sleeping Red-throated Loon and it takes off and at Turkey Point Road a Red-necked Grebe continues to be seen. From here it is onto Bivalve where 3 Peregrines were hunting the shorebirds and undoubtedly making the ducks nervous. We only manage a Pintail and numerous biting insects. At the staked out James Peditt Kentucky spot, Kentucky's were singing from both sides of the road as well as a less co-operative Prothonotary and Acadian Flycatcher. It takes another spot to clean up the latter specie.

Onto Cape May County and Beaver Dam Road where Worm-eating was calling, and a single Glossy Ibis and Gull-billed Tern were found. Next was the Avalon Campground for Red-headed Woodpecker. As we pulled up to the entrance booth to ask permission to go in, the gentlemen held up a map and pointed to where the woodpeckers are nesting! We said, "Thanks, we know!" Still no Blackpoll calling! Cattle Egrets were seen along Rte 9 and along the Stone Harbor causeway we pick up Brant, Whimbrel, Ruddy Turnstone, Red Knot and Tri-colored Heron. At the base of the free bridge to Nummy Island, 3 Yellow-crowned and a Black-crowned Night-Heron were feeding in the salt marsh and Mike's scoped a Piping Plover sitting atop the dredge spoils. On Nummy Island he had Oystercatcher, Common Tern and Little Blue Heron but missed the Long-tailed Duck. In North Wildwood, at 19th Street, roosting Black Skimmers; at Sunset Lake a drake Bufflehead and the Coast Guard ponds held, Gadwall, both teal, though we only needed Blue-wing and a hiding Hooded Merganser. Marbled Godwit was pretty uncooperative only showing itself on two brief occasions, but at least 3 of the 5 of us did get to see it. Over to Ocean Drive and Poverty Beach where the fog had rolled in, only giving us Gannet over the beach. At this point we were at 220 species and still without Sanderling! Scanning at 2nd Ave, we get Sanderling and Least Tern. At the Concrete Ship we had the White-winged Scoter that has been hanging out there. The Lehigh Ave jetty at Cape May Point produced Purple Sandpiper and a small flock of fly-by Black Scoters. With daylight running out we search the vegetation around Lily Lake for Blackpoll, but came up with a Ruby-crowned Kinglet. Onto the bay shore (at least the visibility was better) and Miami Beach where a Bonaparte's Gull was on the water close to the beach. While scanning the ocean we carried on a conversation with some bloke who was a few fries short of a happy meal. He was building sand castles with his wife and 2 kids on a chilly day after sunset and a few pints! In all the madness that occurs during this event this one took the cake. With our 5 scopes raised he asked us what we were doing. Mike told him, we were going to build a bridge, like the one across the Chesapeake, but a little smaller, from here to Lewes, Delaware. The sign on our van reads Nikon Birding Team. He read it as Nikon Building Team and was most impressed; thought it was a great job to have and certainly better that any job he had. He asked," How are you going to get to the other side?" By car or by foot was our answer. It took a while, but eventually he said, "Are you bull-shitting me?"

At 8:25PM both Chuck-wills-widow and Whip-poor-will call at our usually spot in a cemetery north of the Court House. From here it was onto Stimpson's Island Road for Nelson's Sharp-tailed Sparrow, but though it was around earlier in the week it appears that it left. Migration overhead seems to be in full swing, especially the thrushes. At Jake's Landing Road dozens of teams are lined up to hear Black Rail, and though it is distant, somehow we manage to hear it above all the footsteps along the gravel road and car engines! Our last stop around 11:30PM was at the Lower Cape May Regional School, where a Common Nighthawk was calling. 24 hours, 565 miles and 231 species!

Looking back on the 24 hours, luck plays a huge role, especially in giving us additional time. The intensive scouting produced the species, but one needs time and (time management) to get to them and to find them. Picking up a totally unexpected Barn Owl in the north, a Harrier beside to the road in the south and Piping Plover while scanning the marshes meant that we saved about 30 to 40 minutes of additional drive time needed to pick those species up. Seeing species, while at a scheduled stop, that were never seen while scouting, like Sharpie and Cooper's Hawk, helps a great deal. On the other hand, if we had driven into the area under the Turnpike Bridge we would no doubt have heard the Blackpoll, or if we had reached Poverty Beach minutes earlier before the fog rolled in, it would have increased our chances of seeing Long-tailed Duck, Royal Tern and Surf Scoter, we possibly could have picked up another 4 species. But who would have known? It is frightening what the possibilities of a really Big Day are.

2003 Official Results


DVOC Main Page > World Series of Birding > 2002 Report