Raven LunaChicks 2022 World Series of Birding

On Saturday, May 14, the “Raven LunaChicks” all-women team of 4 DVOC friends competed in the 39th annual World Series of Birding. The WSB is an annual fundraising competition to determine which team can see/hear the most birds in 24 hours in New Jersey while supporting bird conservation. We competed as a level 1 state-wide team, birding from midnight to midnight across the state.

Our whirlwind began at Liberty Marsh State Park on the northern edge of Sussex County, at the border of New York. Nocturnal marsh birding was lackluster, but we heard Common Gallinule, Great Horned Owl, American Woodcock, Swamp Sparrow, and Marsh Wren before moving on. At nearby Kelly Road, we added Barred Owl. An hour later we ticked Sora, among our favorite birds of the day.  It wasn’t singing from a marsh but was sitting in the middle of the road, fortunately, seen by Lori, who slammed the brakes to avoid hitting it. We were glad to see it move its head (eventually flew off), as dead birds don’t count!

Sora on the Road by Debbie Beer

We were pleased to call in a Screech Owl -using our own voices – around 3 am, as we had none during scouting. Ring-necked Pheasant and Sandhill Crane were heard at 4:15 am – first light came late, as the sky was overcast, and temps were warm and muggy. Willow Flycatcher was a highlight on Sally Harden Road – our only one of the day. The Pied-billed Grebe we heard during scouting was silent at Wolfpit Road pond, and we didn’t scan for the Yellow-crowned Night-heron that we found 2 days ago (a first species record for Sussex County).

As skies grew light, we bee-lined to High Point State Park to hear the drumming of our stake-out Ruffed Grouse, hearing Worm-eating Warbler, too. We passed several youth teams at this location – er, they passed us, running at top speed! (We are not able to share the Grouse location). Common Raven was heard.

The dawn chorus was on, and we drove steadily down Park Ridge Road, picking up singing warblers, tanagers, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Veery, Wood Thrush, Least Flycatcher, and more. Cerulean Warbler was nice to see and hear at the top of the road; Canada Warbler and Northern Waterthrush were not present for us at boggy areas. At Dingman’s Ferry bridge, we saw 3 of the famed Arctic Terns that were being reported around the region, along with the target Common Mergansers. At Tilman’s Ravine, we dipped on the Winter Wrens but heard a Brown Creeper and Hooded Warbler. At Culver’s Lake, our final stop of the north, we had Bank Swallow and Common Loon. We gassed up, switched drivers, and drove as fast as possible down to “the south.”

We arrived at Forsythe NWR a few minutes before noon. A crew from HBO connected with us there, miking Patty and Deb, and fitting a GoPro camera in our vehicle minutes before the downpour started. They filmed us getting drenched as we climbed the gull tower – difficult viewing in sheeting rain!  We drove the famed loop slowly, adding Caspian, Gull-billed, and Forster’s Terns, Black Skimmers, Bonaparte’s Gulls, Clapper Rail, Whimbrel, plovers, dowitchers, and an injured Snow Goose that had been present since winter. Flocks of peeps alighted on the roadway, thinking it was mudflats (which it was). Birding Brig in such conditions is certainly memorable!

Pouring Rain at Brig by Linda Widdop

Rain was lighter at Ocean City visitor center where the colony of nesting waders is quite a spectacle. We spent a few minutes searching unsuccessfully for the lone White-faced Ibis that is known to be among dozens of Glossy, White Ibis, Great and Snowy Egrets. Yellow-crowned Night-herons displayed gorgeous head plumes, while Boat-tailed Grackles sang loudly.

By the time we reached Cape May, the rain was gone. We joined other birders at Coral Avenue seawatch, delighted to see a dozen Wilson’s Storm-Petrels at close range, also Least and Common Terns, Red-throated Loon, oystercatcher, Sanderling, and Brown Pelican. Our first Red-tailed Hawk of the day was perched on Sunset Blvd – some teams missed this bird due to difficult weather today. While the north was cloudy, the south had heavy fog.

At Cape May Meadows we added Gadwall, Stilt Sandpiper, and Lesser Black-backed Gull. We saw Horned Larks at Cape May Airport. The lonely Swainson’s Warbler was singing away in the corner of Higbee Beach field, but no chat. We ticked Purple Sandpiper immediately at Higbee jetty and paused a minute for a team photo.

Raven LunaChicks by Diane Widdop

Lesser Scaup and Pied-billed Grebe were good additions from the Cox Hall Villas pond, and Red-headed Woodpecker called shrilly at Conswell Road. We endured swarms of biting midges at Cook’s Beach where a flock of Red Knots flew in as we scanned. Belleplain was good to us, adding Prothonotary and Yellow-throated Warbler (no Kentucky), Summer Tanager, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Acadian Flycatcher, and one Carolina Chickadee, which several teams missed. Blue Grosbeak and Orchard Orioles kindly appeared at scouted spots.

Losing daylight fast, we picked up Seaside Sparrow at Jake’s Landing Road, along with our first Bald Eagles, which were starting to make us nervous – we couldn’t miss that on the WSB!  Back into Belleplain, we heard Whip-poor-will at the magic triangle. Chuck-will’s-widow sounded off at the Magnesite Plant in Cape May – our last species.

We ended the 2022 World Series of Birding with 166 species, placing 7th among 15 full-state teams. The top 3 teams recorded 205, 191, and 177 species, respectively. The top teen youth team recorded an amazing 207 species, one of 5 youth teams sponsored by the Maryland Ornithological Society. There were 87 teams, 491 participants in this year’s WSB. It was wonderful to see so many youth participate, along with Birdability’s Team Nuthatch, the Freedom Birders captained by Tykee James, and birders from diverse backgrounds and perspectives.

Raven LunaChicks at WSB finish line

The Raven LunaChicks are grateful for the tremendous support of many friends, family, DVOC members and the birding community, and the friendly camaraderie and sharing spirit of fellow WSB teams. We are fundraising to support the Delaware Valley Ornithological Club (DVOC), including New Bins for New Birders and Bird Safe Philly programs. Please donate to the DVOC here: https://dvoc.org/about/donating-to-the-dvoc/. Indicate in the comments, “Raven LunaChicks,” or send an email to linda@techimpact.org so that we can acknowledge and thank you. 

Birding, education, and conservation are very important to us. Thanks for your support!  From the Raven LunaChicks – Linda Widdop (captain), Debbie Beer, Lori Gladulich, and Patty Rehn.