World Series of Birding 2011: Monarchists

The highlights

115 species of birds

5 species of butterflies

Support for monarch research

Wonderful camaraderie

Delicious food

The Monarchist team assembled for the second time in the spring of 2011, ready to compete in the World Series of Birding and raise badly-needed funds for the Cape May Monarch Monitoring Project, a research project entering its third decade.  All team members have been involved with the research in one way or another, a project that studies the autumn migration of these incredible butterflies as they travel through Cape May en route to wintering areas in Mexico.  After listening for an Eastern Screech-Owl just after midnight, we slept a bit longer before gathering at 4 am at the South Cape May Meadows.  (See our plans and fundraising goals here.)

Michael, Lu Ann, and Meg, pre-dawn.

Our team (above, left to right): Paige Cunningham, Mark Garland, LuAnn Daniels, Ron Rollet, Louise Zemaitis (captain), Meg Walker Hedeen, Michael O’Brien, and Chris Kisiel.  Paige, Ron, & Chris served as “support team,” spending part of the time in the field with us and making sure we were happy and well-fed, while the others were the official team counters.

Recent weather patterns had been terrible for bringing migrant songbirds into Cape May, so we expected a lower total, but still we traveled through the Meadows in the dark and waited on the dune for dawn to break (above left).  We enjoyed a few good finds, including Virginia Rail and Common Nighthawk.  Next we would bike slowly through Cape May Point (above right), looking and listening for songbirds.  Before that, however, it was time for Ron to serve us café au lait (right) and his eagerly anticipated ginger scones and sinful five-chocolate scones (below).

Lots of cycling and lots of walking yielded a few more birds, with a couple of happy surprises, including Bobolinks and Bank Swallows in a roadside field.  Butterflies were more challenging; while counting butterflies is not an official part of the event, since we work for butterfly research and conservation, many sponsors offered to contribute for each species of butterfly that we could find.  Butterflies don’t like clouds or rain, and the day was completely cloudy with a bit of rain from time to time, but in the early afternoon hours we managed to find five butterflies, and happily each was of a different species.

We were delighted to encounter a few migrant birds -- not many, but we didn’t have reason to expect any.  We stayed close to cover mid-morning as the radar showed a huge thunderstorm headed our way, and we all gave huge sighs of relief when the storm dissipated before it reached Cape May. A scan of the ocean yielded a few more birds, and another corner of Cape May Point had a few of the local breeders for us to find, but we knew it was time to start heading around to the Rea Farm and then to the Higbee Beach Wildlife Management Area.  But eschewing motor vehicles all day (as is required in the “No Carbon Footprint” category), we knew that we would expend energy traveling these several miles by foot and bicycle.  So we stopped at Michael & Louise’s house to see hummingbirds at their feeders and to eat tasty wraps and other snacks provided by the support team.

Our support team kept us happy with regular deliveries of homemade granola bars, chai latte from the local coffee shop, and other treats.  They also walked and rode with us at times to keep us company.  New birds were found at a painfully slow rate, but our spirits remained high. 


As we enjoyed an afternoon snack and rest near the entrance to The Nature Conservancy’s preserve at the South Cape May Meadows, several other teams came zipping past, racing down the path and racing back to their cars to drive off to the next destination.  Some were covering the entire state of New Jersey.  While we watched their frantic behavior we felt completely satisfied to have chosen the “No Carbon Footprint” category.  We were happy sticking around Cape May and enjoying what we could find around this beautiful area.  Plus, there was never a time when engine noise would keep us from hearing the bird songs!  And when we ran into friends out in the field, we took time to say hello.  Chuck & Mary Jane Slugg, below, were helping students from Philadelphia find birds at the Beanery.

Above: snack time at the Beanery. 

Below: snack time at the South Cape May Meadows.

Above: Forster’s Terns at Cape May Point State Park.

Below: Searching for Prothonotary Warbler at the Beanery.

Above: Louise & Meg scan for birds at the Park.

Below: Finding the elusive Mallard!

Mark had been fighting a throat infection all week, so at 6 pm he quit for the day.  The tally of birds was at 111.  The others continued back down Sunset Blvd. and to the edge of Pond Creek Marsh, tallying 4 more species to bring the team total to 115.  Twelve below our total from 2010, yet a great total for the day.  The top score for Cape Island this year was 121, and that was tallied by a team using a car and covering twice as much area as our team covered.  So while we didn’t win any trophy, we were happy with the effort and we enjoyed time in the field with friends.  Most importantly, it looks like contributions supporting the Monarch Monitoring Project will exceed $4000!  Thanks to all who supported our team’s effort, we’ll do it again in 2012!  Visit this site again soon as we will list all contributors to the team on our “honor roll.”

Honor roll

The Monarchists thank all who have contributed to the Monarch Monitoring Project in support of our effort:


   Cynthia Allen, Ronald R. Bennett, Ann & Roger Bird, John Bjerke, Diane Brockett, Allen & Janice Browne, Ethel Cebra, Marguerite Chandler & Richmond Shreve, Michael & Mary Anne Cola, Tim & Charlotte Croft, Elizabeth Cuizio, Glen Davis & Chris Kisiel, Julia & Robert Diebold, Geri Drymalski, Phil Eager, Mark England, Kirsten & Larry Enzinger, Dick Ferraro & Barbara Winter, Neal Fitzpatrick & Roxane Kaufmann, Robert T. Garland, Barbara Gilmore, Tom & Judy Gire, Barbara J. Golla, Pete Grannis & Dianna Wentink, Chris & Lee Hajduk, Stanley & Katherine Hedeen, Timothy Hedeen & Alecsandra Konson, Michael & Ann Henahan, Ann Hobbs & David Livengood, Stephan E. & Beverly J. Hoech, Grace & Samuel Hough, Linda & Paul Keister, Scott Keister, Chris Kiesel & Glen Davis, Jim & Teresa Knipper, James Lenchner, Beverly Linn, Pat Logan & Greg Smith, John & Francis Long, Miggy Lynn, Pearl Marks, Gary Mozel, Eric Myers, Paul O’Brien, Dave & Bonnie Offerdahl, Bill & Ellie O’Sullivan, Katharine & John Patterson, Tim Ray & Grace Su, Patty Rourke, William & Edith Schuhl, Jack Schultz & Helen Kavanagh, Stuart Scott, Security Painting, Marti & Mike Seraphin, Michael Seraphin, Joe & Nancy Silvio, Chuck & Mary Jane Slugg, Cindy Todd & Mary Scott, Frank Vanlandingham, Meghan Walker & Dave Hedeen, Dick Walton & Patsy Eickelberg, Ben Werner & Michelle Uhl, John Whitaker & Wendy Fredericks, Bill Wilkinson, James Wilson, David Wizer, Jeff Wneck & Ana Arguelles, William Zemaitis.

Michael draws a monarch on the traditional “thank you” t-shirt, saved by the event organizers.  We send heartfelt thanks to all of our sponsors.

For Mark’s regular web site click here.

Short-billed Dowitcher.

Orchard Oriole.