Monarchists Win World Series of Birding 2014 Carbon Footprint Award is Ours Again!

    The Monarchists gathered for the fifth year to compete in the World Series of Birding and to raise funds for the Cape May Monarch Monitoring Project.  We would again compete for the Cape Island Cup and for the Carbon Footprint Award, traveling only by foot and bicycle and never leaving Cape Island.  Things would be a bit different this year, as most team members were unable to do any scouting, and one team member was nursing an injury that would limit how much time we could spend on the bicycles.

    Three teammates, Michael O’Brien, Meg Hedeen, and Mark Garland, gathered shortly before midnight -- rules stipulate that you need at least three at the start, and up to three others can join by 4:00 am.  The early crew cycled around to a few key locations and heard the first few birds, including Eastern Screech-Owl, Great Horned Owl, Clapper Rail, Virginia Rail, Chuck-will’s Widow, Yellow-breasted Chat, and Grass-hopper Sparrow, the latter a species that gives a distinctive call while migrating at night, and one we have our best chance to encounter before dawn.

For Mark’s regular web site click here.


141 species of birds + 9 butterflies

(See our lists here)

Support for monarch research

Great friends, yummy food

    At 4:00 Louise Zemaitis and LuAnn Daniels met the others and the birding team was complete.  We listened at a few other spots before riding to the South Cape May Meadows at 5:00, where we rendezvoused with two members of the support team, Ron Rollet and Linda Keister, for our first meal.  Freshly baked double blueberry scones and iced salted caramel scones were washed down by café au lait.

Nocturnal migrants seem to call more often when they encounter lights, so we listen for them in residential areas.

    We spent the rest of the morning (and the first part of the afternoon, too) at Cape May Point, visiting residential areas, watching the ocean, beach, and dune habitats, walking the trails at Cape May Point State Park, and (of course) enjoying another meal, with Paige Cunningham joining Ron and Linda on the support team this time.  We added many birds to the list at Cape May Point.  One of the most significant was Black-capped Chickadee (below left).  There are two chickadees in the eastern US, the Carolina and the Black-capped, and both are common within their normal ranges.  But since these are non-migratory birds, they are very rarely found away from the usual locations.  The Carolina Chickadee is common in Cape May, but Black-cappeds are normally at least 100 miles away.  Michael O’Brien had discovered this unusual Cape May bird during the winter, and sure enough, Michael found it again on the World Series of Birding day, in the trees surrounding the small parking area at the entrance to Cape May Point State Park (above left).  Another great find was a Brown Creeper along the State Park trails, a common winter bird in Cape May but one that’s usually gone before May.

Above: breakfast. Below: LuAnn and Ron enjoy, as does Michael (right).

    Since we knew we shouldn’t do too much back-and-forth on the bicycles, our strategy was to spend a good amount of time on foot at each destination.  We spent the first hours of daylight at the Meadows, as did several other teams.  When we reached the east path dune crossing, the Zen Zugunruhe (ZZ) team was gathered atop the dune, so we followed the east path and found a number of tough birds.  As we headed back on this path, we passed the ZZ guys, heading out this way.  It was our turn to watch for birds over the ocean.  Much to our surprise, the ZZ guys had kindly left two scopes here for us to use!  This was a huge help; usually we’d have 3 or 4 scopes on a birding day like this, but scopes are tough to carry on a bicycle, and only Meg (right) was willing to lug one around all day long.  Now we could use three to search the sea, and we were rewarded with views of loons, scoters, Parasitic Jaegers, a Northern Gannet and a Brown Pelican.  The ZZ guys returned and we headed down the path, back to the bicycles, and down to Cape May Point.

    Eventually we dragged ourselves away from Cape May Point and cycled to Stevens Street, where a small rise next to the farm fields of Les & Diane Rea provides a great spot to watch for soaring birds.  The morning had been foggy and then heavy overcast, so we hadn’t even seen a Turkey Vulture yet.  We did see both vultures from here, but our raptor list was to stay low for the whole day.

    Raptors or no, this was a great spot for our third meal of the day.  The fourth member of our support team, Kashi Davis, came along now, not just with more food for us (super yummy treats, such as Irish coffee blondies), but with a bucket of ice water to a refreshing foot bath.  Thoroughly reinvigorated, we headed to Beach Plum Farm and the Rea Farm, tallying Prothonotary Warbler, Black-crowned Night Heron, Hairy Woodpecker, and a few other new birds.  Now it was time for our longest ride, north on Bayshore Road and then west on New England Road.

Birds we found at Cape May Point State Park, as expected, included Eastern Kingbird, above left, and Purple Martin, above right. Below left, Kashi Davis arrives! Below right, Michael O’Brien keeps birding while enjoying the ice water foot bath.

    We found a flower-filled field with Bobolinks and a White-breasted Nuthatch in the woods along Bayshore Road, and then headed into a campground along New England Road (below), where Yellow-billed Cuckoo was a prime discovery.  At this point both time and energy were running low, and we figured that we could make a thorough visit to one more spot.  After much discussion we decided to revisit the South Cape May Meadows, partly because a number of new species were possible here, but also because this would require less cycling than our other options.

Above: Birding by bike at Beach Plum Farm.

Below: Birding Bayshore Road (left), Bobolink (right).

    Paige & Kashi decided to walk with us at the Meadows.  They couldn’t help us find birds, that’s not allowed by the event rules, but they could certainly provide company and keep our spirits up.  We found a few more birds for the list, including Lesser Yellowlegs and Common Nighthawk, and enjoyed a modest sunset.  Once it got dark, we figured it was time to quit, as it wasn’t likely we’d add any new birds.

Above, birding at the Meadows, late afternoon. Left, sunset. Below, l to r: Meg, LuAnn, Paige, Mark, Louise, Michael, Kashi.

    Back at Michael & Louise’s house we completed the forms and tallied our birds -- 141, plus 9 species of butterflies.  You can see the full list here.  We were satisfied, but how would we stack up against the others?  We got the answer at the finish line.  We weren’t surprised to learn that the Zen Zugunruhe guys beat us for the Cape Island Cup -- they were traveling by car, after all, but that team is also loaded with birding skill and they had spent a lot of time scouting.  They helped us with scouting tips and with the use of those spotting scopes, so we were happy for them.  We did have the top total for the Carbon Footprint Award, and were thrilled to receive this award for the second consecutive year. If all goes well, we will be back to defend the crown in 2015.

Monarchists, l to r: Paige, LuAnn, Mark, Linda, Louise (with the Carbon Footprint Award), Michael, Meg, Ron, & Kashi.

    The Monarchists ride and bird to support the Cape May Monarch Monitoring Project. If you pledged a certain amount for each species of bird that we found, multiply that amount by 141. If you pledged for birds and butterflies, multiply by 150.  Contributions are best received as checks written to “New Jersey Audubon” and please write “Monarch Project 024” in the memo field.  Give your check to any member of the team or mail to Mark Garland at PO Box 154, Cape May Point, NJ  08212.  Many thanks to all of our great sponsors!

Sponsors: See last paragraph for info on fulfilling your pledge.

Above: Mark offers serious remarks as the team accepts the Carbon Footprint Award. Below: One of our great joys is seeing other teams in the field, such as the Eaglets (left), winners in the Youth Division A (first through fifth grade), and Swarovski SPNI Champions of the Flyway (right), featuring three Israeli birders with Cape May County’s Tom Reed, and winners of the Cape May County Award.

Hall of Fame

    Thanks to these generous sponsors, the contributions to the Monarch Monitoring Project in support of the Monarchists currently total more than $5500:

    Ana Arguelles & Jeff Wneck

    Bay Spring Farms Alpacas

    Roger & Ann Bird

    John Bjerke

    Barbara Blair

    Connie Campanella & Kevin Casey

    Megan Carroll & Michelle Price

    Ethel Cebra

    Chalfonte Hotel

    Glen & Kashi Davis

    Patsy Eickelberg & Dick Walton

    Nancy Elmore

    Mark England

    Mark & Sue Eveland

    Neal Fitzpatrick & Roxane Kaufmann

    Bob Garland

    Tom & Judy Gire

    Pete Grannis & Dianna Wentink

    Chris & Lee Hajduk

    Meg & Dave Hedeen

    Stanley & Katherine Hedeen

    Ann Hobbs & David Livengood

    Tait Johansson

    Linda Keister

    KS Business Services

    Jane Kurtz

    Pearl Marks

    Mary McCarthy

    Robert & Laura McGrory

    Susan McMahon

    Gary Mozel

    Paul & Barbara O’Brien

    Donna Paino & Caryl Leong

    Katharine & John Patterson

    Betty Ross & Harry

    Bill & Edie Schuhl

    Jack Schultz & Helen Kavanagh

    Stuart & Claudia Scott

    Mike & Marti Seraphin

    Joe & Nancy Silvio

    Chuck & Mary Jane Slugg

    Gayle Steffy

    Michelle Uhl & Ben Werner

    Frank Vanlandingham

    John Whitaker & Wendy Fredericks

    Bill Wilkinson & Jan Dale

    Jim & Kathleen Wilson

    David Wizer

    Bill Zemaitis

Perhaps we enjoyed good luck thanks to monarch-themed bracelets sent to us by an anonymous crafter and to the four-leafed clovers found by team captain Louise Zemaitis. The Brown Creeper (below) was certainly a lucky find!