YMOS Dominates the World Series of Birding Again

On Sat., May 12, 16 Maryland students participated in the 35th World Series of Birding in New Jersey. With students ranging from Garrett County to the Eastern Shore, 2 high school teams and 2 middle school teams competed in the 24-hour Big Day, trying to find as many species as possible. The 2 high school teams not only won 1st and 2nd in the high school division but recorded almost 20 species more than the highest scoring adult team. The 2 middle school teams placed 2nd and 3rd in the middle school division, actually scoring higher than most of the adult teams. While a beautiful day at times, 2 major thunderstorms and a tornado warning kept totals down somewhat.

The YMOS Marsh Gigglers comprised of Daniel Irons, Patrick Newcombe, Joshua Heiser, and Jonathan Irons, placed 1st in the High School Division with 199 species found statewide. With a total of 198, only one species less, the YMOS Mighty Merlins consisted of Sam Miller, Jerald Reb, Jasper Merry, and Aaron Graham. These teams were assisted by a team of mentors and drivers consisting on Mike Irons, Bryan Newcombe, Rob Miller, and Cliff Graham.

The middle school teams were restricted to a much smaller geographic area. The YMOS We Spotted Sandpipers recorded 156 species. Coached by Stella Tea and with Kevin Reb as driver, this team was composed of Josie Kalbfleisch, Nathan Tea, Aaron Reb, and Hannes Leonard. With 144 species, the YMOS The Moor(hen), the Harrier team was made up of Tully Hochhausler, Max Ramey, and Gabe Evans. They were driven by Tom Ramey with George Radcliffe as coach. Oliver Patrick, another YMOS student, participated with an adult team this year, also doing well.

The annual event draws birders from as far away as South Africa and Israel as well as serving as a major environmental fundraiser. Before the Big Day, the teams scouted potential areas and birds, with some students beginning the weekend before the event. For YMOS, the event caps off a year of trips and activities. Funds to get students to the event were raised in the March Birdathon, and the students send their sincere thanks to all who supported their efforts.


Download Species List

Download Results Summary

The World Series of Birding took place this year on Saturday, May 6, 2017. The members of our WSB team, the YMOS Marsh Gigglers, were Daniel and Jonathan Irons of Queen Anne’s County, and Patrick Newcombe and myself of Montgomery County. After a week of scouting, we were ready to find as many species of birds as possible in New Jersey in one 24-hour period.  

Our Big Day started Friday night in Sussex, New Jersey, when we woke up at 9:00 p.m. to drive an hour and a half south to Great Swamp NWR.  Great Swamp had a bounty of owls and marsh birds, and we hoped to get as many of these as we could due to the underperformance of the marshes up north. We arrived there around 10:45 p.m. to scout a Least Bittern spot the Cornell Redheads had shared with us. We found the bittern fairly easily, and reached our starting positions on the loop trail at 11:30 p.m. When midnight arrived, we immediately tallied Virginia Rail, and, a few minutes later, had whistled up an Eastern Screech Owl. We stayed on the loop trail for about an hour, hearing such birds as American Bittern, American Coot, American Woodcock, and Common Gallinule. We ran to a different spot to listen for the King Rail we had found during scouting but didn’t hear it. The Least Bittern obliged when we stopped by, and we were driving back up north by 1:45 a.m. with 12 good species on our list. 

The northern marshes were tough, just like they had been during scouting. After 40 minutes of nothing at Owen’s Station marsh, we drove to Kelly Rd., which had been the most productive of our northern nighttime spots. We heard a Great Horned Owl right away and picked out the nocturnal flight calls (NFCs) of Solitary Sandpiper, Savannah Sparrow, and Yellow-billed Cuckoo. A Long-eared Owl called just before we left. As we still had a little bit of time before the songbirds woke up, we swung by Black Dirt marsh for a chance at a few more marsh birds. Nothing was calling, so we headed to the Wantage Grasslands for our grassland species. 

We reached our first stop in the grasslands, Beemer Rd., at 4:50 a.m. A Ring-necked Pheasant had been reported reliably calling at that spot for the past two days, but, unfortunately, it wasn’t calling Saturday. We then zipped up to Quarry Rd., where, in less than three minutes, we added our scouted Grasshopper Sparrow and Brown Thrasher in addition to a surprise Eastern Kingbird and Least Flycatcher. Back at Beemer, we scanned the pond for Wood Duck and Wilson’s Snipe, but instead heard Killdeer and Wild Turkey. On our way out, we drove down Unionville Rd., picking up Wood Duck, White-crowned Sparrow, and Green Heron along the way. We left the grasslands at 5:30 a.m. with all our target species and were on our way to High Point State Park for our forest songbirds. 

We made a 30-second stop at High Point Country Inn to pick up our backup driver, Mr. Newcombe, and zoomed over to the AT&T tower where a pair of Common Ravens was nesting. Dense fog prevented us from seeing the nest, but the Ravens were vocalizing. After spending a couple minutes there, we drove over to Sawmill Rd., where Ruffed Grouse was possible. Grouse had been really quiet this year, and the Big Day was no exception. We missed Ruffed Grouse at Sawmill but added some good migrants and breeders in the meantime, such as Cerulean Warbler, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, and Ruby-crowned Kinglet. Our next stop usually would have been Clove Rd. for Golden-winged Warbler, but since no Golden-wings had been found there during scouting, we headed directly to Ridge Rd. instead.  

We raced through Ridge Rd. in record time, finding all our target breeders fairly easily. The scouted Nashville Warblers were a nice find on the big day. At the Black Spruce Bog along Ridge Rd., we added Canada Warbler, Blackburnian Warbler, Blue-headed Vireo, and Northern Waterthrush. We waited a couple of minutes there for Purple Finch, and finally, Jonathan and I heard one calling back in the woods. Next, we hit Stokes State Forest, where we picked up Cedar Waxwing, Pine Warbler, Hermit Thrush and Hooded Warbler. On our way out, Patrick spotted a Red-shouldered Hawk, a great find, as we had not staked out any hawk nests this year. 

Next up was Layton Grasslands, where we had seen Bobolink and Eastern Bluebird during scouting. Neither disappointed, and a Northern Flicker, Warbling Vireo, and Horned Lark were all pleasant surprises. We continued to Van Auken Rd., our only spot for Brown Creeper. The Creepers hadn’t been very vocal for the past two days, but thankfully we heard one at our first pull-off. On leaving, we swung by Dingmans Ferry Bridge, and picked out a Common Merganser and Northern Rough-winged Swallows over the Delaware River. We then drove down to Bluett Tract, where Red-breasted Nuthatches were nesting. After five minutes of pishing and yanking, we finally persuaded one to call.   

At this point, it was around 8:15 a.m., and we were ahead of schedule. Since we were still missing a few species, we decided to head a little further south to Walpack Cemetery, where we had heard a Belted Kingfisher and Hairy Woodpecker during scouting. Crossing the stream leading to the cemetery, a Belted Kingfisher flew right over our car, and, at the cemetery itself, we heard a Prairie Warbler and a first of the season Cape May Warbler. Time still was not an issue, so we decided to continue driving to Pompey Rd., where Worm-eating Warblers were very reliable. We snagged the Worm-eating Warbler, and then hightailed it to our last northern spot, Culver’s Lake.  

At Culver’s, we added Common Loon and Yellow-rumped Warbler, and found three Red-breasted Mergansers perched on a rock near the shore as we were driving out. We left the north at 8:45 a.m., half an hour earlier than expected, with 113 species on our list. Considering that the date was early for migrants and late for wintering birds, we were doing well. Several more species were added along the highway, including Chimney Swift, Red-tailed Hawk, and Merlin. 

Our next stop was Boonton Reservoir in Morris County, where there was a breeding colony of Cliff Swallows. We found the Cliff Swallows easily, and scoped the reservoir for ducks, but didn’t see anything new. Our last stop before the south was Garret Mountain, a migrant trap in Newark that we had only just decided to include on our route the previous afternoon. Garret Mountain was forty minutes out of the way and we had never scouted it, but the lists of others convinced us to try it. We picked up six new species there, four of which (Blackpoll Warbler, Magnolia Warbler, Tennessee Warbler, Swainson’s Thrush) we never found anywhere else. We completed Garret Mountain in 25 minutes, and were on the road to Brigantine by 10:30 a.m. 

We pulled into Brigantine at 12:15 p.m., the target time Daniel had planned without including Garret Mountain. We had finished the north so quickly, our trip to Garret Mountain hadn’t affected our time much at all! We completed the Wildlife Dr. in about an hour, picking up such species as Gull-billed Tern, Black Skimmer, Blue-winged and Green-winged Teal, Ruddy Duck, Whimbrel, and Stilt Sandpiper. Highlights included two injured Snow Geese wandering on the side of the road, and a Peregrine Falcon that flew into its nest as we left. We missed a few of the rarities present, but, overall, our time at Brigantine was very successful.   

Next, we cut across the state to Belleplain forest, where we hoped to tally most of our southern songbirds. Our first target bird was Summer Tanager. We tried several spots for them, but the midday sun and heat had quieted them. We fared better with warblers, hearing both Yellow-throated and Prothonotary at the spots we checked. Along the way, we also added White-eyed Vireo and Hairy Woodpecker, a species we had missed up north. We left Belleplain with a few misses but hoped to make up for it at our next few stops. 

Heislerville, with its diverse array of shorebirds, was next. After scanning the heron rookery on the right for Little and Cattle Egrets, I found a Red-necked Phalarope swimming among the shorebirds in the center impoundment. Strong southeast winds the previous night had caused an odd fallout of this usually pelagic species, and five of these shorebirds were found in different locations around Cape May on the Big Day. In addition to the phalarope, we also picked up Sanderling and Ruddy Turnstone. Our next two stops were some nearby marshes: Stipson Island Rd. and Jakes Landing. At Stipson Island, we checked off Northern Harrier, and at Jakes Landing, we found Nelson’s and Saltmarsh Sparrows in a couple of minutes. Having located all our target species in the area, we headed south to Reed’s beach for our first taste of ocean birds. 

We arrived at Reed’s Beach at around 3:30 p.m. Notable finds included Purple Sandpipers, Black Scoters, Red Knots, and two Parasitic Jaegers Daniel noticed flying way out over the bay. We finished Reed’s Beach with all our target species and cut across to Stone Harbor. We added Little Blue and Tricolored Heron on the drive over there, two good species that saved us an extra stop. At Stone Harbor, we picked out a Piping Plover and a Lesser Black-backed Gull on the beach and added Least Tern and Northern Gannet with a quick ocean scan. 

Back on the road towards Cape May, Daniel spotted an American Kestrel perched right over the road, an incredible species given that none had been found at all in the south during scouting. Once on Cape Island, we swung by the TNC preserve for Yellow-breasted Chat and then headed to Higbee Beach for Blue Grosbeak. Finding a grosbeak proved difficult, but Daniel and Patrick finally heard one chipping as we raced back to the car. At the Concrete Ship, we picked up the resident Iceland Gull, and glimpsed a Ruby-throated Hummingbird at Michael O’Brien’s feeder. We did a few more seawatches at St. Peters and Coral Avenue, but only cleaned up Parasitic Jaeger.  

At Cape May State Park, we found our stakeout American Wigeon in the back pool where we had scouted it, then landed a couple of Common Terns and a surprise Brown Pelican at the seawatch. As we jogged back, Mr. Irons was out of the car, motioning us to quicken our pace. Apparently during the five minutes we were gone, a Northern Bobwhite had been calling incessantly. After spending another five minutes listening for it, Jonathan noticed the Bobwhite crossing the road a couple of yards away. We had all our target birds now, so we zipped around the corner to Cape May Meadows. The majority of the shorebird flock had left when we arrived, but we managed to pick up Gadwall and Sora instead. Driving out of Cape May, we tallied our list, and found that we were already at 194 species! 200 was within reach! 

Our next stop was Sunset Lake, where we had seen Bufflehead and Horned Grebes during scouting. We found the Bufflehead in the exact same spot, and Jonathan picked out a distant Red-throated Loon. We drove to another vantage point and scoped two Horned Grebes at the far right end of the lake. We left Sunset Lake with three new species, a really good number for one location this late in the day. 

By this time, the sun was setting, and we wanted to be back in the Meadows by dusk for Common Nighthawk and other surprises. We spotted Nighthawks while driving past the Beanery but found nothing new at the Meadows. Swinging over to Hidden Valley, we picked up Chuck-will’s-widow at our first pull-off. We headed up to Jake’s Landing to try for Eastern Whip-poor-will, but by the time we arrived, darkness had fallen, and the Whips weren’t calling. We drove around Belleplain for a while but couldn’t find any Whips. Just as we were about ready to leave, we received a text on the telegram app saying a Whip-poor-will had just been calling from Sunset Bridge, two minutes away. We sped over there, and in five minutes, Daniel had whistled up a Whip-poor-will for bird number 200! 

On our way back to Cape May, we stopped by the Yellow-crowned Night-heron colony outside the Wawa in Wildwood, and found one illuminated by the streetlights. Once in Cape May, we tried listening for NFCs and Snipe at the Meadows, but it was too windy for us to hear anything.  

At 11:30 p.m., we submitted our list. We finished with 201 species, breaking our goal of 200. Our total was enough to win the youth division, and second only to the Cornell Redheads, who finished with 212. A big thank you to all who helped, including our coach, Mr. Irons, our backup driver, Mr. Newcombe, our club leader, George Radcliffe, our supportive parents, the MOS members who funded us, and our fellow WSB teams. 

  • Joshua Heiser

We started our Big Day at Great Swamp in central NJ. We made sure to get there early so that we would be at our desired location by the time midnight came around. We first heard a Willow Flycatcher, but this was unfortunately 5 minutes before midnight. We ultimately missed this species on the day. However, this spot was very successful for the team as we picked up a good amount of marsh birds (Least Bittern, Sora, Virginia Rail) as well as some owls (Eastern-screech, Barred, Long-eared) in our 1 hour stay. We constantly kept our ears peeled for nocturnal migrants and tallied our first Savannah and White-throated Sparrows by their nocturnal flight calls (NFCs) here. With 23 hours left on the clock, we bee-lined up to our northern NJ marshes.

At our northern marshes, we added on some more nocturnal birds such as American Bittern and Great-horned Owl. By around 4:00 am, we were at the Wantage Grasslands waiting for the Grasshopper Sparrows to wake up. We knew that they would be singing shortly after our arrival based on our scouting data. We had timed their first song at4:04am during scouting and scheduled this stop in compliance with that data in order to save as much time as possible. Before 4:15 am, we tallied both Grasshopper Sparrow and American Woodcock at Quarry Rd with ease. Saving time at this stop, we drove to a place called Vesper Hill to listen for some more NFCs. At this great vantage point we were able to hear a Gray-cheeked Thrush flyover among other nocturnal migrants such as Indigo Buntings. By the time it was 5:00am, the forest was starting to awake and the locals started to sing. At this point, we drove back to our grasslands spot for our scouted Ring-necked Pheasants and Eastern Meadowlark. We quickly added these birds to our lists and then drove a little out of the way for another scouted bird, a Golden-winged Warbler. We had already verified the bird by sight earlier in the week so we were able to tally it by its song on the big day. Shortly after sprinting into the scouted location off of Clove Rd, we heard the bird, and sprinted right back out spending only 2 minutes at the stop.

By now, the sun had just risen and we returned to our motel for our first driver swap. We decided to do the swap here because we had a singing Cape May warbler in the surrounding trees of the motel for two days before. The bird didn’t disappoint and was singing for us upon our arrival. From our motel, we set off for our first day spots.

At the nearby AT&T Tower, we were hoping for a Nashville Warbler that had been present the day before but instead got a Swainson’s Thrush. At Sawmill Rd in High Point State Park, we pulled off to hear the drumming of a Ruffed Grouse. Claire picked out some Common Ravens calling here as well. We then continued to our first major day location: Ridge Road. Here we easily tallied over 50 species while just driving through with our windows down. Some of these species included Cerulean Warblers, Yellow-rumped Warblers, Chestnut-sided Warblers, Yellow-throated Vireos, Blue-headed Vireos, Least Flycatchers and Rose-breasted Grosbeaks. The team checked Broad-winged Hawk off the list with a quick stop at a known nest. We also heard a Canada Warbler at a staked out location, a great bird for the day. After the State Park, we made a quick stop where we had Alder Flycatcher the day before, but the bird was a no show. Breezing by some more parks and stops, we added a lot of northern birds that we knew we could not get anywhere else. Hermit Thrush, Brown Creepers, and Blackburnian Warblers being among those specialty breeders. After getting many of our northern targets, we headed to Culvers Lake to see what was around. We picked up a few Blackpoll Warblers at this stop along with a surprising 2, possibly 3 Tennessee Warblers. After Culvers Lake, we went west to Dingman’s Ferry where we expected to find some Common Mergansers. To our surprise, we found a Hooded Merganser instead of the expected Commons. Next, we drove to a spot where we had scouted out a Red-breasted Nuthatch as well as a Golden-crowned Kinglet. We heard both of these reliable birds shortly after parking. After hitting the always reliable Pompey Rd for the Worm-eating Warblers, we checked the DOT barn where the usual breeders, Cliff Swallows, had been absent this year. However, Matt and Eli picked out two flying by which we marked down as a 5% bird. We left the north with about 125 species and picked up about 10 more throughout the ride south including a stop at Round Valley Reservoir where we tallied our scouted Lesser Scaup along with some Bonaparte’s Gulls.

With a storm on the way, we needed to rearrange our route in order to get as many species as possible. Disregarding our original plan, the team drove all throughout Belleplain State Forest in search of some woodland birds that we missed up north. Our coach, Jim Brighton, was vital in this section of the competition. Through his many years of birding experience at Belleplain, he helped us plan our stops to find the most species possible. At this point we were missing Kentucky Warbler. Jim had a historical spot where he had Kentucky Warblers 8 years ago. We drove to this exact spot where 8 years after he first had them, a Kentucky Warbler was still present. Here throughout Belleplain, we also picked up Acadian Flycatcher and Prothonotary Warbler. We booked it from Belleplain to a nearby field where we heard our first and only Horned Larks of the day.

We then bolted over to Heislersville where we had timed our arrival to coincide with low tide. This way, we could get the most amount of shorebirds possible. While driving around the impoundments, we tallied birds such as Dunlin, Semipalmated Sandpipers, Least Sandpipers, Both Yellowlegs, Least Terns and Black Skimmers. We tried to pick out the recently reported Curlew Sandpiper, but were unsuccessful in the time we had allotted for it. After Heislersville we went to Jakes Landing. Saltmarsh and Seaside Sparrows were both present along with a Northern Harrier and a few Glossy Ibis. We made our way to Reed’s Beach which turned out extremely successful. We picked out a few flyby Red Knots and Ruddy Turnstones among the other shorebirds. We also saw some Boat-tailed Grackles and our first Purple Martin of the day. Off the jetty, we pulled out a Lesser Black-backed Gull and a far out Northern Gannet. The biggest surprise though was a Black Scoter resting on the beach! After Reed’s, we pin-balled around Cape May to multiple scouted out birds like Yellow-crowned Night-heron, Cattle Egret and Red-headed Woodpecker. We checked some local beaches for Piping Plover, but only found Sanderlings. A quick stop at the Wetlands Institute proved unfruitful as the storm was just starting to hit. We all caught some sleep during our drive to Coral Avenue. Despite the rain, here at Coral our Seawatch went off without a hitch. The tern flock offshore was active and we got some good birds here. Some flyby Purple Sandpipers were new to our list. Matt picked out a Parasitic Jaeger far off shore and I called out a flyby Black Tern. We noted a few Royal and Common Terns as well at this location. After our Seawatch, we drove to the Meadows for our last day stop.

At The Meadows, we picked out Blue-winged Teal and Gadwall in one of the ponds, along with a Mute Swan. At the beach here, Matt and Claire showed us a pair of American Oystercatchers, the first ones of the day. As the sun was setting, the team saw two common nighthawks flying up over the tree line. Before we left, we gathered for a quick team meeting. As we were talking we all noticed something zipping by us and called out “Wilson’s Snipe!”.

Leaving The Meadows with some confidence, we debated the next part of our route in the car. We tried for King Rail at a local marsh but did not hear anything. We tallied Chuck-wills-widow at a powerline cut but did not hear an Eastern Whip-poor-will. We drove all over the place for the next few hours looking for Whips but eventually called it a day around 11:00pm.

We ended with 190 species and won the youth division. Though we technically could not compete with the adult teams, we tied the winner of their division and ultimately ended up tied for the most species overall in the competition. In the attachment below, the species marked in red are ones we identified during the big day. These add up to 190. The species marked in blue are ones we saw during scouting but missed on the big day. The red and blue combined make 215: the accumulative amount of species we saw throughout the entire week. The highlighted species are considered rarities by the checklist.

  • Sam Miller, 2016

YMOS Raucous Gulls

Maryland Ornithological Society

World Series of Birding 2015

The members on the YMOS Raucous Gulls for this year’s competition were Matthew Addicks, Kevin Ebert, and myself. We scouted the north for a full week before the big day, starting in the south and heading up to scout the north on Monday. Thanks everyone who helped us before and during scouting!

After a week of tough night birding in the dried-out marshes up north, we decided to still start at Great Swamp NWR at the loop trail off of Pleasant Plains Rd. As we walked into the entrance, we saw the Hudson Mohawk Meadowlarks had already arrived, and they motioned us over to show us a bird they had found – a pair of Long-eared Owls! A team member spotted one of the birds perched on a snag over the marsh, and at midnight we got the owl and walked out into the marsh. In the next hour, we walked around the loop trail and had most of the important marsh birds. We heard a Least Bittern and Virginia and King Rails in one section of marsh, and a little farther down we heard a Common Gallinule bleating, a species we did not expect to find at Great Swamp. Walking around the loop, we flushed an American Bittern and whistled up an Eastern Screech-Owl with Barred Owls calling in the background. We also heard a few American Woodcock peent and had a few nocturnal migrants, including Bobolink, Swainson’s and Gray-cheeked Thrushes, and Yellow-billed Cuckoo.

When we came out of the loop trail, we were only about halfway through our planned time at Great Swamp, but since we had most of our birds we decided to go north a bit early. We stopped behind a Dairy Queen along Route 23 in Sussex County to hear the stakeout Sora in the marsh along the Wood Duck Trail, and we tried to listen for migrants briefly at a nearby car dealership, but only picked up a Savannah Sparrow. Continuing north, we heard a Wood Duck and our first Great Horned Owl at the Owens Station marsh and heard one of the Grasshopper Sparrows on Quarry Rd that sings through the night. At the Unionville Rd Rockport Marsh access point, we heard a Willow Flycatcher. Even though we had Savannah Sparrow already, we decided to stop on Wolfpit Rd near our staked out bird to listen for some nocturnal migrants. We had several Black-billed Cuckoos fly over, as well as Veery and Indigo Bunting. At about 4:10, we drove to Beemer Rd, where we picked up a Brown Thrasher pretty quickly that was singing, and drove to the Kuser Bog in High Point State Park.

As we walked into the Kuser Bog, we heard many Eastern Whip-poor-will’s calling and heard an American Woodcock flying around us. Some tooting produced a calling Northern Saw-whet Owl at about 4:40, and we waited for our first daytime songbirds of the day. The Hermit Thrushes started singing at around 5:00, as did the Northern Waterthrush, and at 5:12 we heard a Canada Warbler and started walking out of the bog. On our way out, we tallied the stakeout Dark-eyed Junco singing on the road upslope from the bog.

At the AT&T Tower in High Point State Park, we found Cooper’s Hawk and Common Raven on nests and heard a Purple Finch sing. We drove down to our Ruffed Grouse spot on Sawmill Rd at 5:30 and heard it drum at 5:35. While waiting for it to drum, we heard a number of other forest species start vocalizing, including Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Bay-breasted Warbler, and Cerulean Warbler. When we heard the grouse, we got in the car and drove quickly to Clove Rd, where we ran down the path, heard the Golden-winged Warbler, and ran out. We also had our first of a few flyover Pine Siskins here. Back in High Point, we drove down Ridge Rd, stopping only at the Bench and the Black Spruce Bog, and occasionally along the way briefly to confirm a bird. We picked up most of our forest breeders along this road, like Hairy Woodpecker and Least Flycatcher, along with a few nice migrants, including a Nashville Warbler at the Bench and a Tennessee Warbler further down. We stopped to check the Deckertown Marsh for migrants but only had a Ruby-throated Hummingbird.

Into Stokes State Forest, we slowed down along the first section of Crigger Rd to pick up a Cape May Warbler where we had a few migrants the day before in scouting. We ran into the Steammill Campground to scope our Broad-winged Hawk on a nest and then went to Ocquittunk. On Grau Rd, we heard an Acadian Flycatcher, which saved us a little time later. At the entrance to the Ocquittunk Campground, we heard a couple Brown Creepers and a Ruby-crowned Kinglet. At the far side of the campground, we ran across a stream and through a grove of trees to hear our Winter Wren, and picked up a bonus Eastern Wood-Pewee.

Next, we went to Culver’s Lake, which did not produce anything unusual. A Common Loon on the lake and Bald Eagle were decent pickups here, and we had Eastern Kingbird and Warbling Vireo at the Causeway, but there were no warbler flocks anywhere around the lake. The day before we had found a Lincoln’s Sparrow on Struble Rd, but it wasn’t there when we checked. We did much better in the Layton Grasslands. As we pulled in, we heard an Eastern Meadowlark singing, a bird that was tough to find in scouting. We also heard a White-crowned Sparrow and saw a couple Eastern Bluebirds here.

At this point, we were missing a few migrants and were a bit ahead of schedule, so we decided to go to a couple spots in the Walpack Valley. Mettler Rd and Van Auken Rd did not give us anything new on the way in (one Bay-breasted Warbler), but on the way out we heard a Wilson’s Warbler singing on Old Mine Rd near the entrance of Mettler Rd. We also heard a Golden-winged Warbler song here, but did not have time to confirm the bird’s identity by sight. Since we were there, we stopped quickly at Dingman’s Ferry to pick up Common Merganser and heard a Spotted Sandpiper fly over.

Heading south, we stopped at the Blewett Tract, where we called in a Red-breasted Nuthatch and heard a Golden-crowned Kinglet calling and singing. Onto the Delaware Water Gap, on Pompey Rd, we heard our first Blackpoll Warbler of the year, and also had the usual Worm-eating Warbler. At the DOT Barn, we had to wait for a few minutes to pick up our Cliff Swallow, and had an Orchard Oriole while we were waiting. Driving out of the north, second individuals of Dark-eyed Junco and Blackpoll Warbler were noted. When we were almost out of the northern forests, Kevin spotted a Pileated Woodpecker flying behind the car. We crossed the I-80 at 9:50 am with 137 species, but tallied Mallard, Rock Pigeon, and Black Vulture shortly to make it 140.

Our one stop before the south was in Westville, where we whistled up a Northern Bobwhite in three minutes. Driving into Dividing Creek, we picked up Blue Grosbeak and White-eyed Vireo along the western part of Ackley Rd, but missed Kentucky Warbler. At Railroad Ave, we had Prothonotary and Yellow-throated Warblers, Carolina Chickadee, and Bank Swallow at the Railroad Tracks and Summer Tanager a bit further down the road. Shortly after stepping out of the car at Strawberry Ave, we heard a Yellow-breasted Chat call, and were on our way to Heislerville. Although we had missed the Kentucky Warbler, it was overall a very efficient run through Dividing Creek for the southern breeding songbirds.

We were running a little late coming into Heislerville, and had to go through the shorebirds there quickly. I picked out a White-rumped Sandpiper in the first pool among common shorebirds. The usual flock of Black Skimmers was there too. A little farther down, Matt spotted a Red Knot, and Kevin spotted the Ruddy Duck right in front of a Canada Goose on our way out. We stopped briefly at the Paper Mill Sod Farm, where we picked up Horned Lark, before heading over to Jakes Landing Rd. At the marsh here we tallied Seaside and Saltmarsh Sparrows fairly quickly, but it took four minutes to get everyone on a Northern Harrier that kept dropping into the marsh. We got our Cattle Egret at the Eastern Shore Nursing Home from the car and were on our way to Cape May!

A quick check for Kingfisher along the Cape Island canal was unfruitful, and a dash out to the beach at Higbee’s produced neither the Purple Sandpiper nor the Lesser Black-backed Gull we were hoping for because there were people on the beach and jetty. At the Meadows, we picked out a pair of Gadwall quickly and ran to the beach, where we encountered the fog for the first time. People on the beach had scared away most of the gull flock, so no Lesser Black-backed here, and seawatching was going to be tough with all that fog!

We made our way to the Coral Ave dune crossing, where we had planned a seawatch. I picked out a first year Lesser Black-backed Gull on the jetty, a flock of Black and Surf Scoters was on the water, and a small group of Ruddy Turnstones flew by. In the next fifteen minutes, we managed to pull most of our seawatch targets out of the fog, including Royal Tern, Red-throated Loon, Parasitic Jaeger, and finally a Northern Gannet Matt picked out way out in the fog.

We discussed the next part of our route heavily on the drive out of Cape May, and eventually decided on what we thought was the best route through the Atlantic marshes. On Stone Harbor Boulevard, we picked up Whimbrel and Tricolored Heron, and a bit further down we found a Little Blue Heron and the nesting Green Heron at the Wetlands Institute. On the bridge over to Stone Harbor, we picked out a Red-breasted Merganser. At Stone Harbor Point, we ran all the way out to get Purple Sandpiper on the jetty and Sanderling and Piping Plover down the beach. We drove up to get the Yellow-crowned Night-Heron at the 37th Street colony and were on our way to Brigantine!

When we arrived at Brigantine at 6:40 pm, the fog was really rolling in. We sped around the impoundments to try to get to the Gull-billed Terns in the last impoundment, but there was too much fog to see the island by the time we got there. We saw a Caspian Tern fly by and heard an American Coot calling from the edge of the impoundment, but birding was getting really tough. At a pond at the end of the loop, we found Bufflehead and Ring-necked Duck, and we had one of our biggest surprises of the day, a Sharp-shinned Hawk that flew behind us, chasing an Eastern Kingbird. A second time around the loop gave us a flyby Wilson’s Snipe, and we heard our Chuck-will’s-widow near the refuge exit.

The fog had prevented us from getting a Common Nighthawk at Brigantine, so we drove an hour north to their breeding grounds at the Carranza Memorial in Wharton State Forest, where we heard one call. We made our way back to Cape May County to pick up the Black Rail at Stipson’s Island Rd, and then went to Cove Pool for one last shot at another species. At 11:49, we heard a Blue-winged Teal, and decided to submit our checklist. We had totaled 216 species, breaking the existing high school record of 215 species! We placed first in the youth division and shared the Urner Stone Cup for first place overall with Cornell’s Redheads, who won the adult division with 208 species. What a day!


World Series of Birding 2014 – The YMOS Raucous Gulls’ Big Day

By Alex Wiebe

The members on the YMOS Raucous Gulls were Callum MacLellan-O’Brien, Kevin Ebert, Matt Addicks, and myself. We scouted the north for five days before the big day, and the other high school and middle school teams from the YMOS scouted the south for us. Thanks to everyone who helped us before and during scouting!

We started at Great Swamp NWR, as many teams do, waiting for our first night birds along a trail off of Pleasant Plains Rd. At exactly midnight, a Least Bittern sounded off, and in the next minute we picked up Solitary Sandpiper, Marsh Wren, and Wood Duck. On to our next spot in Great Swamp after just fifteen minutes. We heard some nocturnal migrants and a peeping Green-winged Teal, and as we walked back to the car, we heard an American Bittern ‘quark’ at us from the marsh. We were off to a great start! At Lewisburg Swamp, a Common Gallinule called and a Barred Owl hooted near some houses at one end of the lake. On to Owens Station Marsh in Sussex County. As we walked out into the marsh, we heard a distant Eastern Screech-Owl, and another much closer. We all thought the closer one sounded a little off, and sure enough, a couple minutes later, the Cornell team walked past us out of the forest. At Black Dirt Marsh we heard a Sora call a few times. It would be the only Sora we heard on the big day.

Into the Wantage Grasslands ahead of schedule and with most of our night birds out of the way, we were confident as we climbed to the top of Vesper Hill. After cleaning up Black-billed Cuckoo by flight call, we waited for a Vesper Sparrow. After a couple of teams left when a weird Song Sparrow sounded off, we managed to hear a Vesper Sparrow a bit farther. We ran down the hill and drove quickly to our stakeout Savannah and Grasshopper Sparrow spots, where both of our target birds sang in short time. At Beemer Rd we heard a White-crowned Sparrow by the farm pond and a Brown Thrasher further down the road, but we were still missing Ring-necked Pheasant. Nevertheless, at 5:35 we decided to give up on the pheasants and head to High Point State Park to maximize our chances at forest songbirds.

The ravens were at the AT&T Tower as we pulled in, and within the first few minutes on Sawmill Rd we got many of the more common forest species, including Cerulean Warbler and Blue-headed Vireo. After Sawmill Rd, we drove up Ridge Rd, stopping first at the Black Spruce Bog. A Northern Waterthrush sang at the front of the bog, but we had to run a couple hundred yards to get a chipping Canada Warbler. Further up the road, we waited five minutes for our staked out Cooper’s Hawk to count it under the raptor nest rule. We passed a couple other teams, but they were going the other direction! We didn’t hear any Ruffed Grouse at the bench, but we did hear a singing Lincoln’s Sparrow in the marsh overlook by the bench. In general, High Point gave us all of the expected birds, although the Pileated Woodpeckers held off until we heard one sound off on our way out. We ended up hearing them elsewhere too.

On the way to Stokes State Forest, a Dark-eyed Junco chipped as it flushed off the road in the exact same place we had one the day before. We waited five minutes at the Steam Mill Campground for our Sharp-shinned Hawk, but the pair of Common Mergansers that had been there all week didn’t show. At the turnoff to the Lake Ocquittunk Campground, we got out of the car and walked along the little spruce grove to the bathrooms. Brown Creeper, both Kinglets, Magnolia Warbler, Eastern Wood-Pewee, and a migrant Acadian Flycatcher made it one of our best stops of the day. A quick drive to the Stone Bridge produced a Louisiana Waterthrush that sang before we had a chance to get out of the car, and at Hirams Grove Rd, our last stop in Stokes, we picked up the scouted Red-shouldered Hawk under the watchful eyes of a nearby resident.

Matt picked out our scouted Bufflehead on the drive to the church at Culver’s Lake. Common Loon and Bonaparte’s Gull were good pickups there, and for the second day in a row we had Cliff Swallows with the other swallows out over the lake. A drive around the neighborhood netted us a few more migrants, including a silent Bay-breasted Warbler Kevin spotted. As we were about to pack up, a team member spotted something odd in a resident’s backyard, and a closer look revealed a female Ring-necked Pheasant. Redemption!

We picked up Bobolink and Eastern Meadowlark in Layton and Common Merganser at the Dingman’s Ferry Bridge in record time, but the Blewett Tract yielded neither the scouted Red-breasted Nuthatch nor Belted Kingfisher. The Delaware Water Gap went a little better as we heard Worm-eating Warblers at Pompey Road and Prairie Warbler and Ruby-throated Hummingbird nearby. A pair of soaring Broad-winged Hawks should have been the last new birds of the north, but as we drove down Millbrook Rd, an unexpected American Woodcock bobbed across the road. We crossed the I-80 at 9:30 AM with 133 species.

Our first stop in the south, Millville Airport, didn’t have the expected Horned Larks. The wind was high and there was a motorcycle show nearby. Our luck changed at Dividing Creek when we picked up most of the southern breeders in just four stops, including a Kentucky Warbler singing away in the afternoon heat. Turkey Point had both Night-Herons and a Harrier, and Strawberry Ave harbored a Blue Grosbeak and a Yellow-breasted Chat, as well as a bonus Peregrine Falcon. At Heislerville WMA we picked out Pectoral Sandpiper, Red Knot, and Gadwall among the necessary birds. After passing a car driving the wrong way on the one way road and almost tipping off the dike, I picked out a Royal Tern over the water. A quick stop at the Paper Mill Sod Farm produced our backup Horned Larks, and the Cattle Egrets off Route 9 received our memo to stay outside. So far so good in the south.

Seawatches at the State Park and the St. Peter’s Jetty produced Parasitic Jaeger, Gannet, all three scoters, and a Red-throated Loon, but the tide was too high for Purple Sandpiper. A tiring run out to the dunes at the Meadows produced a Lesser Black-backed Gull, after passing the Upper Main Line YMCA adult team. Efficient stops at Cove Pool and Cape May Harbor produced Blue-winged Teal, Stilt Sandpiper, and Red-breasted Merganser. We were good on time, but on the drive north, we still decided to skip Nummy Island in favor of more time at Brigantine (Forsythe NWR).

We didn’t know it at the time, but our Gull-billed Tern from the Gull Pond Tower at Brig would be our 194th bird for the day. The stakeout Tundra Swan was in the adjacent pond, looking pathetic in stature (sorry buddy) but regal on our checklist. After Caspian Tern, Whimbrel, and a few other birds, Callum spotted a Little Blue Heron for our 200th bird. Further down the loop, an American Avocet stood next to the road with a flock of shorebirds and a Saltmarsh sparrow sang from, well, the saltmarsh. A Chuck-will’s Widow at dusk was our last bird of the day.

In the end, 203 species was good enough to win the youth division and place third overall. The Cornell Redheads placed first with 218 species. We’ve already started planning for next year. Something about a midnight Monk Parakeet piques my interest ….