The 33rd annual World Series of Birding will be held on Saturday, May 14, 2016. The CMBOMonarchists team will return for our sixth year. Again we will compete in two categories, eligible for the Carbon Footprint Award (no motor vehicles) and for the Cape Island Cup (searching only on Cape Island, the area south of the Cape May Canal). We had been on a winning streak, earning the Carbon Footprint Award in 2013 and 2014 and the Cape Island Cup in 2012, but luck wasn’t with us in 2015, nor were the birds. We ended up finding just 111 species of birds.
More importantly, however, we raise funds for the Cape May Monarch Monitoring Project, a research and education project of the New Jersey Audubon’s Cape May Bird Observatory. The Monarchists team will be unchanged from the last few years, with Louise Zemaitis (Captain), Lu Ann Daniels, Meghan Walker Hedeen, Michael O’Brien, and Mark Garland. We are fortunate to have a “support staff” of Ron “Mr. Scones” Rollet, Paige Cunningham, and Chris Kisiel Davis.
The World Series of Birding is a friendly bird-finding competition that takes place each May in New Jersey. The Carbon Footprint category is in just its eighth year, and the award is given to the team that finds the most birds without using a motor vehicle. Our team will walk and ride bicycles around Cape May, hoping for a day when migrants are abundant. While it’s not part of the formal competition, we also count the number of butterfly species we find. Sponsors can choose to pledge for butterflies and/or birds.
We are hoping to find more than 120 species of birds by sight or by sound around Cape May on May 14, plus 10 or more species of butterflies. Think we can do it? Check this site after the event for the results.
Our team is raising funds for the Cape May Monarch Monitoring Project, founded by Dick Walton. Volunteers with this project (including all of us on this team) have been tagging and counting monarchs that migrate through Cape May for more than twenty years. Dr. Lincoln Brower, considered the world’s leading expert on monarch butterflies, serves as the scientific advisor to this project. It’s believed that this project is the longest continuous census of a migratory insect that has ever been conducted. Additionally, project volunteers give dozens of scheduled and impromptu educational sessions around Cape May each September and October as migratory monarch butterflies are seen around Cape May.
Recent studies have shown that the numbers of migratory monarchs wintering in Mexico have declined dramatically, yet numbers from the Cape May study have not shown a similar decline, suggesting that the east coast population of monarchs is doing better than those in other parts of the US. Perhaps we have stewardship lessons we can share with those in other regions, but it’s vital for us to continue gathering data.
The Monarch Monitoring Project accomplishes this important scientific research and education with a small budget, but funds are needed. Each year we hire young biologists for two months to conduct field work and assist in the educational presentations. Funds are also needed to purchase tags and other equipment used in the project. Many of the interns who worked with us have moved on to fulfilling careers in biology and/or education.
The team at the Mt. Vernon Ave. overlook.
Birding before dawn beneath the lighthouse.
Lu Ann and Michael checking the beach.
Listening for birds while pedaling through Cape May Point.
Hawk watching break along Stevens St.
The weather isn't always dry on World Series day.
Michael is ever vigilant.
Meg and Michael listen for migrating birds at 2 am.
Louise finds a 4-leaf clover for good luck.
Some years we're lucky enough to be on the podium.
We bike down little back roads and walk from there.
Michael doesn't stop birding even while refreshing with an icy foot bath.
Last year Meg sprouted monarch wings in Cape May Point.
Let there be no mistake about our fundraising objective -- to support the study of migrating monarch butterflies as they pass through Cape May every autumn.
The opinions expressed here are not necessarily those of NJ Audubon.