The clock read 11:59 pm and my team and I were counting down the final seconds until the start of the World Series of Birding. Our captain, Hope Batcheller, stood to my left along with fellow teammates Brendan Fogarty, Eric Gulson, and Jack Hruska as Team Redhead was ready to compete again in the Cape May County division of the 29th World Series. Hope quietly called out, “Midnight!” and our big day finally started. Little did we know what an amazing day it was going to be! At 12:05 a Yellow-billed Cuckoo called from the distant woods and as the night progressed we were able to tally some great species, giving us an excellent start. At Tuckahoe WMA in the northern part of the county we heard Least Bittern and Eastern-screech Owl, and then we were excited to hear a Long-eared Owl hooting from the tree line (a possible first for Cape May during the World Series). We spent the rest of the night in and around Cape May Point where we located American Woodcock, Yellow-breasted Chat, and several other important species. Then morning hit.
We had heard that this day was to be good for migrants, but good was an understatement. Throughout the morning we tallied 25 species of warbler including Cape May, Blackburnian, Yellow-throated, Hooded, Blue-winged, Magnolia, Chestnut-sided, Canada, Louisiana and Northern Waterthrush, Blackpoll, Black-throated Green, and Black-throated Blue. Our biggest highlight of the morning, though, came when Brendan heard what he thought was a Dickcissel singing from a nearby field. Sure enough, as we ventured in to try to see this midwestern specialty, there it was perched in the same view as a female Bobolink (another crucial bird for the day). Another highlight came as we were driving along the western coast of Cape May Island when we were thrilled to see a Mississippi Kite glide over our car and perch in a nearby tree, allowing fantastic looks. As the day went on our luck continued. We were able to find almost all of our target birds and, amazingly, we were still running on schedule. As night approached we cleaned up on a few species including Peregrine Falcon, Piping Plover, Bank Swallow, and Belted Kingfisher. Finally, at dusk at the famous Higbee Beach, a Barred Owl called out, giving us a total of 168 for the day. That ended up being our final count. 168 birds is the largest number of birds I have ever seen in one day, and is a great total for birding only in Cape May County. Most of us agreed that it was the greatest day of birding we have ever had, and two of the team hail from the Neotropics! We were exhausted, we were exhilarated, and we were extremely grateful for the day of birding we just had. We cannot wait to return to Cape May next year to compete in the Cape May County division yet again.