The NJMC's Jim Wright, who keeps this blog, also writes a nature column twice a month for the South Bergenite. His latest is on the Meadowlands Marsh Hawks team and their big competition this weekend:
This Saturday, before the crack of dawn, the Meadowlands Marsh Hawks will again take flight, competing for the third year in a row in the prestigious World Series of Birding.
The one-day event takes place only in New Jersey yet it draws some of the best birders in North America. The Marsh Hawks will again compete in the “county” division, with a goal of seeing 140 species in Bergen County.
Last year, the Marsh Hawks — NJMC naturalist Mike Newhouse, Lyndhurst resident Chris Takacs and Mike Wolfe of Hackensack — won first place in their division with a total of 139 birds.
The birds they saw or heard included such rarities as — horned grebe, clapper rail and pileated woodpecker, but they did not see a Black-capped Chickadee. Go figure.
One of the reasons that the Marsh Hawks compete is to raise money for a worthy Meadowlands project. Last May they raised $2,500 for the new native plant garden at the AmVets Carillon on Disposal Road.
This year they are raising money for improvements to the Kingsland Overlook Trail in DeKorte Park.
I sat down with Mike Newhouse last week to discuss this year’s competition.
What’s your goal this year?
Our goal is 140 species and to win our category again.
What’s the toughest part of the WSB?
The hardest part is trying to keep a schedule. When the birding in a certain location is good than it is hard to leave, but if it is bad you feel like you should keep digging for more.
What’s the most rewarding part?
Finding all the species that you scouted for is the most rewarding. The goal of scouting — doing your homework — is primarily to find breeding birds. You can’t scout for migrants as they come and go, but you can search for the breeders so you know where they are the day of the WSB.
What have you learned from your experiences the past two WSBs?
A few things. One, keeping a schedule is key as if you spend too much time in one spot then your entire day gets thrown off. Two, keep looking up. You never know what is flying overhead. Three, have a good route and know it before you start.
The last thing you want to do is miss turns and not know where you are going because you lose valuable time that way. More time looking for birds and less time looking at a map.
What good does this event do for the general public, besides raise money for NJ Audubon and the Kingsland Overlook?
One of my goals is to help promote birding in the Meadowlands and in Bergen County overall. I don’t think many people realize how good birding can be in the "Meadows" and in Bergen County.
Good luck, Mr. Newhouse! I had Semipalmated Sandpiper at Mill Creek Marsh today while I was stuck in the mud after checking one of the tree swallow boxes.
As a member of New Jersey Audubon’s Uncommon Nighthawks, I will take this moment to wish the Marsh Hawks a sunburn- and warbler neck-free day with lots of birds that stand conveniently still. I also hope that the Nighthawks (including me) have the same sort of day, only more so. 🙂
Best of luck to the Uncommon Nighthawks!