The biggest sporting event of the year took place this weekend: The World Series of… Birding! It’s just like the regular World Series except replace bats with binoculars, replace pinstripe uniforms with khakis and hiking boots, and then literally replace everything else because it is nothing like baseball.
The event, which generally takes place on the first weekend in May, is a 24-hour scavenger hunt where teams of all ages seek out as many species of birds as possible, identifying them either by sight or bird call. And because it’s 2017, there’s even an app for it: Participants can record and submit their bird findings right from their phone.
While some teams canvas larger swaths of New Jersey seeking out birds, others focused strictly on identifying the most birds possible within Cape May County, NJ (where the World Series of Birding is headquartered). This event has been taking place out of Cape May for over 30 years, and in that time has raised close to 9 million dollars for bird conservation!
I found myself on the ground at the World Series of Birding because I am an intrepid journalist and definitely not because it coincidentally aligned with my beach vacation. But even so, I was (lightly) swept up in the (very quiet) excitement, so I decided to do some amateur birding of my own.
First, I obviously downloaded the birding app because I am a birder who embraces technology. Soon after, I saw an osprey soaring overhead clutching a fish in its talons and some pretty cute barn swallows. But what I really used my binoculars for (okay, they were just sunglasses I was pretending were binoculars) was scoping out the teams that were actually competing.
As I casually strolled around the Cape May nature preserve, I saw many teams in groups of five to ten, decked out with fancy cameras on giant tripods, expensive-looking binoculars dangling from their necks, and sometimes matching tee shirts absolutely hustling their butts off to identify birds. I am telling you: You haven’t lived until you’ve seen a bunch of adults with extensive birding equipment break into a light jog to chase a bird call.
The competition had kicked off at midnight on the previous night, but by Saturday afternoon they still had a surprising amount of pep! Although the winners and standings have yet to be posted to the official World Series of Birding website, the true winners are, of course, the birds: Over $152,000 was raised for supporting wildlife and habitat conservation in New Jersey, exceeding this year’s goal.
This whole experience has inspired me to do some of my own #birding, except instead of the wilds of New Jersey I’m scanning the wilds of Instagram.
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