Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Greatest Game Ever Played: The World Series of Birding (Plus Photos From Last Year)

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Tomorrow morning, I'm leaving for my second trip to the World Series of Birding. Yes, that's right. The World Series...of Birding. Sorry if you choked a bit while reading that. I, too, was confused and skeptical when I first heard about it. The WSB is a 24-hour birdwatching extravaganza, that takes place throughout the entire 8,204 sq. miles of the great state of New Jersey, home of one of the widest variety of birds in the country. Also known for people who are "famous" for not really much of anything.

I'm not actually a birder myself, but a chaperone for one of the high school teams from the Upper Main Line YMCA. Still, I'll try my best to explain what's going on. Within 24 hours, teams try to identify as many birds as possible, either visually or through auditory confirmation. There's something funny about a group of teenagers being driven around at 40 mph with the windows down, identifying bird calls. Kids these days. Oh, and it's all based on the honor system.


Though mostly from the US, people do "flock" from all over the world for this event (see what I did there?) Last year, I know at least one person flew in from Scotland to participate. And many teams use the event as major fundraising campaigns. One of the leading teams comes from Cornell's Lab of Ornithology, that raises more than $100,000 in pledges from this event.

The event itself, as I discovered, is actually pretty draining. While the competition time is 24 hours, we ended up being awake for closer to 36 hours, which I was not prepared for. There's a strange feeling you get when you're standing in a field at 7:00 in the morning and you've lost all concept on the passage of time. That's actually the opening sequence for Hangover 3. If you're ever in a similar circumstance, don't try to fight that feeling with an energy drink on an empty stomach. Never again...

If after all that, you still don't believe me, check out this video as a primer on World Series of Birding.

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