Thursday, June 20, 2013

Documenting an Historic Win

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UMLY's middle school and high school birding teams. Bet you never
thought birders could look so hardcore.
This past May, I had the privilege of once again participating in the World Series of Birding. If you haven't seen my past musings on the event, it's a 24-hour competition to identify the greatest number of birds, with the entire state of New Jersey as the playing field. I went as a driver/chaperone for a youth team from the Upper Main Line YMCA. It's been a few years since the last time I did this and the idea of being mostly in a car for roughly 24-hours straight gave me some flashbacks. In addition to the day of the event, we spend a few days before getting up at 4:00 in the morning and scouting out northern New Jersey, while getting onto an entirely different sleep schedule. By the time the competition starts, we're waking up at 7 pm and on the road from 10 pm Friday to 11 pm on Saturday.

I was posted with the high school team, the B.B. Kingfishers, comprised of Ben Bussmann, Austin Smith and Nathaniel Sharp. They each spend hours every week studying avian appearances, calls and behaviors in preparation for this one day. The competition kicked off at 12 am to a thunderstorm in the middle of the Great Swamp a disappointing zero birds for the first hour. Not the best place to be. However, things steadily improved as the day went on. They improved so much that by the end of the competition, the UMLY team had won. Not just the youth division, but the entire competition. Against adults who have been doing this their entire lives!

While knowing very little about birds myself, I was incredibly impressed by their teamwork and, of course, honesty, which is a absolute requirement for a competition based on the honor system. Weather patterns leading into the competition made things difficult, not to mention the torrential rain we dealt with during the event. Despite all of this, they didn't just overcome, but excelled.

As for the photo, I wanted to create something edgy and conveyed how flat out awesome these guys are. I doubt anyone associates birding with being "hardcore," "extreme," or "edgy". But they are. So get over it. Now all we need to do is get some instruments in their hands and add some tour dates.

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