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Competitors flock to South Jersey for World Series of Birding

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Staff Writer


WOODBINE — A birding team of two Israelis and a local naturalist scouted Belleplain State Forest on Wednesday, finding several species without lifting binoculars.

“That’s a great crested flycatcher calling,” said Jonathan Meyrav, tourism director for Tel Aviv’s Israel Ornithological Center, as they drove down one of the forest roads.

Meyrav and center Director Dan Alon traveled to the United States for Saturday’s World Series of Birding, a “big day” event in which teams compete to find the largest numbers of bird species in 24 hours, by sight or sound.

They arrived about 10 days before and hosted a birding tour in Cape May for their organization’s supporters before traveling to see donors in other U.S. cities. That morning they returned to Cape May to scout for the competition.

This year is the 35th anniversary of the World Series, run by New Jersey Audubon’s Cape May Bird Observatory. The “bird race” attracts people from all over the country and world for high-level competition and to raise money for conservation.

The 70 teams who registered will hurry from one place to another from 12:01 a.m. to midnight Saturday, working off adrenaline and food they can eat on the fly.

The Bird Observatory hopes to raise $200,000 from the event for conservation efforts that benefit birds, and according to its website has already raised about $161,400.

Meyrev and Alon’s team, which also includes Tom Reed of the Bird Observatory, is called Champions of the Flyway. It’s named for a similar event held every March by the Israel Ornithological Center, part of the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel, said Meyrav. Some World Series birders, including Reed, have begun competing in Israel as well, he said.

“We built our event off the World Series of Birding,” said Meyrav. “We are all raising money for conservation.”

Teams raise money for the organization of their choice. The Flyway team is raising funds for the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel. Many raise funds for the Bird Observatory.

Alon said birding is becoming more popular in Israel, but serious birders are a very small group there.

The team got out of their huge, comfy, rented SUV and soon saw the flycatcher, as well as a bright red scarlet tanager and a pair of pine warblers. Earlier they found a hummingbird and phoebe near the forest headquarters.

Meyrev said the team members, like other high-level birders, can identify hundreds of species by ear.

The Champions of the Flyway team has won its category of birding around Cape May County four years in a row. Last year it found 169 species, besting the second-place Cornell Redheads’ county team by nine species.

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“We have a dynasty to protect,” joked Meyrav.

Most teams scour the entire state in 24 hours, and others compete only in limited geographic areas, such as the Meadowlands in North Jersey or Cape Island, the small part of the county below Cape May Canal. There is a category for teams with a small carbon footprint, which includes those who bird by bike, and one for teams who stay in one spot for 24 hours and find the most species.

There are also youth birding awards for teams in grades one to five, six to eight, and nine to 12, and for carbon-free kids teams.

Winners get a trophy, but no money prize, said Reed.

“It’s more about bragging rights,” he said.



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For more on the World Series of Birding, visit

Find out more about the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel’s Champions of the Flyway event at

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Name Species # Category

Cornell redheads{&bullet}212 Whole state

Marsh hawks{&bullet}{&bullet} 194 Limited geographical area

Champions of Flyway 169 Cape May County

Zen Zugunruhe 138 Cape Island Cup

C.R. Hawk Watch 114 Big Stay Award{&bullet}{&bullet}{&bullet}

Conservation Pedalers 148 Carbon Footprint Cup

{&bullet}Cornell Redheads’ state team

{&bullet}{&bullet}Meadowlands Marsh Hawks birded the Meadowlands in North Jersey

{&bullet}{&bullet}{&bullet}The Chimney Rock Hawk Watch team stayed in one spot at Sandy Hook in Monmouth County

Source: New Jersey Audubon’s Cape May Bird Observatory


Contact: 609-272-7219 Twitter @MichelleBPost

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Staff Writer

In my first job after college got paid to read the New York Times and summarize articles for an early online data base. First reporting job was with The Daily Record in Parsippany. I have also worked in nonprofits, and have been with The Press since 1990.

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Listen now and subscribe: Apple Podcasts | Google Podcasts | Spotify | Stitcher | RSS Feed | Omny Studio

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