Lo­cal stu­dents com­pete in World Se­ries of Bird­ing

Record Observer - - Schools - By HANNAH COMBS hcombs@kibay­times.com

CAPE MAY, N.J. — In May stu­dents from Centreville Mid­dle School and Ken­nard El­e­men­tary com­peted in the World Se­ries of Bird­ing in Cape May, New Jersey. The CMS team took first place in their divi­sion and the team from Ken­nard fin­ished in first place in the el­e­men­tary divi­sion.

The stu­dents jour­neyed to Cape May three days ahead of the fi­nal event to fa­mil­iar­ize them­selves with the land­scape and spot birds that they would hope to re­lo­cate on the day of the com­pe­ti­tion.

The World Se­ries was the cul­mi­na­tion of six months of study­ing bird song and bird iden­ti­fi­ca­tion and learn­ing which habi­tats are fa­vored by cer­tain birds. The Centreville Mid­dle School stu­dents team, who call them­selves the Ea­glets, has been bird­ing to­gether since third grade. Their team was spon­sored by the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay En­vi­ron­men­tal Cen­ter (CBEC), ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Judy Wink and vet­eri­nar­ian Dr. Jenifer Rus­sell.

The 33rd World Se­ries of Bird­ing, had 80 teams par­tic­i­pate in­clud­ing teams from Is­rael, the United King­dom and Canada. The WSB is a fundraiser for the en­vi­ron­men­tal cause of the in­di­vid­ual team’s choice. The team from Ken­nard, aptly named the Owlets, raised money for the Cape May Monarch Mon­i­tor­ing Project, an en­deavor which has been col­lect­ing Monarch mi­gra­tion data for 27 years at Cape May Point. The Owlets were men­tored by Jim Wil­son who was also the pre­vi­ous men­tor for the Ea­glets.

Wink and Rus­sell helped the stu­dents pre­pare by join­ing them sev­eral times a month in the field and help­ing them iden­tify birds. Wink taught the stu­dents to first hear the sound of the bird and then know where to look to find the birds they hoped to spot. They also iden­ti­fied feed­ing pat­terns, so mid­morn­ing or af­ter­noon they might look in the wa­ter to find birds feed­ing.

The Ea­glets had an­other layer of chal­lenge to face as they com­peted in the Car­bon Free Kids cat­e­gory. The divi­sion re­quired them to scout birds by foot or bike — no mo­tor­ized ve­hi­cles were per­mit­ted — the team walked 10 miles and biked 24, lo­cat­ing 103 dif­fer­ent species of birds on the fi­nal day and tak­ing first place in their divi­sion. Two high­lights of the trip were lo­cat­ing a Pere­grine Fal­con and Yel­low-billed Cuckoo bird.

Team mem­bers with the Ea­glets were: Cap­tain, Maya McGrory, 8th grade; Faith McCarthy, grade 7; Ry­ley Wright, grade 7; Miele McCluskey, grade 7; and Gavin Wright, grade 6.

The Owlets team was com­prised of mem­bers: Aubrey Clark, Austin Tuel, Calla McCluskey, Erin Reynolds, and Sarah Ire­land, all 5th graders. They found 126 species of birds and fin­ished in first place in the el­e­men­tary school divi­sion.

Stu­dent Faith McCarthy, whose fa­vorite bird is the war­bler, said in an in­ter­view with the Bay Jour­nal, a non­profit pub­li­ca­tion whose mis­sion is to in­form the pub­lic about is­sues and events that af­fect the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay, that the group gen­er­ally takes one selfie photo when they get out in the field and then ev­ery­one puts their phones away. Later, said McCarthy, the stu­dents might look up a bird on ebird, the app that helps iden­tify species, but bird­ing with her team, she said, is a chance to be out­side, look around, talk, and en­joy the views. “Al­ready, she said, she knows she wants to be when she grows up: an en­vi­ron­men­tal sci­en­tist. “Go­ing into high school, I feel like our lives are go­ing to get busier,” McCarthy was quoted, “but bird­ing, whether it’s with my team or not, it’s some­thing I’m go­ing to do through­out my life.”


Ken­nard El­e­men­tary School stu­dents win the el­e­men­tary school divi­sion of the May 14, 2016, World Se­ries of Bird­ing. From left, Austin Tuel, Aubrey Clark, Calla McCluskey, Sarah Ire­land and Erin Reynolds.

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