Local students compete in World Series of Birding
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.