A 24-hour treasure hunt for birds is this weekend in NJ
New Jersey is about to get swarmed by bird lovers.
They'll be grazing through marshes, traversing mountains and combing the coast with the goal of seeing or hearing as many bird species as possible throughout the Garden State.
A tradition 34 years in the making, New Jersey Audubon's World Series of Birding launches May 6 at midnight. Participants have 24 hours straight to tally species by sight or sound.
"We've got about 300 registrants this year, which is on par with the most recent averages," said David La Puma, director of New Jersey Audubon's Cape May Bird Observatory. "We've got folks coming from as far as Israel and the United Kingdom this year."
In terms of diversity, migration patterns and pure concentration of birds, New Jersey is hard to beat, La Puma said. So foreign birders can get plenty of satisfaction in just one day's time by participating in the event.
At the same time, participants can use the marathon event to raise money for a conservation effort they'd like to assist. Some teams create a system in which donations roll in based on how many species they identify in the 24-hour period. Since 1984, the event has raised over $9 million for bird conservation.
According to La Puma, the cumulative list of species tallied by all teams each year is typically around 260. Since 1984, a total of 330 bird species have been identified by sight or sound during this event.
"New Jersey is a species-rich state," he said. "Twenty-four hours is a relatively short period of time when you think about the amount of land mass you cover in New Jersey."
Bird reporting during the event essentially works on the honor system, La Puma noted. Plaques or trophies are awarded to the winning teams in each category.
"It's all about the glory, man," he said.
Several youth teams, featuring children from grades 1 to 12, are taking part in the competition. But they're not pulling an all-day-and-nighter like many other teams.
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