On the coldest May day since 1977, members of the Backyard Creepers team braved the high winds and crisp air to count as many bird species as possible in a 24-hour period. Like all World Series of Birding teams this year, our members were spread out over the state as we followed the COVID-19 Stay-at-Home orders while still participating in a team-based birding event. The Backyard Creepers team members ranged from novice to experienced birders. Some members stayed cozy while counting the birds that visited their Certified Wildlife Habitat® (CWH) while others ventured out despite the less than ideal weather and were still able to see an impressive number of species! Team member and experienced birder, Eileen Bennett, tallied 75 species in her CWH as well as in 3 nearby parks which all were within the allowable radius of 10 miles as the crow flies.
The Backyard Creeper team had a mid-day check-in to share the species that we had seen so far and plan for filling in the gaps with missed species. Blue Jays, Northern Cardinals, and Mourning Doves were plenty. Raptors were scarce as the wind kept many grounded. A Coopers Hawk was seen perched on a team members bird feeder. A Turkey Vulture, usually a high soaring species, was flying so low through the trees that I was able to see the bird’s eyes clearly! Despite the winds and cold, warbler species were abundant such as Black-throated Greens, Black-throated Blues, American Redstarts and a plethora of Black-and-Whites. The one bird that eluded us all was our namesake, the Brown Creeper. There is always next year!
By 7:00 p.m. our team had an impressive tally of 106 species! I was waiting to hear the call of our resident Black-crowned Night Heron before hitting submit but having hiked 8 ½ miles in the cold and wind, I could not keep my eyes open anymore. So, I set an alarm for 10 p.m. to wake me from my nap and as the alarm went off, so did the distinct call of our 107th species. I pressed submit and went to sleep with a smile on my face, knowing that our team had a great day and was able to raise money to help New Jersey Audubon carry on our mission of connecting people with nature as well as providing native habitat for our local wildlife. A May day well spent apart, yet together.