As of tomorrow I'll be out of the office, offline, and out of touch for a couple of days. My waking hours, and some sleeping hours, will be spent scouting for the Cornell Lab's "Sapsuckers" as they ready themselves for the 26th annual World Series of Birding (yes, there's a Wikipedia entry for it, how mainstream!).
I scouted for the Sapsuckers between 2000 and 2004, always in the wilds of northern New Jersey, and I'm excited to be going back again. I'm not being facetious, the northwest corner is absolutely beautiful. I happily spent many (many, many) hours walking many (many, many) miles through High Point State Park, the Delaware Water Gap, and various unnamed areas trying to pick out a bit of everything: lingering winter species (Dark-eyed Junco, White-throated Sparrow), returning breeding birds on territory (Canada Warbler, Black-throated Blue, Ceruleans . . . ), nests of any kind but especially species that are likely to be proverbially "too quiet" on the Big Day (raptors, woodpeckers, early-nesting songbirds like Blue-headed Vireo), habitat patches that look ready to host a flock of migrating songbirds, the timing of when the pheasant calls, the Vesper Sparrow sings, and so on and so on.
You know, the usual Big Day requirements.
It's always a challenge to describe what a big day is, particularly the Big Day, to non-birders -- for a f'rinstance, check out team-member Brian Sullivan's "World Series of What?" Birdscope article from a few years ago. Regardless of whether people "get it" or find it "quaint" (among other affectionate terms), I'm glad the contest has come to highlight conservation issues. The Cornell Lab takes pledges and the money raised is put towards conservation programs, such as atlas projects focusing on species like Cerulean and Golden-winged Warblers.
If you care to pitch in, please visit my donation page, and thanks in advance for your contribution. And on the Big Day please throw some good vibes the Sapsucker's way, they're on target to raise $200K for conservation again this year. And if you're into the social networking scene, follow them on their Twitter page throughout the week and especially during the event.
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