On the next to last weekend in January, when the cold wind is blowing snow and ice and there is nothing I’d rather be doing than reading a book while curled up on my couch under a blanket and a cat or two , I’ll be birding. Not only will I be birding, but I’ll be birding in Massachusetts and New Hampshire, where it should be even colder and windier than it gets in New York City. Why will I be doing this (besides the obvious answer of being some kind of sick masochist)? Because I’m joining a crack team of bird bloggers that is going to compete in the Superbowl of Birding VI!
Wait, the what? Superbowl of Birding? Superbowls are for manly-men football players, not effeminate birders! What kind of nonsense is this? Well, first off, we birders are hardly effeminate: we are a tough, hardy, and hale bunch, not content to spend our weekends curled up on a couch eating potato chips and watching television (so just ignore that earlier sentence about wanting to be curled up on the couch). We have to be tough, hardy, and hale to brave near-arctic conditions all day in an outdoor competition in Massachusetts and New Hampshire in January.
How does the Superbowl of Birding work? Well, unlike other famous birding competitions, the Superbowl of Birding does not give a single point per species seen. No, like American football, there is a complicated scoring system. The more unlikely the bird the more points it is worth. So a common Dark-eyed Junco will only bring one point but a much-harder-to-find Long-eared Owl is worth five! Not only that, but if your team finds one of the coveted five-point birds and is the first to call that species in to headquarters, you get a three-point bonus! That means that a single rarity could be worth eight common species. Also, probably to prevent frostbite, the competition is only twelve hours long, instead of the standard twenty-four hour big day, so we’ll be birding from 5 AM until 5 PM on Saturday, January 24. Of course, the contest has geographical boundaries, with birding only allowed in Essex County, MA, and Rockingham County, NH.
Our team name for the competition is Bloggerhead Kingbirds and without further ado it is time for you to meet our stellar crew. First up, the diabolical genius who came up with the idea to put together a bird blogger team for the competition, the man who must do all of our scouting because no one else lives close enough, the one, the only, Christopher of Picus Blog. Next on the list is a fearsome half-owl, half-human, whose affinity with those nocturnal predators will come in handy when tracking down hard-to-find owls, Quintus, aka Owlman, of Owl Box Blog. The third participant on our all star team is a second denizen of the dirty (New Jersey), an all-around naturalist who probably needs no introduction to the 10,000 Birds readership, a man with over 300 birds on his New Jersey list and over 500 in the ABA, our enforcer, Patrick of The Hawk Owl’s Nest. The fourth member of our team is a southerner who may not survive the rigors of a New England winter’s day, but is so dedicated that he is leaving his pregnant wife behind while he competes. Hopefully, he’ll have recovered from his exhausting North Carolina Big Year by the time late January rolls around and his southern birding experience will come in useful should we find a vagrant from the land of warmth of sunshine. I am speaking, of course, of Nate from The Drinking Bird. Oh, and there’s me.
So why are we five crazy enough to take part in the Superbowl of Birding VI? Well, aside from the glory and accolades should we be fortunate enough to win, there are great birds to be had! Chris has guaranteed us all numerous lifers, everything from Snowy Owls to Black Guillemots to King Eiders (at least I recall him promising us all numerous lifers in an email but he might dispute this fact). Not only that but who wouldn’t want to spend a full day with other bird bloggers in sub-zero temperatures with strong winds blowing sleet and snow and salt spray? You’d be crazy to NOT want to participate!