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WORLD SERIES OF BIRDING

The Golden Years 1998-2002 - Fond Memories of the World Series of Birding
by Adrian Binns

2002 - 222 2nd place
2001 - 214* tied for 1st with Swarovski/Cornell
2000 - 219* tied for 1st with Zeiss/CMBO
1999 - 223* 1st place
1998 - 198 2nd place

It was just another one of those fun filled, free flowing beer evenings in early 1997 at the Cherry Street Inn, when Paul Guris for some un-godly reason asked if I was interested in joining the Nikon/DVOC World Series of Birding Team, as Megan Edwards was going to be unavailable. He was certainly scrapping the barrel - I had only recently joined the DVOC and he barely knew me, other than as being one of the Thursday evening regulars. Still short as Bill Stocku was not able to make it either that year, Paul thought the aide of another transatlantic transplant, Julian Hough. I guess he thought that having two brits on the team would…….it could not have been further from the truth. Not only were the two of us the total opposite of the physical spectrum, but also in birding experience. Besides I think Paul wanted someone whom could help translate for him and Mike Fritz. But little did he know I could not understand a word Julian said! Do you think Mike and Paul fared any better? But boy did he know his birds! As the light was fading fast at Brigantine, we called two birds roosting some 300 yards away, Gull-billed Terns. You know we desperately needed that species, as we were trying to crack 200, but Ju would have none of it. Slowly he turned those into Forster's Terns. Needless to say that was his last year on the team! It was also the last year we went to Brigantine, as we revamped the route making it pretty much a western route, and our average of 220 species over the last four years, is a strong testament to this route.

Over the last 5 years, I have been privileged to participate in this most enjoyable of events, though I must add it has only been because we have taken the approach that the event had to be fun. Try spending 24 hours solid with someone, and history tells of many a broken friendship. Winning is not everything. We certainly tried our best and gave it our all, but not without firstly putting the enjoyment of the group camaraderie above all else. Success comes from working as a team, and the core group of these golden years (Paul, Mike, Bill and I) certainly proved that. Megan joined us in 2000 and Rick Mellon this year. I find it hard to believe that any other group of people on that day could possibly have as many barrels of laughter as we do. Most of it was certainly silly, crude and juvenile (we are all kids at heart); sometimes maniacal; a great deal unrepeatable but above all it was done to keep the group loose and awake.

Driving to our midnight destination, it is not long before the tape of thrush night calls is tossed aside in favor of an Edie Murphy tape, Frank Zappa CD or a recording of the 1st Canadian broadcast of the Annual World Crepitating Contest. Just in case you where unaware or are interested in trivia, it was held in 1953. It is with that in mind that I wish to fondly recollect some of the lighter moments of my tenure on the team, as this year will no doubt be my last on the team for a while.

Since a great deal of time is spent scouting, it is not surprising that some memorable moments have occurred during those days. One that always comes to mind is the time we drove through the town of Butzville only to see someone taking a photo of someone mooning them in front of the Butzville Post Office. Another incident occurred hours before the start of the event. We had just finished scouting Brigantine, and by now darkness had fallen, and we were parked on a bridge not too far away listening to Pine Barrens Tree Frogs. A police car pulls up behind us with lights flashing to find 4 men parked on a remote section of road on a Friday evening! Paul's' exclamation that we were listening to Tree Frogs wasn't too convincing and when the policeman asked us for the registration to the vehicle we happily obliged. He was not too amused when he had to ask again for the registration to this vehicle. Un be-known to us the registration that we pulled out of the glove compartment was for a 1994 Yugo and not the 1997 Dodge Caravan that we had rented! It took a little bit of fast-talking, but we were soon back on the road, with a warning not to run into him again during the next 24 hours.

Once the clock strikes midnight we are always in the Great Swamp listening for woodcock, bitterns, rails and migrants. Sometimes it requires us having to walk out into the marsh. For this, boots are of course needed. One year I had begun to put my "wellies" on, and was having a particularly hard time getting them to fit. It really was not surprising, as by mistake I had thrown my wife's wellies in the boot instead of mine. I still had to walk into the marsh with them, much to the amusement of the others. I can now image what a transvestite walking in high heels must feel like! I never lived that one down.

On one occasion in the wee hours of the morning after leaving the Great Swamp we stopped at a gas station to fill up. The four of us rolled out of the van with binoculars around our necks, only to be greeted by the half asleep but ever so observant attendant, who asked us, "So, where you boys goin' fishing?"

We always seemed to somehow hit on some theme for the day. When Viagra became all the rage in 1999 after Bob Dole's was seen hawking the product on the box, we decided to have a little fun and create our own slogans for a Viagra sponsored team. Amongst some of the ones that can be mentioned the following come to mind - "Get a hard bird with Team Viagra", Team Viagra - Stiff Competition" and "Team Viagra - Able to go for 24 hours".

Another year, we had stopped briefly to listen for a Blackburian Warbler, only to hear the tale end of a conversation between a turkey hunter and his wife (or soon to be ex-wife) as they were returning to their pick-up truck. It became very obvious that she had either missed or let her chance at the "prize" slip away and he was not going to let her forget it. In the brief glimpse of their lives that we witnessed, it was clear that the uneducated gentlemen was not a happy camper as he unleashed a barrage of choice four letter words upon the poor woman, who was undoubtedly on her first (and last) hunting trip with him. No we did not pick up the warbler there, but one word from the incident kept us going for the remainder of the day!

Every time we rent a vehicle, I can hear Frank Windfelder's voice saying, "Never rent a car to birders." Even in a short 24 hours "things" can happen, and our vehicles never seem to be exempt from any abuse, scraps or dents. One time, while trying to get the best view of a large pond, we got a little too close to the guardrail, and you can guess the rest. Another time, driving down a hill, the two in the front seats saw an Eastern Bluebird, and the two of us in the back missed it, so we stopped in the middle of the road for the two to get out and see it. Meanwhile a car was coming down the hill, so the driver (I will not mention names), forgetting the door was open pulled ahead and off the road, but not before the open door took out a mailbox! At which point upon hearing the noise we decided to jump back into the vehicle and make a beeline out of there. We actually did get the bird! Other exploits are best left unprinted, but I can say that seeing a billboard on Rte 31 saying, "Report aggressive drivers", is not something one wants to see on the big day.

Bathroom breaks are on occasion one of life's necessities, but on the big day they are really a no-no, yet sometimes there is no choice. Luck certainly plays a great part on the day. I recall picking up a Brown Creeper from an outhouse in Worthington, and who could forget the four of us being "interrupted" at Florence when a Goshawk flew across the Delaware River! Sometimes that break works out perfectly. Pete Dunne may have written "The Fine Art of Pishing" - we certainly could write "The Fine Art of Pis-ing".

After the winners were announced at the finish line in 2000, we were whisked for a television appearance, but this was no ordinary interview. It was for the Daily Show with Jon Stewart. We were "fried" after doing what we thought was the unimaginable and that was repeating our feat of the previous year. First question, "Team Nikon, you have just won the World Series of Birding. How does that make you feel?" Almost instantaneously all of us replied, "Great. We're going drinking". That was not the answer he wanted to hear. We soon realized that this was no ordinary show, and he did not want an answer, straight or comical. He just wanted dead pan expressions and a dull "Pretty good", so that the editor could do his magic and make us the brunt of evening's entertainment, later that week.

And finally I'll certainly miss the brunch speeches and monologues, in particular Paul and Rich Kane trying to outdo each other every mother's day as they recall for most hilarious moments of the previous 24 hours ….as you can see we made the most of any possible lightheartedness; came in at the top or within 2 species and have a number of fond memories will last a lifetime.


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