Sunday, January 31, 2010

Superbowl of Birding Results

The "Superbowl of Birding" is sponsored by the Joppa Flats Education Center of Massachusetts Audubon. This is the 7th year for this competitive event, which is a fun way of getting out and finding birds in Essex County, MA and Rockingham County, NH. A weighted valuation system determines the winner, where the rarity of the species determines the number of points awarded. In other words, each species is given a point value and whoever has the most points wins! The prizes are awarded as follows:

1. The Minox Joppa Cup: Grand prize for the team with the greatest number of points - $100
2. Director's Award: Greatest number of species - $75
3. Essex County Excels Award: Most points in Essex County - $50
4. Rockingham County Rocks Award: Most points in Rockingham County (essentially tied with Essex County Excels Award) - $50

There are a few other prizes for things like most lifers, most birds on Plum Island, etc.

This year Jessie Knapp, Jason Lambert, Ben Griffith, and I formed a new team called "Granite State Bird Watch" (in honor of our favorite whale watch who donated sweatshirts/team uniforms to the cause!). It was both Jessie and my first Superbowl where as Ben and Jason had participated with team "Saw-what owls?" in the past.

We spent every day in recent memory scouting and were thoroughly rewarded by our efforts. In a real team effort we saw a total of 85 species, 83 of which counted for the superbowl (2 were not seen by enough members of the team) and we tallied 164 species. Everyone brought a lot to the table and we hoped that it would be enough to put us on top for the "Rockingham County Rocks" Award but much to our surprise it did much more. We ended up winning the Minox Joppa Cup (1st prize! Which is given for total points everywhere) despite the fact that we never left Rockingham County! We are the first NH team to ever win the Joppa Cup! We had 8 more species than the next closest team, and about 15 more points more than the next closest team!!!

Congratulations to all the other teams for sticking it out and working hard in the cold and on behalf of Granite State Bird Watch I'd like to thank you for the fun competition and the many congratulations.

It was a COLD day started off at 0 degrees (-21 with wind chill) at 4:45 AM from Lubberland Creek where we had a Barred Owl calling. As the competition starts at 5AM we had to wait to see if we could coax it to call again after 5... and to our joy at 5:01 AM we had recorded our first species. From there we picked up 3 other species of owl (including a Saw-whet which flew right past us!) by 5:40. We had over a half an hour in darkness to look for other bird species after our drive to East Kingston to Davis Finch's house. Here our day continued to impress with birds like Pileated Woodpecker, Common Raven, Wild Turkey, cowbird, and blackbird as highlights.

After this we headed to Exeter and Stratham to pick up the inland ducks and the rest of the feederbirds. We lucked out with Cedar Waxwings in Newmarket which we picked up on the way to our Carolina Wren spot. By the time we made it to Sandy Point we had all of the "Bay ducks" and decided to make a run for the Sapsucker in Rye that had been reported. We found the bird in the Cemetery within 5 minutes of arriving and immediately saw that a Pied-billed Grebe had been reported in South Mill Pond. We went searching for it but couldn't locate it, so we checked North Mill Pond (to see if it had been there instead of S. Mill Pond) and then swung around Newcastle picking up Gadwall and Razorbill. We tried one more time for Pied-billed Grebe but it still wasn't there. During our last scan of the pond I looked down and saw that the 4th and Longspurs had relocated it at Albacore Park (which connects to North Mill Pond! Turns out the bird had been mis-reported as having been in South Mill Pond after all!)

After this point we went to pick up American Wigeon and Pintail before trekking North up the coast. We picked up Snowy Owl (see below for a condensed story on this), Glaucous Gull, Iceland Gull, and a few other things from Seabrook before heading north to get all of the sea ducks, Black Guillemot, Northern Gannet, Sanderling, and Purple Sandpiper. At 4:30pm we were still MISSING Barrow's Goldeneye so we decided to give it one last chance at Great Boars Head from the north side and within 5 minutes of arriving at about 4:40 we found it just beyond the rocks in the shallowest part of the water with a group of Common Goldeneye. We rejoiced tremendously and then scoped the marsh behind Little Jacks quickly (only turning up a fire hydrant) before heading down to Newburyport, MA to make sure we arrived on time.

Below is a full list of species seen and/or heard throughout the day with a few notes mixed in.


Location: Rockingham County, NH, US
Observation date: 1/30/10
Notes: Superbowl effort by team "Granite State Bird Watch": Lauren Kras, Ben Griffith, Jason Lambert, and Jessie Knapp. A new January big day record, a new record high for superbowl species in Rockingham County, and the first time a team from Rockingham won anything but "Rockingham Rocks"!!! 1st place at Superbowl 2010!
Number of species: 85

Canada Goose
Mute Swan
Gadwall 1 1 Female off of Goat Island, Newcastle
American Wigeon 1 1 female off of Brown Rd. in Hampton Falls
American Black Duck
Northern Pintail 1 1 Male in Seabrook Duck Pond
Greater Scaup
Lesser Scaup 7 Exeter WWTP
Common Eider
Surf Scoter
White-winged Scoter
Black Scoter
Long-tailed Duck
Common Goldeneye
Barrow's Goldeneye 1 Male off of North side of Great Boars Head at 4:40 PM! Last new bird of the day!
Common Merganser
Red-breasted Merganser
Wild Turkey Called in at 6:20 AM by Jason Lambert when it was still dark out and we didn't know what to do with our time!
Red-throated Loon
Common Loon
Pied-billed Grebe 1 In Albacore Park/North Mill Pond. THANKS to 4th and Longspurs for figuring out that the bird was here and not in South Mill Pond!
Horned Grebe
Red-necked Grebe
Northern Gannet
Great Cormorant
Bald Eagle 3
Sharp-shinned Hawk 1 *Only seen by 2 people - therefore not part of our Superbowl total
Cooper's Hawk 6
Red-tailed Hawk
Peregrine Falcon 1 On powerline off of Island Path. Also saw one on the watertower - but probably the same bird
Purple Sandpiper
Ring-billed Gull
Herring Gull
Iceland Gull 2 One first winter bird in Seabrook Harbor, one dark second winter bird in Rye Harbor
Glaucous Gull 1 In Seabrook harbor...
Great Black-backed Gull
Razorbill 1 From Great Island Common. Life bird for J. Knapp
Black Guillemot 2 One from Little Boars Head, and one from Ragged Neck
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Eastern Screech-Owl 2 Calling from Sandy Point, Greenland at approx. 5:25 AM
Great Horned Owl 1 Calling from Kimball Rd., Kingston at approx. 5:40 AM

Snowy Owl 1 Seen in Seabrook Harbor. First picked out by B. Griffith who was unsure whether it was ice or and owl. Within moments of getting on it, L. Kras witnessed it flying confirming that it was not ice but an owl. J. Knapp refound it in the marsh and J. Lambert was able to observe the bird from a distance (to say the least.
Definitely one of the best highlights of the day.

Barred Owl 1 1 Calling from Lubberland Creek, Newmarket at 5:01 AM
Northern Saw-whet Owl 1 1 Calling and seen in Stratham at 5:12 AM
Red-bellied Woodpecker 1
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker 1 1 from Central Cemetery in Rye - thanks to twitchers in the Rye for finding it during a "break"

Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Pileated Woodpecker
Blue Jay
American Crow
Common Raven
Horned Lark 15 Most at Hampton Beach SP., but 1 from rt. 1A which crossed in front of the car while we were waiting at the light while discussing that we needed to go to the SP. to look for Horned Lark.

Black-capped Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
Red-breasted Nuthatch Wiggins Rd. in Stratham
White-breasted Nuthatch
Brown Creeper
Carolina Wren 3
Golden-crowned Kinglet
Eastern Bluebird
American Robin
Northern Mockingbird
European Starling
Cedar Waxwing 15 One flock in downtown Newmarket, one individual at Exeter WWTP
Yellow-rumped Warbler 2 1 at Exeter WWTP, 1 off of Cushing Rd. in Newmarket
American Tree Sparrow
Savannah Sparrow 1 1 at Stuart Farm in Stratham
Fox Sparrow (Red) 1 1 off of River Rd. in Stratham, thanks to the Abbotts for the warm break, delicious hot chocolate, and hosting a 4 pointer.

Song Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco (Slate-colored)
Snow Bunting From Wallis Sands. Scouted regularly by J. Knapp!
Northern Cardinal
Red-winged Blackbird Heard off South Rd. in East Kingston, seen off of 101 in Hampton.
Brown-headed Cowbird off South Rd. in East Kingston
House Finch
Pine Siskin 1 from Wiggins Rd. in Stratham. Heard by 1 individual only so not counted as part of superbowl total.
American Goldfinch
House Sparrow

Here's our list of misses:
Sharp-shinned Hawk - One seen by 2 of us but we couldn't refind it or find another to get the crucial third
Lesser Black-backed Gull - we looked a few places and had a possible one on the bay but the heat haze made it difficult to call for sure
Winter Wren - with the cold and wind we decided it wasn't even worth trying or spending time to look although other teams got it
Hermit Thrush - we ran out of time to check for either of the 2 we had locations for. We had this as a low priority as well due to weather
Swamp Sparrow - again, we didn't even check today as it wasn't a priority in the cold and wind which would make them difficult
Purple Finch - Haven't had any all winter in Rockingham
Pine Siskin - heard by 1 of us at a location we had scouted it but we decided to leave after trying to have it call again to chase down the Sapsucker.


Anonymous said...

Can u send me info about your birding superbowl

how does it work?

i am in AL


John said...

Congratulations on your win! It takes a lot of skill and fortitude.

David said...

The Granite State Bird Watch did a great job!
David Larson
Superbowl of Birding Coordinator
Mass Audubon

dAwN said...

Leave it to you Lowie...well I am sure the rest of your team was good as well..but sure are on a roll..