by Devin Griffiths, Marketing & Communications Specialist
Saturday, May 13, 3:00 AM. Though the sun is still hours from rising, The World Series of Birding is on, and for The Marshketeers, our band of intrepid birders, it’s deja vu.
They catch the first birds of the day from a team member’s driveway in the blackness of pre-dawn – Carolina Wren, Chuck-Will’s-Widow, and Brown Thrasher: an auspicious start. On a quiet salt marsh in the northern reaches of Cape May county, they pick up the low coos of two Least Bitterns in muted conversation and the insistent “whichity-whichity-whichity” of a lone Common Yellowthroat. And then, full of carbohydrates and purpose, with daybreak still ahead of them, they’re off. For the better part of the next 24 hours they’ll search high and low, on well-worn paths and roads less traveled, for anything with feathers.
Drenched by persistent rain and harried by biting gnats throughout the afternoon, the team nonetheless persevered in their quest, tallying birds and raising funds for conservation. By day’s end, bitten and weary, they’d spotted 129 species (including 2023’s Bonus Bird, the American Oystercatcher) and, through generous support, raised close to $10,000 for the Institute’s coastal bird research and conservation work.
As the team hung up their binoculars for the day, they knew they’d notched another win for birds, for conservation, and for all of us who find joy in the company of these incredible creatures. Exhausted, they left for home secure in the knowledge that The Marshketeers and their supporters had once again made a real difference for the birds.