by Devin Griffiths, Marketing & Communications Specialist

The 2024 Marshketeers scouring the skies for elusive avians. L to R: Melissa Lafferty, Lenore Tedesco, Chris Dolan, and Devin Griffiths.

Saturday, May 11, 3:00 AM. It’s deja vu all over again as The Marshketeers – our unstoppable band of birders – set out hours ahead of the sun for the NJ Audubon World Series of Birding, a 24-hour birding marathon in the name of conservation.

We catch the first birds of the day along a quiet salt marsh in the northern reaches of Cape May county – a Chuck-Will’s-Widow insistenly calling its name and the low, distant hooting of a Great Horned Owl – and then we’re off. Over the next 24 hours we’ll visit forests and fields, marshes and meadows, beaches and backroads, in hopeful pursuit of the thing(s) with feathers.

For the first time in many years, the weather cooperated and the gnats were merciful, and the team enjoyed a pain-free (though still exhausting) time seeking out birds and raising critical funds for conservation. By day’s end, exhilarated and weary, we’d spotted 146 species (including 2024’s Bonus Bird, the Clapper Rail) – and, through an outpouring of support, smashed our fundraising goal, bringing in more than $11,000 for the Institute’s coastal bird research and conservation work.

As the sun began it’s inexorable dip below the horizon, we hung up our binoculars for the day, secure in the knowledge that The Marshketeers and all who’d supported the team had notched another win for conservation and for all who find joy in the company of these incredible creatures – and had once again made a real difference for the birds.