The fourth annual Seatuck Birding Challenge was conducted from 5:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on 9 September 2017, under nearly perfect weather conditions. A flight overnight resulted in many nocturnal migrants arriving under calm morning conditions. A northwest breeze picked up later in the day, but overall it was a very pleasant and productive day. This year’s earlier date (vs. 24 & 26 Sep the last two years) also contributed to a much larger variety of Neotropical migrant species while costing us a decidedly smaller number of later migrants.
In all, 184 species were found, exceeding last year’s previous record of 166, and the cumulative total over four years rose to 219 species. Nine teams competed this year, and this robust level of participation was achieved despite a scheduling conflict that made it impossible to include high school teams, which have been a core component of past efforts. Continuing from past years were the Four Harbors Herons, Captree Counters, Nighthawks, Pteam Ptarmigeddon, Team Mennecke, and WT Hornadays. New to the Challenge this year were All Wings Considered, Gray Marsh Runners, and Jaegermeisters.
It was one of the new teams, All Wings Considered, that finally succeeded in dethroning the three-time champion Pteam Ptarmigeddon by recording an astonishing total of 139 species, demolishing the previous record of 118 set last year. The Captree Counters were second with 131, and Pteam Ptarmigeddon were third, also well ahead of the old mark, with 124 species.
There were many highlights, including American Bittern, Broad-winged Hawk, two American Avocets, American Golden-Plover, Marbled Godwit, Baird’s and Buff-breasted Sandpipers, Olive-sided and Acadian Flycatchers, Western Kingbird, Connecticut and Yellow-throated Warblers, multiple Yellow-breasted Chats, and Clay-colored and Lincoln’s Sparrows. Of 36 total saves (compared to 38 last year), nine were recorded by All Wings Considered, eight by the Captree Counters, and six by the Four Harbors Herons.
It was interesting to observe where the various routes intersected through the day, and it is evident that route efficiency has improved with several repetitions. But it also seems likely that a bold break from traditional tactics helped All Wings Considered to achieve their amazing species total. It’s not too early to start refining routes and strategies for next year!
TOP: "All Wings Considered," (L to R) Brent Bomkamp, Brendan Fogarty and Anthony Collerton pictured with the Seatuck Birding Challenge Twitchers Trophy
MIDDLE LEFT: Runners-up, "Imperial Captree Counters," (L to R) Doug Futuyma, Michael Cooper, Patricia Lindsay and Shai Mitra
MIDDLE RIGHT: Three-time defending champions, "Pteam Ptarmigan" (L to R) Tim Dunn, Pete Morris, John Gluth and (behind camera) Taylor Sturm
BOTTOM: Katerina Mennecke of "Team Mennecke" getting a good look at a Tufted Titmouse at Elizabeth Morton Wildlife Refuge