In this place that I am living, there is a competition known as “The Birding Cup”, in which teams with ridiculous names compete to see or hear the largest number of bird species in a 24 hour period; you need the consensus of 75% of your group to count the bird.
This competition is for the nerdiest of bird nerds, my friends.
Naturally, I have participated in this competition 3 times.
Well, to be specific, I compete in a special subset of the Birding Cup, known as the Birding Boot. For the Cup, you can drive anywhere in the county, for the Boot, you are not allowed to use any mechanized vehicle (bicycle or foot only).
I have always been a member of the team known as the Timberdoodles, which is a ridiculous pet name for the American Woodcock (a rather odd looking bird that sings with its wings in a mating spiral).
Now, of the nerdy bird nerds, we are the nerdiest.
Our team gets more skilled at identification every year. We identified 23 warbler species last year, 12 of which we identified by song alone (the difference between zee-zee-zoo-zeet and zee-zee-zoo-zoo is critical). We brush up on our prowess until we can ID a bird 30 meters high in a conifer.
We also get more intense, birding until 2 am the first night, throwing up tents and crashing for 2 hours before getting up at 4 am to start birding again. Last year we hiked 21 km (13 mi) before lunch on 2 hours of sleep. (good times, good times)
At the end of the day, there is an award ceremony with obnoxious noise makers that make me want to dash off into the woods for another few nights.
Now, my team, in all its nerdiness, used to win the Boot every year (being the only team competing, ahem), until…until, those gosh-darned Red-rumped Irruptives started coming to town.
The Red-rumped Irruptives is a three man team of birders that drives down from Maine each year to compete. I use the term “man” loosely here; they are actually giants that stand 2.5 meters tall and have huge lumberjack beards and they can bike thousands of kilometres each day and, and…okay, I’m exaggerating. But they do make us look pretty puny.
And ever since they started coming down, they’ve won the Boot every year.