The Gloucester County Nature Club is hosting its annual Bird Quest on May 4 throughout the county for novice and experienced bird-spotters alike.
The quest can start anywhere within the county, however, events coordinator Brian Hayes said the “hot spots” to find the most variety in birds are at Riverwinds in West Deptford, along the Delaware River and in Tall Pines State Preserve in Mantua, which blends into Wenonah’s forest. Niche species, he added, can be spotted in Glassboro Woods.
From 7 a.m. until noon, groups of people venture in to the various woods for a friendly competition to see who can identify the most birds. The event costs $15, which covers the cost of the commemorative T-shirt, lunch and prizes. No rain date is scheduled.
Hayes said people do not have to go by themselves as guided bus tours, starting at Wheelabrator Wildlife Refuge in Westville, and walks will be provided by the club.
“They join a bus – and that bus has some expert birders on it – and they point out the birds and use loaner binoculars and bird books so they’ll have everything they’ll need to participate,” said Hayes. “We have experts out there to help people identify what each bird looks and sounds like so they’re not totally on their own and looking at the book the entire time.”
The walks take place in Wheelabrator, Tall Pines and West Deptford Nature Trail.
Teams can come from schools, Boy and Girl Scout troops, families, experts or singles.
The friendly competition ends around noon when teams reconvene at Wheelabrator to compare the birds they found and see who found the most.
The most birds spotted by a person or a group was around 112, according to Hayes, and the most seen in the event was 155. The club trusts spotters to let them know how many different types of birds they spotted, and the person who found the most wins a small prize.
“We chose this time of the year because it’s a big migration time,” said nature club president Karen Kravchuck. “Lots of warblers come through. It’s something we started forever ago. It’s been over 20 years since we’ve been doing this, and it’s a great morning of birding.”
Leading up to the Bird Quest, the nature club hosted free training sessions on the weekends for three weeks leading up to the event to teach the novice spotters about the native birds.
“If you’re out in the woods and you hear a bird, you may not know what species it is,” said Kravchuck. “Someone will be with you to help you identify what bird sings that song, and they can educate you on what the bird is, where you can find that bird in a tree and where in the county they frequent the most.”
Kravchuck added those who participate in the event are people who “have the same idea in mind” and seek to locate the bird, and keep them and their habitat safe and stable.
“If you get people outside and enjoying themselves, it will become important and people will realize the importance of protecting our nature,” said Kravchuck.
Hayes said the event allows for people to learn about the wildlife they can find in the county and to generally be excited about being outdoors.
“Anything that could get me outside and enjoying the outdoors and seeing the beautiful places around here is amazing,” said Kravchuck. “I’m not one of the expert birders. I’m a casual one and if I can learn something new outside, that’s great.”
For more information or to register for the event, visit GCNatureClub.org/BirdQuest. Registration for the event closes on May 3.