The 2017 Superbowl of Birding with The Twitchers

Posted on January 30, 2017
Twitchers 2017-sm

The 2017 Twitchers in the Rye (left to right): Andrea Robbins, Jeanne-Marie Maher, Becky Suomala, and captain Pam Hunt.

by Rebecca Suomala

CAPTION: The 2017 Twitchers in the Rye (left to right): Andrea Robbins, Jeanne-Marie Maher, Becky Suomala, and captain Pam Hunt.

The Twitchers in the Rye had great weather for a fun day in the Superbowl of Birding Saturday, January 28, 2017. The team had a total of 59 species and 93 points, right on average. Highlights included two species that were new for the Twitchers, a Barred Owl and a Common Merganser.

A Snowy Owl greeted them at dawn at Rye Harbor State Park where photographers were already on site. Despite some wind, the sea watching was good and they had no major misses in the expected sea birds, but landbirds quieted as the wind picked up in the late morning. Pledges of support helped encourage the team in the afternoon and they are grateful to all of their sponsors. Celebratory donations are still welcome.

Snowy Owl by Jeanne-Marie Maher 1-28-17

The Snowy Owl at Rye Harbor State Park photographed by Twitchers team member, Jeanne-Marie Maher.

The Superbowl of Birding competition involves looking for as many bird species as possible between 5:00am and 5:00pm and each species has a point value (five point maximum). It is run by Massachusetts Audubon’s Joppa Flats Education Center and teams can compete in Essex County, MA and/or Rockingham County, NH. The Twitchers in the Rye traditionally stay in just the town of Rye, NH and also raise money for two NH Audubon programs – New Hampshire Bird Records and NH eBird.

The team’s 59 species is exactly the same as the last two years and the average over the last nine years. The 93 points is close to the average of 97. Their highest species count is 63 species and 112 points in their first year (2009). The team started off with great promise when their owling efforts produced a Northern Saw-whet Owl and a Barred Owl, one of the new species for the Twitchers. The supposedly easier owls (Great Horned and Eastern Screech-Owl) were silent, but the spectacular Snowy Owl made up for that. They saw all of the typical ocean birds relatively easily and early in the day. They found two alcids without much trouble, Black Guillemot and Razorbill, which are usually hard to find! Andrea spotted the other new species, a Common Merganser on Eel Pond which was uncharacteristically ice-free. We had no five point birds, but we did have a four-point Ruby-crowned Kinglet at the same feeder where there was one last year.

This year it was the landbirds that were frustrating and we missed Carolina Wren after finding three during scouting. In the Superbowl, a species must been seen (or heard) by the majority of team members so we couldn’t count the Pileated Woodpecker heard by just Andrea and me, and the Cedar Waxwing flock that flew over the car invisible to Andrea and Jeanne-Marie in the back seat. Maybe we need a sun roof next year! The Wentworth by the Sea golf course produced an Iceland Gull late in the day and we ended with a Snow Bunting flying over Odiorne Point.

Thanks to everyone who sponsored us. It’s not too late to make a donation and support the Team! Donate on-line or send a check to NH Audubon, attn. Twitchers, 84 Silk Farm Rd., Concord, NH 03301. Questions? – contact Becky Suomala at rsuomala@nhaudubon.org or 603-224-9909 x309.

There will be a full write-up of all our adventures soon. Look for it on the New Hampshire Bird Records web site.