[The following evert summary was prepared by Pat Lindsay and Shai Mitra]
The Seatuck Long Island Birding Challenge was held on Saturday, September 26, 2020. While it was the seventh edition of the annual event, it was a Birding Challenge like no other. The Covid-19 pandemic forced significant revisions to the event’s rules to ensure participant safety.
The changes included a requirement that each team restrict its activities to a single county (or in the case of sprawling Suffolk County, to either the four western towns or the more easterly towns). The changes also included a relaxation of the requirement for team members to travel and bird together.
In combination, these changes improved overall coverage of the island and yielded a collective tally of 194 species, 10 more than the previous highest annual total for this event. This achievement is even more notable for having been made on a significantly later date and on a much less active migration day than that of the previous high tally.
Also notable was the teams’ failure, for the first time in seven challenges, to add any new species to the cumulative species list, which still stands at 235. This is further evidence of the overall thoroughness of the teams this year in detecting uncommon, hard to find, and localized species, even in the absence of rarities.
There were 8 teams in the field, with a total of 29 participants, and each of the five designated areas was represented. As noted above, it was not a major flight day, but the weather was mostly very benign all day long, without heavy winds or other impediments to birding effort. It was 63-75 F, overcast with good visibility in most places early, then warming up with sun. The biggest issue was patchy fog in the morning that reduced visibility for some.
Area champions were as follows:
• Brooklyn: Rails Against the Machine (Shane Blodgett, Rob Jett, Heydi Lopes, Tom Preston, and Mike Yuan) – 108 species.
• Queens: Ladybyrders (Mary Normandia, Lisa Scheppke, Amy Simmons, Meryl Ackley, and Phil Ribilow) – 111 species
• Nassau: The Classic Birders (Tim Healy, Matt Klein, Ryan Mandelbaum, and Stephane Perreault) – 139 species
• Western Suffolk: Pteam Ptarmigeddon (Tim Dunn, John Gluth, Pete Morris, and Taylor Sturm) – 141 species
• Eastern Suffolk: Masked Tityras (Patricia Lindsay, Shai Mitra, Mike Cooper and Doug Futuyma) – 130 species
Three additional teams covered Eastern Suffolk: The Bushwackers (Richard Gostic and Bob McGrath), Savage Trackers (Stephen and Bob Savage), and The TWIN ROSE breasted Grosbeaks (Raina Angelier, Cayla, Iris and Craig Rosenhagen).
Pteam Ptarmigeddon’s 141 species earned them The Twitcher’s Trophy as the overall winning team. The “Pteam” has competed in the Challenge with the same members every year, won the trophy the first three years, and is now back on top.
Every team had a least one “save,” which is a species not recorded by any other team. Tied for third in saves were Pteam Ptarmigeddon and The Classic Birders, with 5 saves each. Second place went to Ladybyrders with 6 saves. The winner of the informal Hunters’ Hoard award (a cache of canned spinach, creamed corn, cream of mushroom soup, cling peaches, sardines, and Fancy Feast ) was the Masked Tityras, with 11 saves!
We hope to see everybody back out in the field next year, under less stressful circumstances.