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World Series Of Birding Is Truly International This Year

May 17, 1987

OCEANVILLE, N.J. (AP) _ Ogled by mystified tourists, four frantic British bird watchers didn’t even notice the scene they created at the marshy wildlife sanctuary in this coastal community.

″Stop and scan 3/8 Stop and scan 3/8″ shouted Jeff Delve, a member of ″The B- Team″ participating in this year’s World Series of Birding, a competition to see who can spot and identify the most species of birds in a set time.

At the wheel of their car, Richard Crossley skidded to a stop and the British birders jumped out. They set up tripods for their heavy binoculars on the hood and shouted the names of several species they spotted, and in less than 30 seconds, Chris Abrams said, ″Carry on, chaps.″

Sixty seconds later, the four stuck their torsos out of the car windows and scanned another section of the marshlands. It looked like a scene from a manic Monty Python skit.

Several more sedate bird watchers at the sanctuary grinned in amusement as the Britons started shouting species again.

The fourth annual competition drew 27 teams, mostly from the East Coast, and lasted from midnight Friday to midnight Saturday. Competitors in the event sponsored by the New Jersey Audubon Society could go anywhere in the state.

The Britons faced a special challenge as the first foreign team to compete. They studied up on American species all last week and carried copies of ″A Guide to Bird Finding in New Jersey″ and ″Birds of North America″ just in case.

When the winners were announced Sunday, the Britons had tied for fifth, spotting 187 species. The winners, the Bushnell Optics-Chapman Club team from Easton, Pa., spotted 205 species.

By the time the Britons reached the sanctuary in this small coastal community, they had sighted or heard dozens of species from robins and gallinules to screech owls and pine warblers.

″Now we’re an hour behind. There was a big jam on the freeway,″ said teammate Ron Johns, referring to the congested Garden State Parkway.

The B-Team, as the four called themselves, wore T-shirts with a British flag and a toucan, one of the tropical rain forest birds they are trying to protect through the International Council for Bird Preservation.

But what does B-Team stand for?

″The Blind Team,″ Johns said. ″The Broke Team,″ Abrams added. ″The Best Team,″ Delve piped in.

″The Biggest Team,″ Crossley said, turning his head away from the wheel.

A car loomed ahead and Crossley’s companions shouted a warning just in time to avoid a rear-end collision.

″Make that the ’Bang Team,‴ Abrams said.

The fanatical four climbed a viewing tower in the sanctuary and set up their tripods.

″It’s a ruddy duck,″ Delve said. ″And a black duck. We still need a green-winged teal.″

They raced back to the car, binoculars banging against their chests.

Stuck behind a slow-moving van of elderly bird watchers, Crossley shouted impatiently through the sun roof, ″Come on, lads.″

Seconds later, another stop-and-scan.

″There’s a willet,″ Delve said.

″Add a snowy egret. And a brant, over there by the tall left-hand hotel,″ Crossley said, pointing to a casino hotel across the bay in Atlantic City.

Off they went again, with a quick stop to jump out and shake hands with the National Geographic team, nearly leaving Abrams behind when they sped away, eventually racing off to Cape May on the southern tip of the state to look for more species.

″Listen. Do you hear that? I think I hear a seaside sparrow,″ Delve said. Four heads immediately popped out of the car windows.

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