Date: 6/13/18 9:19 am
From: Robert DeCandido PhD <rdcny...>
Subject: [JERSEYBI] WSB - history (pre-dates 1952-53 at least)
The idea of a 24 hr big count (now called the World Series of Birding) pre-dates 1952-53, at least - see penultimate paragraph...:

April, 1953

With the warmer spring weather, and with the northward migration of millions of birds, two of our writers are beginning to hear more questions about their favorite spare-time activity-prowling the woods and fields looking at birds, counting them, imitating their calls and studying their habits. For them it is an all-weather, year-round pastime which calls for old clothes, field glasses and an abundant knowledge of bird lore. They know, for instance, that a robin sings, not because he is happy, but because he has just staked out a claim to a clump of trees or a bride, and his song is a chirp-on-shoulder challenge to the rest of the robin community.

The two writers, longtime members of the nation's fast-growing legion of field birders, * are Gilbert Cant and George Daniels. Why do they study birds? Both are a little vague on the subject, except to say that, once they started doing it, they liked it so well that they kept at it. Cant began as a small boy in England, where he saved the illustrated cards that came in packages of cigarettes. There was one series on birds. Says he: "That got me interested, and I started hiking around the countryside and beaches of England. I got dozens of books on birds from the public library. I guess the satisfaction of birding starts with actually seeing the birds that one has read about."

Daniels' initiation was somewhat more opportunistic. He was keeping company with a girl whose father was a serious ornithologist, and who once asked Daniels if he liked birds. "Sure, I love birds," answered Daniels diplomatically. So the girl's father took him along on a birding excursion, and Daniels has been fascinated with the sport ever since. (He also married the girl, no birder herself.)

Both Cant and Daniels are members of the Urner Ornithological Club in New Jersey. Cant, who was president of the club for two years, credits the late Charles Anderson Urner, for whom the club is named, for bringing him "out of the dickey-bird stage." Cant has never totaled the birds he has seen on four continents and dozens of Pacific islands, but he was once a member of a party that sighted the only western grebe ever seen in New Jersey. Daniels has a "life list" of some 800 different species. They include about 100 he has seen in Europe and 50 more on a recent trip to Jamaica.

Cant, who is now training one of his two sons in the sport, has also organized an "area count" in the national Christmas census of bird tabulation of the numbers and kinds of birds in various areas in early winter. A similar count will be made next month. Last year Cant, Daniels and James Baird, a graduate student in ornithology at Rutgers University, set out to break the record of 173 species of birds seen in one 24-hr, period in New Jersey. They found 169, ran out of time. They tried again, and this time they ran into some zealous police in Chatham, N.J. The birding team, whistling to attract screech owls, was walking around behind a gas station, carrying flashlights and dressed for tramping through salt marshes, when the cops noticed them. For about 20 minutes the birders showed various identification papers, repeatedly swore that they were only looking for birds, and gave references. But the police were adamant; two homes in the vicinity had been broken into that night. !
Finally, when Baird produced a Government bird-collecting permit from Daniels' car, the police reluctantly released them.

The hazards of birding are not confined to such unexpected brushes with the law. Daniels and Baird once saw the only spurred towhee [Spotted Towhee Pipilo maculates] ever identified on the East Coast. To pin down the discovery, Baird got out his .410-gauge shotgun. Daniels worked around to the other side of the bird, moving it closer to Baird, but was obscured from Baird by the foliage. Finally Baird said he was going to shoot. A faithful birder to the end, Daniels covered his face with gloved hands, bravely replied: "Go ahead." Daniels was peppered with fine dust shot, but the towhee got away. The next day Baird went out with a 12-gauge shotgun, brought down the bird and sent it to the U.S. Fish and Wild Life Service. Daniels, happily, was out of range at the time.

Cordially yours,

James A. Linen
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* Most field birders defer to their more scientific brethren, refuse to call themselves field ornithologists. They also feel that the more common lay term of birdwatcher is undignified and inaccurate, and would be more appropriately applied to "dickey birders," who retain the fledgling illusion that birds sing because they are happy.


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