Every year in mid-May, zealous birders everywhere hold contests
to see how many birds they can find. Some bird clubs call
it their “Big Day,” but Sullivan County Audubon
calls it “Break-a-100.” Here are some Q
& A about this event.
Q: What is the point
A: It is a fun contest
where participants see how many species of birds they can
find in the county in a 24-hour period, hoping to find more
than 100 species. It is a challenge that birders take in order
to improve their birding skills, and they do it because it
Q: Why is it held in
A: Because the peak of
spring migration occurs near that time. The winter birds are
mostly gone, though a few may linger, and the spring birds
have mostly arrived. Therefore there are more different kinds
of birds present in the county than at any other time of the
year. (Of course weather factors may make the migration early
or late, and we just make our best guess by selecting a weekend
Q: Why is it held on
A: There is nothing here
that is anti-Mother. We simply pick the weekend closest to
mid-May, and unfortunately that means that in some years we
have picked Mother’s Day. (Actually, some Mothers think
that looking for birds is a great thing to do on their day.)
Q: Is this a national
event sponsored by the Audubon Society or some other group?
A: No, this is a local
event held by individual bird clubs. The information gathered
is kept locally and is published in our newsletter.
Q: How many kinds of
birds were found on “Break-a-100” in 2002?
A: Four teams participated,
and Scott Graber’s team led the pack with 126 species,
closely followed by Renee Davis and John Haas with 124 species. Check
out the results of all our past “Break-a-100”
Q: Is it essential to
do this with a team?
A: Yes. It helps a great
deal to have more eyes looking, and you will see and hear
many more kinds if you are with another birder. And it’s
more fun! Also, if you find a rarity (as seems to happen almost
every year) it is essential to make sure that someone else
sees it to confirm the identification. For these reasons,
we require participants in our “Break-a-100” to
have at least one partner. (Of course, anyone can count birds
for practice, to see how many they can find, without having
a partner or a team.)
Q: Do you have to see
the bird to put it on your list, or does hearing it count?
A: You can list both heard
birds and birds seen. (You should get a CD or tape of bird
songs to help with this!)
Q: How can I participate?
A: If you are a member
of Sullivan County Audubon Society, contact
Break-a-Hundred Results 6/30/13
Congratulations to the team of Kathy Scullion, Scott Graber, Bill Cutler, and Beth Barker, who found the highest number of species (115)! Other teams close behind were the Scott Baldinger/Danny Messina team (113), John Haas team (Arlene Borko, Lance Verderame, Maura & Truth Muller,111) and Renee Davis/Ruth McKeon team (107). Other teams included Valerie Freer, Mary Collier, Rick Bunting, and Gloria Wagenknecht (94 species) and Ruth McKeon and Ruth Shursky (87 species).
The combined total of species found was 138. The most recent counts that yielded a total that low were in 2004 (136) and 2003 (138). During the last eight years from 2005 to 2012 our totals were higher, ranging from 147 to 156, so your impression that there were not as many birds to be seen as usual seems correct. Certainly weather is a critical variable in these events and sporadic rain on Saturday interfered with bird activity and the efforts of several teams.
The idea that we were doing this count too early in May (May 10 to 12) is not supported by some earlier Break-a-100 results: in 2008 we found 148 species on the May 9 to 11 count. Also, our earliest count in the past 20 years was in 2009, when we found 149 species from May 8 to 10.
Kathy Scullion's team (the "gourmet food team") found the only Goshawk of the event along Rt 42 near Grahamsville, and the only Great Homed Owl (atop a light pole at SCCC), plus a Meadowlark at Neversink Reservoir (along with a Savannah Sparrow and a Harrier). Scott Baldinger and Danny Messina found the only Red-throated Loon (at Neversink Res), a Marsh Wren along Haven Road, Lesser Yellowlegs at deli fields, Willow Flycatcher, Golden-crowned Kinglet and Hooded Warbler at the Nature Trail, and Orchard Oriole at the orchard. John Haas' team found the only Hooded Merganser (over Haven Rd), Least Sandpipers in the grasses at Apollo Plaza, and the only Brown Creeper near McDonald Rd. Renee's team saw the only Pipits (2) at Morningside and the only Cape May Warblers near
Pine Siskins are not usually common on a Big Day Count, but this year five of our six teams found groups of them at feeders from Parksville, Hasbrouck, Summitville and the Bashakill, or in a flock at the deli fields. Warblers are more expected, and we found 22 different species, not a remarkable number. All birders missed the following: Pheasant, Ruffed Grouse, Kestrel, both Cuckoos; Alder & 4 other species of flycatcher; Winter Wren, Cedar
Waxwing, Golden-winged, Tennessee, Nashville, Palm, Bay-breasted, Blackpoll, Mourning and Wilson's warblers; Lincoln's and Vesper sparrows.
The first prize for the Break-a-100 is a huge trophy, which is now being engraved, and then will be put in the mail to the top team. One-way trips to major birding locations will go to the other teams.
Twenty one people in seven teams searched Sullivan County's fields and skies on Mother's Day weekend, looking and listening for every kind of bird. Their efforts were rewarded with a great combined list of 149 species, a total exceeded only twice in the past 20 years. Each team had a favorite area or two they searched, but the major part of their day was spent at the Bashakill and nearby hot spots in the valley. Warblers were the main feature this year, as usual, with 27 species found in all. A couple of fall-outs in the first week of May brought huge numbers of migrating birds along with concern that our Break-a-100 would be too late this year, but it clearly was not.
In only their third year of participation in this event, Scott Baldinger's team was able to tie the highly experienced Gourmet team. Each team found 120 species in a tie. The high-powered Baldinger team consisted of Scott, Deb Powell, Joyce Depew, Lee Hunter and Mark Diedrich. They found the only Blue-winged Teal, Greater Yellowlegs, Semipalmated Sandpipers, Ring-billed Gulls, Tennessee Warblers, Bay-breasted Warblers, and Orchard Oriole. They walked over 8 miles! And they found 24 kinds of warblers.
The Gourmet team (named for the exotic snacks they always bring on the count) of Kathy Scullion, Scott Graber and Beth Barker found the only Green Heron and Great Horned Owl, plus 22 kinds of warblers.
Two other teams also "broke a hundred:" John Haas' team (John, Lance Verderame and Arlene Borko) had 116 species including the only Sharp-shinned Hawk and Lincoln's Sparrow plus 21 warbler species, and Renee Davis' team (Renee, Marge Gorton & Ruth McKeon) found 113 species including the only Ruffed Grouse, Lesser Yellowlegs, Black-billed Cuckoo and Acadian Flycatcher plus 16 kinds of warblers. The not-so-ruthless team of Shursky and McKeon (Ruth and Ruth) produced a fine list of birds and came close to breaking 100, but only 11 kinds of warblers were found.
Last year we introduced a second division in this event, the Environmentally Green Division which focuses on using little or no gas in finding the birds. This year two teams participated. The Kate & Charles Hyden team, along with Gloria Wagenknecht, found 46 species in 8 hours, reporting the only Ring-necked Duck, while driving only 12.1 miles (on foot the rest of the time). They easily won this competition by finding 3.8 birds per mile driven. The Freer team, including Mary Collier, found 60 species in 6 hours but drove much more (34.5 miles). They came in last place with only 1.7 birds per mile driven, but they were rewarded by finding the only Palm Warblers (2) and the only Olive-sided Flycatcher.
Another SCAS “Break-a-100" contest is now in the books. Twenty birders on seven teams spread out over the county during the mid-May weekend, carefully recording every kind of bird they came upon, and we are pleased to report that every team “Broke-a-100”– meaning that they found 100 or more kinds of birds during a 24-hour period. This remarkable achievement by every team attests to the high level of birding skills, perseverance, and their knowledge of where to find each species in the county.
Occasional showers on Saturday and rain off and on on Sunday made the task more difficult. We heard many comments to the effect that the peak of migration had passed a week or more before. In spite of these handicaps, we were delighted to find that the combined results of all teams reached 156 species, five more than we had ever had before (151 in 2007)! Another remarkable feature of this contest is the number of species found by every team – 65 species!
Congratulations to the top team, finding 124 species (John Haas, Arlene Borko, and Lance Verderame), birding all day on Saturday. They found 8 unique species: the only Sora (at Haven Rd), Semipalmated Plover at Brown’s Hotel pond, Herring Gull at Neversink Reservoir, Great Horned Owl at the Main boat launch, Fish Crow at Wurtsboro, Golden-cr Kinglet at Cooley Rd bog, Golden-winged W at the deli fields trail, and Blackpoll W. Their closest competition came from the Scullion/Graber/Cutler team, who recorded 119 species, including the
only Blue-winged Teal (at Briscoe), a Pheasant at WS Spr, and a Great Egret at the Nature Trail. The Haas/Borko team (on Friday the 13th) found 110 species, including the only Sharp-shinned Hawk and Saw-whet Owl. Only one species behind, the Davis/Gorton/McKeon team found 109 kinds, including the only Broadwings at Renee’s house, two Gr. Black-backed Gulls over the Bashakill, a Mourning Warbler at the Nature Trail, and a Wilson’s Warbler at WS Spr. Team Baldinger (plus Hunter/Powell/Depew) reported 107 species, including the only Ruffed Grouse at Wolf Brook, Horned Grebe at Moosehead Cove and E Screech-Owl at South Rd. The other two teams finding 100 or more species consisted of Collier/Dechon/Bunting/Freer and McKeon/Shursky.
Each team drove many miles, from 95 mi to195 mi. We are pleased to announce that there was one other team that did not drive at all, and therefore was the most environmentally friendly team: Charles and Kate Hyden, who did the count on foot on and near their property. They found 28 species, not bad for a first effort, and are awarded the Break-a-100 GREEN ENVIRONMENTAL AWARD. We hope to organize other Green teams in this new category next year.
Another excellent big day in May migration was enjoyed by 7 teams during the weekend of May 14 to 16. This was the largest number of teams we have ever had in this event, up from 5 or 6 in recent years, and the highest number of participants (21). High winds kept the birds in hiding and made birding difficult on Saturday, but the weather was much more cooperative on Sunday, presenting the Sunday birders with an edge. (We do not want to detract from the considerable birding skills, great determination and good luck of the two winning teams, but in addition to those assets, they did most or all of their birding on Sunday.) One winning team with 121 species consisted of Renee Davis and Marge Gorton, and the other, also with 121 species, was led by Kathy Scullion and included Scott Graber, Beth Barker and Bill Cutler. Congratulations! Prizes are in the mail.
Every team contributed by finding at least one species not found by others. The Davis/Gorton team found the only Semipalmated Plovers and a Bay-breasted Warbler. The Scullion team had the only Cooper’s Hawk, Fish Crow, Swainson’s Thrush, Nashville and Worm-eating Warblers. The Ruth team (Shursky and McKeon) saw the only Golden-crowned Kinglet. The Freer/Collier team found the only Lesser Yellowlegs and a drumming Ruffed Grouse. John Haas’ Sunday team (102 sp) saw the only Tennessee Warbler, two Black Vultures over the Bashakill and heard 2 Great Horned Owls. Scott Baldinger (104 sp) led a team on Saturday including Paula Baldinger, Debbie Powell and Lee Hunter. They saw the only Sharp-shinned Hawk, Wilson’s Snipe and Ruby-crowned Kinglet, plus a hybrid, a Brewster’s Warbler. John Haas’ Saturday team found 114 species, including a 3 am Least Bittern heard from Haven Rd and a Raven. See Bird Notes in this issue for details on these sightings.
The combined total of 148 species was close to our all-time high of 151 species achieved in 2007. Many thanks to Ruth Shursky who once again hosted the count-down dinner on Sunday evening.
Our annual “Break-a-hundred” event on May
9-10 was a great success by any measure. Six teams (14
people) scoured all the best birding spots in the County,
and the birds cooperated. Surprisingly, 8 kinds of
ducks, 8 of hawks and 7 of shorebirds showed themselves,
along with 6 woodpeckers, 6 flycatchers, and an abundance
of warblers (26 kinds!).
Most of the teams did find over 100 species, and the Haas-Borko-Verderame
team led the pack with 131 species. Their very effective
two-part strategy was 1. to scout many areas in advance,
and 2. to start at 4 am on Haven Rd and to stay out until
9 pm the same day (17 hours total). Their total of 131
is the largest ever for this event, and it ties with their
own results of 2007. This team found the only Buffleheads,
Green-winged Teal, Pied-billed Grebe, N. Harrier, Cape
May Warbler, and Lincoln’s Sparrow.
The second team (Scullion-Barker-Graber-Cutler) found
120 species (a total that would have been the leader in
4 out of the last 7 years). They found the only Ruffed
Grouse, Barred Owl, Winter Wren and Worm-eating Warbler
of the weekend. And they clearly got the least sleep of
any team, since they were out for 21 hours total.
The Davis-Gorton team found 111 kinds of birds on Saturday
evening and Sunday, including the only Palm Warbler. The
Verderame-Haas team found 103 species on Sunday, including
the only Black Vultures, Blackpoll, and Orchard Orioles.
The Freer-Collier-Bunting team of relaxed birders came
up with Least Sandpipers, a Nashville Warbler and an uncountable
hybrid (Brewster’s type). The Two Ruths team (Shursky
and McKeon) contributed a Great Egret at Morningside and
Cedar Waxwings at Wurtsboro plus many other birds.
The combined lists of all teams added up to 149 species,
not the highest we have had, but second only to 151 species
Congratulations to all who participated. The target for all to aim at is 131
species. Wait until next year!
Break-a-Hundred Results: Every Team Wins!
Our 2008 Break-a-Hundred event was great fun and a success
by any measure. For the first time ever, all six of the
participating teams not only "broke a hundred" but did
even better than that: every team found at least 110
kinds of birds in the county! The two winning teams
(it was a tie) each found "only" 118 species, so there
was a difference of only 8 species between the shortest
and the longest lists. A total of 18 people on six teams
searched in their favorite local places during any 24-hour
period of the May 9 to 11 weekend.
The (tied) Grand Prize goes to the team of Renee Davis
and Marge Gorton who found 118 species, including the only
Brant, Northern Harrier, Least Sandpiper and Eastern Meadowlark
of the weekend. The Co-winners, also with 118 species,
were the team of John Haas, Lance Verderame, Arlene Borko
and Ed Debellevue, who started their day at 3:30 am on
Saturday. They found the only Sora of the event.
An enthusiastic team consisting of Valerie Freer, Mary
Collier, and two upstate visitors, Rick Bunting and Chris
Cumming, found 111 species. Patrick Dechon, who led an
even more enthusiastic team which included Jamie Lo and
Ruth McKeon, found 112 kinds. Another team with 112 species
consisted of John Haas, Bill Fiero, Lance Verderame, and
California visitor Ed DeBellevue. They searched all day
Sunday, and found 7 unique species: the only Hooded Merganser,
Cooper's Hawk, Pectoral Sandpiper, Bonaparte's Gull, Worm-eating
Warbler, Hooded Warbler, and Golden-winged Warbler of the
event. They also found a bonus Lawrence's Warbler (a hybrid).
This team found the most warblers, 23 species, and therefore
win the "2008 Warbler Prize." (Most other
teams found only 17 kinds.)
The 6th team, sometimes called the "Gourmet Birders,"
consisted of Kathy Scullion, Beth Barker and guest David
Lemmon (plus Scott Graber for a few hours). They came up
with 110 species, including the only American Pipits of
When the lists were all tallied and combined, we came up
with a grand total of 148 species, the second highest we
have ever found (tied with 2005 and topped only by 151
species last year).
At the countdown dinner there was talk of re-naming this
event to "Break-a-110." After due consideration, we agreed
not to make the change, since even at that level, every
team would still be a winner.
Break-a-Hundred Results: New High Numbers
A total of 16 people participated in our annual peak of
spring migration count on May 12 & 13, coming up with
record-breaking results. Each of the six teams went to
their favorite bird spots in the county during a 24-hr
period of their choice, keeping a list of the kinds of
birds they encountered.
The winning team of John Haas, Lance Verderame and Arlene
Borko came up with 131 species, a new high for this event,
beating out the previous high of 130 species found twice
before: in 1998 (Scott Graber’s team) and 2005 (Renee
Davis’ team). Their winning strategy seems straightforward
enough: they started very early on Saturday (4 am) at the
Bashakill and worked longer than some other teams. It paid
off in a very early Least Bittern, plus a Goshawk, Hooded
Merganser, Snipe, Ring-necked Duck, Mourning Warbler, and
White-crowned Sparrow–all missed by the other teams.
Scott Graber’s team of Kathy Scullion, Beth Barker,
Bill Cutler, and Tim Redman found 120
species, including the only Black Vulture, Cerulean and
Worm-eating Warblers, and an amazing Snow Bunting! Renee
Davis and Marge Gorton found the only Brant, Meadowlark,
Black Tern, and Red-shouldered Hawk, tying with the
Collier/Freer/Dechon/Bunting team at 114 species. The latter
team was the only one to find a Bay-breasted Warbler, and
they had the largest list of warblers, 23.
John Haas and Lance Verderame competed as another team
again on Sunday (now called the “Tired Team”),
and their total was 104 species. They added a Northern
Harrier to the composite list. The “Ruth” team
of Shursky/McKeon found a very respectable 84 species on
Saturday and contributed the only Black-billed Cuckoo to
When we tallied the combined list for the weekend, we had
a grand total of 151 species, topping the previous high
of 148 species in 2005. We had very good weather, we are
learning more about the best places to find birds in Sullivan
County, and our skills are improving!
Report - 2006
May 12th through the14th this year had us on the edge of
our seats. Not often do we have to deal with cool weather
with the threat of showers for our annual May event. This
year we had both. Temperatures ranged from the high 40s to
the middle 60s with cloud cover and drizzle most of the time.
That didn’t stop us though, fifteen of us managed to
find many birds that just migrated in the night before. We
did not find high numbers of birds but were able to find many
Ruth McKeon and Ruth Shursky found the only Northern Harrier,
Merlin, Snow Goose and Pine Siskin in the county that weekend.
My teammates Arlene Borko, Phyllis Jones and John Haas found
the only Lesser Yellowlegs, Cedar Waxwing, Cape May Warbler,
Meadowlark, and Orchard Oriole. Valerie Freer, Mary Collier,
Jamie Lo, and Patrick Dechon had the only Hooded Merganser
and Kestral. John Haas along with Jane and Bill Fiero found
a Willow Flycatcher, a Purple Martin, Marsh Wren, Mourning
Warbler and a Lincoln’s Sparrow. Scott Graber, Kathy
Scullion and Beth Barker found a Pied-billed Grebe, Dunlin,
a Barred Owl, Winter Wren, Brown Thrasher, and a Cerulean
The five teams clocked 828 miles among them. With the price
of gas these days that was an expense we never had to face
before. Ouch! Our grand total of species was 148, not bad
considering that migration seemed to be a little later than
usual. Team “Ruth” ended up finding 72 species,
team Freer found 110 species, team Haas found 117, team Davis
found 118 and the million dollar winning team---with only
two hours of sleep---Scott, Kathy and Beth with 118 species.
Congratulations, the check’s in the mail!
Report - 2005
Once again SCAS held our annual "Break-a-100" Day
in mid-May, and the weekend seemed to perfectly coincide with
the peak of migration. Four teams searched the county to find
as many kinds of birds as possible, and all came up with outstanding
The combined total for all teams (148 species) set a new
record for Sullivan County, beating the previous record of
146 species set in 1994 (and tied in 1996).
For the first time, every team not only "Broke-a-100"
but had high enough numbers to have been the winner in most
previous years. For example, John Haas and Arlene Borko found
119 kinds on Saturday, which was high enough to have beaten
every other team in four of the last five years! The gourmet
group (Scott Graber, Kathy Scullion, Beth Barker and Pete
Salmonsohn) came up with 125 species on Saturday; John Haas,
Arlene Borko & Bill Fiero found 128 on Sunday; and the
team of Renee Davis, Valerie Freer, Phyllis Jones and Ruth
Shursky found 130, winning the event and the coveted "Break-a-100"
trophy. (Their list of 130 species was not a new record; it
tied the record set by Scott Graber's team in 1998.)
We think that the numbers found in this event keep inching
upward because our birding skills have improved and we have
learned of more great places to look in the county, and besides,
we are just lucky. The best finds of the event included Lincoln's
and Grasshopper Sparrows, Acadian and Olive-sided Flycatchers,
Black Tern, Sora, Saw-whet Owl, Semipalmated Plover, and 26
kinds of warblers!
DAY CONTEST WINNERS - 2004
Our annual “Break-a-100" was held once again during
the weekend of May 15-16. Four teams were in the field
searching for every kind of bird they could find in the county.
The winning team with 112 species was led by Scott Graber.
His team (the “Gourmet Gobblers”) enjoys fine
snacking while birding; their menu this year included the
traditional vegetarian and crab sushi, black bean dip on onion
flatbread, organic fruit spritzers, brownies with peanut butter,
and other international treats. It is easy to see why
so many people want to be on this team.
We have a dynasty here! Scott and his team have won
the coveted “Break-a-100" trophy in 10 out of the
last 12 years. His total this year was low compared
to other years, but still was one more than the next team.
Scott has led many different team members over the years.
This year the team included Beth Barker, Kathy Scullion, John
Stowell, Pete Salmansohn, and Bob Andreucci.
The combined total for all teams was 136 species, the second
lowest compared to other years. Scott’s team found
23 species of warblers including the only Bay-breasted, Nashville,
and Worm-eating. John Haas and Bill Fiero added Hooded
and Canada to make a total of 25 warblers. (Every team
was able to find the Kentucky Warbler at Stonefields.)
We looked at the cumulative species list for the past 12
years and found that it now contains 189 species. Three
new species were added to that list this year: Semipalmated
Plover, Semipalmated Sandpiper, and Hooded Warbler–all
found by the John Haas/Bill Fiero team.
Other participants were Renee Davis, Valerie Freer, Dick
Hirschman, Phyllis Jones, and Ruth Shursky.