Former Brookstone student to compete in international bird-watching event

lgierer@ledger-enquirer.comMay 6, 2014 

Former Brookstone student Andrew Dreelin will be competing Saturday in the 31st annual World Series of Birding.

"It's really exciting to be able to participate in this," he said of the event in Cape May, N.J., which brings in bird watchers from around the world.

Dreelin is a 19-year-old freshman at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., where he's studying ecology and evolutionary biology.

He has been a bird watcher for four years.

"When you tell someone you are a bird watcher, there are usually some laughs," he said.

He recalled getting some laughs at a visit to a medical office when he told the doctor what he had been doing on a visit to Florida. The doctor said that is not why most young people go to Florida.

"I saw some wonderful birds there," Dreelin said.

He first gained an interest in birds after listening to instructor Sam Pate at Brookstone.

"He opened my mind. I had to go see for myself," Dreelin said. "I love the incredible diversity of birds. It is just astonishing to me. The crazy colors and shapes."

Dreelin is on one of three teams being sent to the competition by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. There will be 15 students competing in three divisions.

The teams will attempt to top all competitors by identifying the largest number of different bird species in a 24-hour period. There likely will be more than 200 species identified.

"Some of the birds you identify by sight. At night, you have to identify them by sound," Dreelin said.

A rule of the competition is that 95 percent of the birds identified by a team must be seen or heard by every member.

One Cornell team will look for species throughout the state, another will look for birds throughout Cape May County, and one will stay in one spot the entire time.

Dreelin will be in the "Big Stay" category. "We will be in one spot within a 17-foot radius the entire time," Dreelin said.

The competition is also a fundraiser as the team tries to raise money for bird studies and conservation.

Since 2007, Cornell teams have raised more than $100,000 in donations. Overall, the competition has raised about $9 million since 1984.

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