Shaver’s Creek Birding Cup connects people from around the globe in new way

May 19, 2020

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Tim Kasten logged in from Kenya. Brad Hammerschmidt joined from Australia. The two were among a group of more than 275 people who connected to the outdoor world in a new way thanks to Shaver’s Creek Environmental Center.

Shaver’s Creek — Penn State’s outdoor education field lab and nature center — hosted its annual Birding Cup in early May virtually for the first time, in response to the coronavirus pandemic. The event normally attracts teams of birders living in central Pennsylvania, but this year, the virtual offering brought together 276 people from 21 U.S. states and four countries to identify different bird species.

Kasten, who lives in Nairobi in the East African country, joined a team of former Peace Corps volunteer friends from Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C. He said he woke up to texts from his teammates in the U.S., and they provided him all the motivation he needed during the day.

“I was up and out by dawn, back home for short breakfast, then out again with packed lunch and non-stop to sundown,” said Kasten, who walked 17 miles in nearly 11 hours. “Being connected to the other birders kept me going. I could not stop," he said.

Total Birding Cup numbers from the weekend included:

  • Birder groups: 86
  • Individual birders: 276
  • U.S. states: 21 and Washington, D.C.
  • Countries: Canada, Italy, Kenya, Australia
  • Total number of species: 419
  • Individual birds: 42,561
Man in forest

Tim Kasten participated in the Birding Cup from Nairobi, Kenya.

IMAGE: Photo provided by Tim Kasten

In previous years, birders identified around 200 species per year, and participation came from approximately 18 teams and 125 individuals.

Hammerschmidt said he decided to participate in the Birding Cup after his sister from Rochester, Minnesota, invited him. He said it was a great way to connect with loved ones during difficult times.

“Despite being half a world away, it was really nice to be able to share this experience with my family,” said Hammerschmidt, who lives in Canberra, Australia. “I hope that one of the silver linings of this is that people will slow down and not live such busy lives. As I was looking for birds, I wondered how much of nature’s beauty I miss because of it.”

For Kasten, who identified 32 species, there was almost the one that got away.

“The Pin-tailed Whydah was my favorite of the day, but I was still searching for the Gray Crowned Crane at dusk, hoping to top off my day,” he said. “It was getting dark, and I was just about to give up, having missed the pair in their usual place, just when they flew overhead. It was a great end to a great day!”

Visit the Shaver’s Creek Environmental Center website for more information on the Birding Cup.

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated May 19, 2020