Well, this is well outside of my normal comfort zone, but I will be heading to New Jersey in May to participate in the World Series of Birding.
For almost 40 years, the WSB has raised money via the participation of teams of five or six birders, competing in various categories as they try to rack up the top species counts in a 24-hour period. This year’s event, on Saturday May 14, will feature something totally new: a team comprised entirely of birders that have various access challenges. There will be six of us on Team Nuthatch.
Readers of this blog know that I suffer from a retinal disease that has taken about 98% of my visual field; that last 2% remains priceless for me, and I am thankful every day that I continue to have it. So I feel very honored to get to do this Big Day alongside Jerry Berrier, a devoted birder from Massachusets that has been totally blind since birth.
Two other teammates will be coming from the New England area, including Nicole Neigel, who is autistic and struggles with Chronic Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS). She works in the fields of bird rehabilitation and education and is very active with Birdability as an organization, as well as acting locally to improve accessibility opportunities. Meghadeepa Maity is a neurodivergent, Bengali, immigrant, queer woman and trauma survivor, with multiple invisible disabilities, that has developed a different set of observation skills because traditional optics have become problematic. Science nerdiness will be well represented on Team Nuthatch: Meghadeepa and I are both physicists.
Freya McGregor, the endless energy source that powers Birdability, will be on the team. She is also an Occupational Therapist specializing in blindness and low vision, and deals with a ‘dodgy’ knee difficulty that often impacts her mobility. And of course Virginia Rose, the founder of Birdability and a manual wheelchair user, will be our leader. She is the most inspirational person I have had the honor of knowing. I met her in Texas last year and can’t wait to actually go out in the field with her.