Much like Duplicate Bridge, this sport removes some of the luck factor in birdwatching and adds a competitive edge.
The game takes place in a large park, rural area, or wildlife refuge. Before the game, the "director" sets up 10 to 20 stations in different places around the park. The stations
should be arranged more or less in a circle, so that station #20 is close to station #1.
The director stays in the center of the park with a flute.
Just as in duplicate bridge, you birdwatch with a partner, and each partnership is assigned "east" or "north" plus a number which tells them what station to start at.
Everyone then goes to their starting stations.
When the flute sounds [flutes can be heard far and wide], the birding begins! At each station, the easts and norths race to be the first ones to spot the best bird in the area. Whoever "calls" a bird first gets credit for it. Only the best bird is scored. A list of the point values for each bird is provided at each station. (Placed there beforehand by the director)
After 5 minutes, the flute sounds again and the four birdwatchers have to write down the final score. There is a sheet of paper at each station where you write your result, e.g.
East (0 pts) North (3 pts) White-throated Sparrow
Both opposing partnerships have to agree on the bird and the score before it is written down. Any problems, call the director (hope the bird is still there when he gets there!) But birders are nice people; there shouldn't be too many disagreements. This is not bridge, after all!
Then, you fold up the paper so the next people who get to that station don't know what you saw, and you move to the next station.
Norths move to the next station higher, while Easts move to the next station lower. This way, you birdwatch with different people at every station.
Later in the game, when you go to write down your score, you will see the logs of the previous birders who had been there. This is where you can feel real pride if you are the only one to have seen a belted kingfisher and everyone else only got sparrows, or the disappointment when you check out with a starling and find that 5 out of 7 opponents saw a pileated woodpecker when they were there! Birds move around, so there is indeed some luck involved. But there is also skill, as sometimes you get opponents who are real birding experts, and you need to beat them to the i.d.
After the final round, everyone takes the station logs and brings them to the director's desk. The director tallies up the scores for each partnership, notifies the rare bird hotline if any rarities were recorded, and awards the prizes for the highest scoring partnerships.
And even if all you saw was starlings and pigeons, a fun day was had by all.