Conservation, birds and about 100 young Georgia birders all benefited from the 2011 Youth Birding Competition.
The 24-hour birding event held Saturday and Sunday, April 16-17, drew some 25 teams of contestants from preschool-ages to teens. They spotted scores of bird species and raised nearly $1,500 for conservation organizations. Fundraising is a voluntary component of the competition.
The Country Cuckoos, four brothers and a first cousin from Bainbridge, saw or heard 133 species to win the overall competition, checking birding hotspots across the state and overcoming a windy Saturday evening that kept many birds quiet. Member Josiah Austinson found a silver lining in the blustery weather. “It saved us from the mosquitoes,” he said smiling.
The reward for competition coordinator Tim Keyes, a Georgia Wildlife Resources Division biologist, is the “increase of new faces every year … (and) the return of repeat teams, which shows they’re getting hooked!”
The Youth Birding Contest is aimed at cultivating an interest in wildlife and conservation. Sponsors include The Environmental Resources Network Inc. (TERN), the Audubon Society, the Georgia Ornithological Society and others.
T-shirts worn by birders and team leaders at the banquet and awards ceremony at Charlie Elliott Wildlife Center Sunday featured the artwork of Rosemary Kramer of The Rock community in Upson County. The red-breasted nuthatch by Kramer, an eighth-grader at Upson Lee Middle School, proved the grand-prize winner in the event’s T-shirt Contest.
Coordinator Linda May said judges chose four division winners from among 166 drawings and paintings of native Georgia birds. Kramer’s entry led the middle school category. “I'm so excited to see all of these kids enjoying birds, whether it's through birdwatching or creating artwork,” May said. “They're gaining a much better understanding and appreciation of nature than I had at that age.”
The 2012 Youth Birding Competition is set for April 27-28. The annual competition and art contest are free. This year’s bird-a-thon started at 5 p.m. Saturday and ended at 5 p.m. Sunday. Groups used as much as of that time as they wanted to count bird species throughout the state. But teams had to arrive at the “finish line” at Charlie Elliott Wildlife Center near Mansfield by 5 p.m. Sunday.
2011 Youth Birding Competition Winners
Overall and high school division – Country Cuckoos (133 species)
Middle – Chaotic Kestrels (116)
Elementary – Eagle Maniacs (94 species)
Primary – Little Chickadees (38 species)
1. Birding Brothers, raising $516.
2. Country Cuckoos ($360)
3. Atlanta Wood Thrushes ($200)
The money goes to conservation groups chosen by the teams.
Top Rookie Teams (first-year teams)
High school – G’Nats 1 (90 species)
Primary – Daisy Ducks 1/prime time (37 species)
High school – Anna Hamilton
Middle – Emmilyn Wade
Elementary – Madeline Studebaker
Primary – Dalton Gibbs
T-shirt Art Contest
1. Primary division (out of 54 entries): Jordan Beam of Newborn, second-grader at Piedmont Academy (barn owl drawing)
2. Elementary school division (89 entries): Hanka Kirby of Cumming, fifth-grader at Chattahoochee Elementary (cardinal drawing)
3. Middle school division (19 entries): Rosemary Kramer of The Rock, eighth-grader at Upson Lee Middle School (red-breasted nuthatch painting). Kramer also was the grand-prize winner.
4. High school division (four entries): Taylor Green of Covington, 12th-grade homeschooler (white-eyed vireo painting)
Art contest division winners received $50 gift cards to Michael's. The grand-prize winner received a $100 gift card to Michael’s and their artwork was used for the 2011 Youth Birding Competition T-shirt.