About 80 youth ages 4–18 took part in the 13th annual Department of Natural Resources birdathon, held from 5 p.m. Friday to 5 p.m. Saturday. Teams used as much of the 24-hour period as members wanted to count native bird species.
The Wood Thrushes were the overall winner with 161 species.
Team members Allan Muise of Lamar County, Nick Christian and Ewan Pritchard of Decatur, Philip Black of Atlanta, and Knox Evert of LaGrange scoured coastal-area sites such as Gould’s Inlet on St. Simons Island and Paulks Pasture Wildlife Management Area Friday, even searching late for owls and nightjars. After a short night at the home of a Brunswick couple who offered to host the team, the crew was up before dawn Saturday. They checked hotspots such as Altamaha Wildlife Management Area and Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge before checking in at Charlie Elliott Wildlife Center near Mansfield by 5 p.m.
Black, 15, said the team enjoyed “a really good first day, (counting) about 98 species.”
Much of the credit goes to the well-honed bird identifying skills of these teens. Thirteen-year-old Muise said with a grin that the team had “practiced for like a year.”
And while each member has a story about how they became interested in birds, for Pritchard, 15, it involved family trips outdoors and following in the footsteps of his older brother, Angus, also a Youth Birding Competition participant. “Angus was always into it,” he said. “Everything he learned, I learned.”
Competition coordinator Tim Keyes sees the event as hitting its mark—to encourage youth to learn about and enjoy birds, conservation and the outdoors. This was the first Youth Birding Competition for eight of the 27 teams. Added Keyes, “I like that we had participants mentoring new, younger teams.”
Case in point: Knox Evert received the 2018 mentor award. The high school senior not only competed with the champion Wood Thrushes, he helped the AAJ Eagles and The Cardinals prepare for the competition. Both were first-year teams. Each earned top rookie team honors in their divisions.
The interest is being passed along.
The event also featured a T-shirt art contest that drew 123 entries. Birders turning in their checklists Saturday were given shirts featuring a great horned owl painted by Alston Li, 11, a sixth-grader at SKA Academy of Art and Design in Duluth. As grand-prize winner, Li received a $100 Michaels gift card.
In another part of the competition, teams raised more than $2,000 for conservation, a voluntary part of the event that pushed the 13-year total past $22,000. The Pi-ed-billed Grebes led with $1,149.
Sponsors included The Environmental Resources Network, or TERN, friends group of DNR’s Nongame Conservation Section; Georgia Ornithological Society; Atlanta Audubon Society; Eagle Optics; and Partners in Flight.
The competition ended with a wildlife program and awards banquet at Charlie Elliott. T-shirt art contest winners were chosen beforehand and contest artwork was displayed at the banquet. Winning entries are posted in the “YBC T-shirt Art Contest” album at https://georgiawildlife.smugmug.com/Events/Youth-Birding-Contest-T-Shirt-Art-Contest.
The 2019 Youth Birding Competition is set for April 26–27. Registration will open this winter.
DNR’s Nongame Conservation Section works to conserve rare and other Georgia wildlife not legally fished for or hunted, as well as rare plants and natural habitats. The agency depends primarily on fundraisers, grants and contributions. That makes public support critical.
Georgians can help by contributing to the state’s Nongame Wildlife Conservation Fund. Here’s how:
- Buy or renew a DNR eagle or hummingbird license plate. Most of the fees are dedicated to wildlife. Upgrade to a wild tag for only $25! Details at www.georgiawildlife.com/licenseplates.
- Donate atwww.gooutdoorsgeorgia.com. Click “Licenses and Permits” and log in to give. (New customers can create an account.) There’s even an option to round-up for wildlife.
- Contribute to the Wildlife Conservation Fund when filing state income taxes—line 30 on form 500 or line 10 on form 500EZ. Giving is easy and every donation helps.
- Donate directly to the agency. Learn more at www.georgiawildlife.com/donations.
TERN (http://tern.homestead.com) also provides key support for nongame conservation in Georgia.
Youth Birding Competition Results
High school division
- Wood Thrushes (161 species), and overall competition winner
- The Pi-ed-billed Grebes (148 species)
- Chaotic Kestrels (143 species)
Middle school division
- The Pi-ed-billed Grebes (104 species)
- Ugly Ducklings (101 species)
- Fly High (73 species)
Elementary school division
- Amazing Anhingas (110 species)
- AAJ Eagles (60 species)
- (tie) Bufford Bluebirds and Counting Crows (55 species)
Primary school division
- Bufford Blue Jays (55 species)
- (tie) The Cardinals and Nutty Nuthatches (47 species)
Fundraising (division leaders)
- The Pi-ed-billed Grebes (high school division team) and overall top fundraiser, raising $1,149
- The Pi-ed-billed Grebes (middle school), $495: middle school division
- The Cardinals, $343: primary
- The Bold Eagles, $120: elementary
Fundraising for conservation is voluntary.
Top rookie teams (first-year teams)
- Primary: The Cardinals (47 species)
- Elementary: AAJ Eagles (60 species)
- High school: Froggo and the Crew (57 species)
Knox Evert, mentoring AAJ Eagles (elementary division) and The Cardinals (primary)
More on the Net
- Youth Birding Competition: www.georgiawildlife.com/ybc
- 2018 T-shirt Art Contest results: https://georgiawildlife.smugmug.com/Events/Youth-Birding-Contest-T-Shirt-Art-Contest