The seventh annual Youth Birding Competition held last weekend benefited conservation, birds and about 95 young Georgia birders.
The 24-hour birding event held by the Georgia Wildlife Resources Division Friday and Saturday, April 27-28, drew 25 teams. Contestants from preschool-ages to teens spotted a total of 209 bird species and raised $1,178 for conservation organizations. A wildlife program and awards banquet rich in applause, photographs and laughter (team names varied from Vomiting Vultures to the Flutter Brothers) capped the fun bird-a-thon at Charlie Elliott Wildlife Center near Mansfield Saturday night.
The Mockingjays, four teens from Watkinsville and Savannah, saw or heard 143 species to win the overall competition and the high school division. The team starting birding Friday at the State Botanical Garden of Georgia and other Athens-area hotspots, drove to the coast that night and began birding again by dawn, then made it back to Charlie Elliott Wildlife Center – the finish line – by 5 p.m. Saturday.
The strategy worked, member John Mark Simmons said. “We got a lot of inland birds that (Friday) evening.”
Simmons, 15, of Watkinsville, also earned the mentor award for helping a primary division team, The Sparrows. Sister and brother Naomi and Nathan Bailey tied for first in their age group and were named the division’s top rookie team.
In addition to the number and enthusiasm of participants, competition coordinator Tim Keyes said having an event regular like Simmons help younger birders was a highlight.
“Having birded with John Mark since he was a beginner, it is incredibly rewarding to see him become such a skilled birder as well as a willing teacher of younger aspiring birders,” said Keyes, a wildlife biologist with the Wildlife Resources Division’s Nongame Conservation Section.
The Youth Birding Competition is aimed at cultivating an interest in birds and wildlife conservation. Sponsors include The Environmental Resources Network Inc., the Audubon Society, the Georgia Ornithological Society and others.
T-shirts worn by birders and team leaders at the banquet and awards ceremony Saturday featured a blue jay in flight drawn by Qianci Ma, 12, of Duluth. The stunning artwork by the sixth-grader at SKA Academy of Art & Design proved the grand-prize winner in the T-shirt Contest.
Judges chose four division winners from among a record 264 drawings and paintings of native Georgia birds. Ma’s entry led the middle school category. Noting the number and quality of entries, art contest coordinator Linda May of the Nongame Conservation Section said, “Picking winners was very tough!”
The 2013 Youth Birding Competition is being planned. The competition and art contest are free. Groups used as much as of the 24-hour period as they want to count bird species throughout the state.
The Nongame Conservation Section works to conserve Georgia’s rare and endangered wildlife, as well as other animals not legally hunted, fished for or trapped, native plants and natural habitats. The agency receives no state appropriations, depending instead on grants, direct contributions and fundraisers such as sales and renewals of the bald eagle and ruby-throated hummingbird license plates.
Visit www.georgiawildlife.com/conservation for more information, or call Nongame Conservation offices in Social Circle (770-761-3035), Forsyth (478-994-1438) or Brunswick (912-264-7218).
The Environmental Resources Network, or TERN, is a nonprofit advocacy group that supports nongame conservation in Georgia. Details at http://tern.homestead.com/ .
YOUTH BIRDING COMPETITION RESULTS
- Overall – The Mockingjays (143 species)
- High school division – The Mockingjays; second, Chaotic Kestrels (125 species); third, G’Nats (98 species)
- Middle – The Lady Birders (120 species); second, Eagle Maniacs (117 species); third, Sharp-eyed Shrikes (110 species)
- Elementary – Wood Thrushes (100 species); second, Wacky Warblers (79 species); third, Amazing Ospreys (34 species)
- Primary (tie) – Beautiful Bluebirds and The Sparrows, (40 species); second, Night Owls 1 (34 species)
- Birds of a Feather, raising $625.
- Eagle Maniacs ($288)
- Chaotic Kestrels ($265)
Fundraising for conservation groups is a voluntary component of the event. Participating teams this year
supported American Bird Conservancy and Georgia’s Nongame Wildlife Conservation Fund.
TOP ROOKIE TEAMS (first-year teams)
High school – G’Nats 2 (96 species)
Middle – Chipettes (32 species)
Primary – The Sparrows (40 species)
Middle – Madeline Studebaker
Primary – Kate Shilling
John Mark Simmons
T-SHIRT ART CONTEST
- Primary division (out of 67 entries): Daniel Ng, 7, of Duluth, second-grader at SKA Academy of Art & Design (red-tailed hawk)
- Elementary division (out of 83 entries): Catherine Shih, 10, of Alpharetta, fourth-grader at SKA Academy of Art & Design (ruby-throated hummingbird)
- Middle school division (out of 87 entries): Qianci Ma, 12, of Duluth, sixth-grader at SKA Academy of Art & Design (blue jay). Ma also was the grand-prize winner.
- High school division (out of 27 entries): Gabriela Delacruz, 15, of Atlanta, ninth-grade homeschooler (eastern screech owl)
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 featured on the 2012 Youth Birding Competition T-shirt.