By David Pendered
Georgia’s youth birdwatching contest scheduled in April is a real challenge – birders will try to identify more than 170 species in 24 hours, the record set in 2015 and matched in 2016.
The free contest is gracefully simple. Teams register online in one of four age divisions. Teams ranges in age from kindergarten to high school seniors. Entry deadline is March 31.
The contest starts at 5 p.m. April 29 and ends at 5 p.m. April 30. Birders can spend as much time as they want to count birds and mark them on a checklist. The caveat is that all checklists must be submitted by 5 p.m. that Sunday at the Charlie Elliott Wildlife Center. The center is located about 50 miles east of Atlanta, in Mansfield.
Prizes are to be awarded by age categories for most birds seen, most money raised, and best rookie team. The money raised is a voluntary category and proceeds are used to fund conservation efforts, according to a statement released by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.
Competitors take the event seriously. Last year, John Deitsch of Duluth and Jon Robbins of Alpharetta, birded on Jekyll Island on Saturday evening, traveled overnight to Atlanta, where they birded hotspots including Kennesaw Mountain early the next morning. They turned around and headed east to arrive on time at the wildlife center.
The competition and related T-shirt art contest are sponsored by GDNR’s Wildlife Resources Division; The Environmental Resources Network, Inc. (TERN), which supports DNR; and others including the Georgia Ornithological Society of the Atlanta and Albany chapters of the Audubon Society.
Incidentally, the Atlanta Bird Fest is scheduled from April 15 to May 14. It is presented by the Atlanta Audubon Society and is not affiliated with the state’s youth birding contest.
The purpose of the youth competition is to introduce young people to the beauty of the great outdoors. The thrill of the contest provides youngsters with an adrenaline rush that keeps many of them returning for years. This year’s event is the 12th annual contest.
Tim Keyes, a wildlife biologist with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, helped start the contest. Keyes said in a statement that former competitors have gone on to study biology in college. Some retired competitors are now mentoring younger birders.
“We will continue growing an enduring passion for birds and the outdoors with every year’s event in Georgia, and inspire a growing number of events around the U.S.,” Keyes said.
Georgia’s program is so successful the Race 4 Birds organization recommends it as a model for new birding contests. R4B even named an award for Keyes, to recognize his contributions to birding.
In announcing the creation of the award last year, R4B President Constance Camanella said of Keyes:
- “Tim took an idea and made it a reality. But he did more than that. He brought along hundreds of others to follow him and share his vision and commitment to getting young people outdoors and enjoying birds in a fun, exciting way. Without Tim and the YBC, there would be no Race 4 Birds Foundation working to take that opportunity to thousands of young people nationwide.”
Georgia DNR is hosting a T-shirt art contest in conjunction with the birding contest. Entries are accepted from school-age youngsters. The deadline to register is March 8.
Entries are free for following categories: Pre-K to second grade; third to fifth grades; sixth through eighth grade; and high school.
One winner will be selected and that artwork will appear on the 2017 YBC T-shirt and a $100 gift card to Michaels, redeemable for art supplies. Winners in the three other age groups will each receive a $50 Michaels gift card.