SOCIAL CIRCLE — Georgia’s recent first-ever youth birding contest to blend in-person and virtual participation brought together approximately 120 children and teens scouring the state for birds in a crowning nine-day contest with an award ceremony.
The 16th annual birdathon hosted by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources took place April 15-23. Meanwhile, teams ranging from kindergarten to high school chose a 24-hour stretch and competed by age group to find the most bird species.
After being canceled in 2020 and changed to virtual last fall, the popular event returned spring and in-person this year. But the DNR retained the virtual option to address COVID concerns and ease the need for teams to submit their bird checklist to the Charlie Elliott Wildlife Center in Mansfield, a long drive for some.
The hybrid approach resulted in 38 teams registering and a large enthusiastic group showing up at the Charlie Elliott Banquet Hall for the awards ceremony. Members of approximately 10 teams joined the live-streamed event.
Competition coordinator Tim Keyes said it was great to return to in-person participation while connecting with students online.
“It’s been a year of experimentation, and we’ve learned some things we can do better,” said Keyes, an MNR wildlife biologist. “But hopefully it gave a wider range of children the opportunity to participate.”
This participation has led to strong bird counts. The Amazing Anhingas High School team finished victorious with 128 species. Four other teams — including the top teams in the elementary and middle school divisions — Birding with Baby Yoda and Pi-billed Grebes, respectively — have listed 90 or more.
The elementary school division’s Lil Birdie Rascals raised $735 for wildlife conservation, the most of any team. Fundraising for conservation is a voluntary part of the event. The teams raised a total of $2,638 this year.
Decatur’s Maegan Donnell and Grace Campbell shared the Mentor Award for spending nearly 15 hours leading and coordinating two teams, the McLendon Chickadees in the Primary Division and the McLendon Bluehawks in the Elementary Division.
The event also included a t-shirt art contest which attracted 132 participants. Birdwatchers received T-shirts featuring an American Kestrel designed by Arvin Guo, a ninth-grade Suwanee and student at the SKA Academy of Art and Design in Duluth. Guo received a $100 Amazon gift card as the grand prize winner of the art contest.
Although the DNR announced most of the T-shirt division winners earlier this month, art contest coordinator Linda May kept the news of the best entry from a student who entered. in the birding contest until Saturday. That honor went to Abigail Moeller of Adairsville for her drawing of a hooded merganser. The homeschooler, who also won the award last year, watched the Moeller Myrtle Warblers team.
The 2022 winning artworks are posted at https://bit.ly/3KfQi6N.
The Youth Bird Watching Contest and T-Shirt Art Contest is sponsored by MNR’s Wildlife Conservation Section, The Environmental Resources Network Inc. or TERN – Section Friends Group Wildlife Conservation – and others including the Georgia Ornithological Society and the Georgia and Albany Audubon Societies. Visit georgiawildlife.com/YBC for details.
The Wildlife Conservation Section conserves Georgian wildlife not legally fished or hunted, as well as rare plants and natural habitats. The agency depends primarily on fundraising, grants and contributions. For more information, visit georgiawildlife.com/licenseplates and georgiawildlife.com/donations.
ORIGINAL YOUTH CONTEST RESULTS
Secondary Schools Division
Incredible Anhingas (128 species) and overall winner
Grebes (121 species)
Bird Nerds (93 species)
Intermediate school division
Pi-billed grebes (90 species)
Impressive Anhingas (86 species)
Bold Eagles and Blue Jays (tied with 85 species each)
Elementary Schools Division
Birdwatching with Baby Yoda (90 species)
Kestrels (51 species)
Falcons (35 species)
Primary School Division
Eagle eyes (62 species)
Piled Pair (29)
Best birding friends (19 species)
Fundraising (Heads of Division)
Lil Birdie Rascals, Elementary Division and Top Fundraiser, Raising $735
Best Friend Bird Watchers, $150: Primary
Pi-billed grebes, $616.50: medium
Moeller Myrtle Warblers, $100; High
Fundraising for conservation is voluntary.
Top Rookie Teams (Freshman Teams)
Primary: Pileated pair (29 species)
Elementary: Lil Birdie Rascals (33 species)
Middle: Blue jays (85 species)
Raised: Bird Team (22 species)
Maegan Donnell and Grace Campbell, coaching the McLendon Chickadees (Primary Division) and McLendon Bluehawks (Elementary Division)
For a full list of results, see georgiawildlife.com/ybc. Details and results for the 2022 T-Shirt Art Contest are available at georgiawildlife.com/YBCTshirtArtContest.