When Richard Crossley spoke at this year’s Georgia Ornithological Society meeting, the acclaimed birder and photographer noticed the number of youth in attendance.
Crossley also noticed that each one he asked said their interest in birding began with Georgia’s Youth Birding Competition, said Tim Keyes, who coordinates the annual birdathon.
Now on a nationwide book tour, Crossley is mentioning the Youth Birding Competition as a way to get youth interested in birds. All of which certainly fits the event’s intent, according to Keyes, a wildlife biologist with the Department of Natural Resources’ Nongame Conservation Section.
“I think it’s giving kids an opportunity to get outside and learn about the natural world in an exciting way that catches their attention,” he said.
It also points participants toward the long-term goal: an interest in conservation, Keyes said.
The 24-hour competition sponsored by DNR’s Wildlife Resources Division, The Environmental Resources Network Inc. (TERN) and other partners returns for its seventh year on April 27-28. A banquet and awards ceremony will be held April 28 at Charlie Elliott Wildlife Center near Mansfield.
Teams register in age divisions varying from kindergarten to high school, with participants competing against other teams their age, in four age divisions. Teams can also volunteer to raise money for conservation organizations on a per-bird or lump sum basis.
Some 25 teams from preschool ages to teens and ranging from first-timer birders to veterans saw or heard scores of bird species and raised nearly $1,500 during the 2011 competition.
The deadline to register for the 2012 event is March 31. The competition starts at 5 p.m. April 27 and ends at 5 p.m. April 28. Groups may use as much or as little of that time to count as many birds as possible throughout Georgia.
Although teams may start birding anywhere in the state, they must turn in their checklists at Charlie Elliott Wildlife Center by 5 p.m. April 27. While judges examine and score checklists, participants will be treated to a live animal show followed by an awards banquet packed with prizes.
The Youth Birding Competition also includes a T-shirt Art Contest — enter by March 5 — and nature journal category. Participation in the birding competition is encouraged but not required to submit artwork for the T-shirt Art Contest. Taking part in both is free, aside from the optional cost of overnight lodging.
Competition sponsors include Atlanta Audubon Society and the Georgia Ornithological Society.
For more information about registering for the Youth Birding Competition, visit www.georgiawildlife.org/getinvolved or contact Lacy Mitchell at Charlie Elliott Conference Center, 770-784-3152 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Tim Keyes, at 912-262-3191 or email@example.com, can answer questions about the competition.
For more information on the T-shirt Art Contest, visit www.georgiawildlife.org/YBCTshirtArtContest or contact art contest coordinator Linda May at 706-557-3226 or firstname.lastname@example.org.