SOCIAL CIRCLE – A near-record group of young birders counted scores of birds from sandpipers to woodpeckers during the annual Youth Birding Competition a couple of weekends ago. The Chaotic Kestrels, a five-member team that includes Rosemary Kramer from The Rock, won the competition.
Twenty-eight teams totaling 128 members signed up. Participation during the weekend ranked the second-highest since the Georgia Wildlife Resources Division began the event eight years ago.
Contestants from preschool-ages to teens saw or heard some 200 species. They also raised more than $1,100 for wildlife conservation. A birds of prey program and awards banquet at Charlie Elliott Wildlife Center near Mansfield on Sunday night capped the fun, 24-hour birdathon.
The Chaotic Kestrels, a five-teen team from middle Georgia and metro Atlanta, counted 136 species to win the competition and the high school division. The Kestrels started on the coast Friday and worked their way north.
Angus Pritchard of Decatur said his group, the Chaotic Kestrels – including himself, Ethan Hatchett of Griffin, Rosemary Kramer of The Rock, Patrick Maurice of Atlanta and Evan Schneider of Macon– missed some species at Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge near Juliette Saturday afternoon because it was raining and few birds were singing. He and Schneider estimated the team identified a sixth or more of their birds by sound alone.
Increasing skills and a growing commitment to birding is something Tim Keyes has seen as coordinator of the Youth Birding Competition.
“We had a number of kids that this was their seventh competition,” said Keyes, a wildlife biologist with the Wildlife Resources Division’s Nongame Conservation Section.“We had a lot of repeats, and a lot of newcomers (this year)!”
The event goal is to cultivate an interest in birds and wildlife conservation. Sponsors include The Environmental Resources Network Inc., the Audubon Society, the Georgia Ornithological Society and others.
Like many other teams, the Chaotic Kestrels birded late Saturday and started early Sunday. Although some members have changed – Ethan Hatchett has been the mainstay– over the years the team has also led the elementary and middle school divisions.
Member Patrick Maurice enjoyed the competition. But asked as he sat with teammates at the banquet what his favorite part of weekend was, he said with a smile, “I really like getting together at this event.”
The Nongame Conservation Section works to conserve Georgia’s rare and endangered wildlife, as well as other animals not legally hunted or fished for, plus native plants and natural habitats. The agency receives no state appropriations. Instead, it depends on grants, direct contributions and fundraisers such as sales and renewals of the bald eagle and 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).