Great Texas Birding Classic raises funds for habitat conservation

by SOURCE Texas Parks and Wildlife Department

Austin—The Great Texas Birding Classic, the biggest, longest, wildest birdwatching tournament in the country, raised $47,000 for projects benefiting native Texas habitats and species.

Celebrating its 27th year, the tournament has raised $1.16 million for on-the-ground conservation work to acquire, restore and enhance wildlife habitat.

Across the state, 1,100 birders flocked to fields to participate in the birding competition, watching and listening for as many species of birds as possible.

"The Birding Classic continues to grow every year due to the variety of tournament categories,” Shelly Plante, tournament coordinator, said. “With categories for youth, adult and mixed-age teams as well as half day, full day, all week, stationary, human-powered and traveling tournament categories, there is truly something for everyone.”

Participants from 202 teams saw a total 413 bird species during the tournament, including 36 species of shorebirds, 20 species of hawks, 8 species of owls, 39 species of warblers and 11 species of vireos, just to name a few.

Also, a Great Birding Classic team recorded a mangrove cuckoo near Galveston for the first time in more than 40 years.

Matt Herrera, a member of TOS Hawks and Allies, a gliders team of teens out of San Antonio, said the Great Texas Birding Classic was a great opportunity to connect and interact with fellow birders while being able to witness some of the most intriguing native bird species Texas has to offer.

The sentiment was shared by Martha McLeod, a mentor for eight youth teams based out of Rockport.

“By getting young elementary students outside observing wildlife at an early age, I hope to instill a deep appreciation for the outdoors before middle school and high school activities consume a student’s time,” McLeod said.

Kat Christensen, a team member of The Woodlands Township Big Sit team, said it was amazing to see experienced birders on the team take novices under their wing by sharing their knowledge, letting them use their equipment and teaching them how to identify certain species.

“Overall, this event was successful and really shows that there is a niche for birding in The Woodlands,” Christensen said. “I am excited to see how this event will shape the birding community in The Woodlands for years to come.”

Winning Birding Classic teams get to select which projects to fund. This year, conservation grants were awarded to:

$10,000 Weeklong Conservation Grant (Statewide) – Selected by Two Eagles & a Chick, sponsored by Deep South Marine, LLC

Project: Native Tree Planting at Exploration Green – submitted by Exploration Green Conservancy

Project Location: Clear Lake/Houston, Harris County

$10,000 Big Day Conservation Grant (Intact Flock Central Texas Coast) – Selected by Swarovski Roadside Hawks, sponsored by Swarovski Optik, N.A.

Project: The Held/Moran Nature Sanctuary – submitted by Audubon Outdoor Club of Corpus Christi

Project Location: Corpus Christi, Nueces County

$10,000 Big Day Conservation Grant (Intact Flock Heart of Texas East) – Selected by Cemetery Birders

Project: Circle Acres Nature Preserve Bird Blind and Water Feature – submitted by Ecology Action of Texas

Project Location: Austin, Travis County

$5,000 Lone Star Bird Award Conservation Grant – Selected by The Chachalocos, sponsored by the city of Edinburg

Project: Adapting Bird Management to Frequent Drought Using Supplemental Water – submitted by Native Prairies Association of Texas

Project Location: Colorado City, Mitchell County

$5,000 Toyota State Park Conservation Grant – Selected by Beasts of Bird’n

Project: Garner State Park Riparian Habitat Enhancement – submitted by Garner State Park, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department

Project Location: Concan, Uvalde County

$5,000 Sunrise to Noon Conservation Grant – Selected by Sandhill Craniacs, sponsored by CenterPoint Energy

Project: Replacement of Forested Wetlands Boardwalk at the Gulf Coast Bird Observatory – submitted by Gulf Coast Bird Observatory

Project Location: Lake Jackson, Brazoria County

$1,000 Roadrunner Plate Conservation Grant (Heart of Texas East Big Sit!) – Selected by The Tweeting Chats

Project: Packery Channel Oak Motte Sanctuary – submitted by Audubon Outdoor Club of Corpus Christi

Project Location: Corpus Christi, Nueces County

$1,000 Roadrunner Plate Conservation Grant (Upper Texas Coast Big Sit!) – Selected by CenterPoint Wirebirds, sponsored by CenterPoint Energy

Project: Circle Acres Nature Preserve Bird Habitat Enhancement – submitted by Ecology Action of Texas

Project Location: Austin, Travis County

This event is made possible by sponsorship and registration fees, donations from event sponsors Toyota, Texas Ornithological Society, Swarovski Optik N.A., and awards ceremony sponsor, Audubon Texas. For more information, visit the TPWD Great Texas Birding Classic page.

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