Friday, April 19, 2013

Getting ready for the Bird-a-Thon

During this year's Mass Audubon bird-a-thon I'll have the chance to explore the beaches and waters of cape cod, like those in the photo above taken last summer at Long Pasture Wildlife Sanctuary in Barnstable, MA. Image copyright Daniel E. Levenson 2013.

In a recent post I wrote about how excited I am to have the opportunity to participate in this year's Massachusetts Audubon Bird-a-Thon as a member of the Drumlin Farm Wildlife Sanctuary team. I'm really looking forward to not only seeing a wide variety of interesting birds on Cape Cod during the 24-hour birding contest and meeting other birders, but to helping raise money for environmental education and protection, two things I care about very deeply. A few people have asked me what the Bird-a-thon is, and although the essential explanation is simple enough - it's a fundraising contest in which various teams compete to see as many species of birds as possible in 24 hours, that question has gotten me thinking a little more about the history of birding contests and the impact these activities can have on conservation. So in this post I'd like to share a few things I've learned about bird-a-Thons and how they have helped support conservation initiatives not only through the dollars raised but the data gathered by hordes of bleary-eyed birders as they take to the field for a full day and night,

The Massachusetts Audubon Society has been organizing an annual Bird-a-Thon for 30 years now, and over the past three decades teams have seen some very interesting birds, including Yellow-throated Warbler, Eurasian Collared-dove and White-faced Ibis. My current year list stands at 113 species and I'm hoping to hit 150 by the end of April. Either way, I feel confident I'll get a boost as part of the Drumlin Farm team which won the Brewster cup in 2012 with an astounding total of 236 species seen. Drumlin Farm has also consistently raised a significant amount of money each year, funds which have allowed for purchase of vital equipment and supplies, allowing the sanctuary to offer a wide range of educational programs for both children and adults. If you would like to learn more about the history of the Massachusetts Auduon Bird-a-Thon, please click here.

Cape Cod offers a wide range of great habitat for birders and other nature lovers to explore year-round, including salt marsh, sand dunes, freshwater ponds and beaches. Image copyright Daniel E. Levenson 2013.

Of course bird-a-thons also take place in other areas of the country. I wanted to get a feel for what the experience was like for others birders, so I did some online research and came across several blogs where birders had recounted their own bird-a-thon experiences.

One blog I came across is run by the Gloden Gate Audubon Society in California. In a recent post on their blog they describe their own upcoming bird-a-thon and post some really nice photos of several different species of birds frequently encountered in northern California. From what I can tell their bird-a-thon takes place over a longer period of time than 24 hours, with trips offered for participants to join the competition and options for birders to strike out on their own and raise money for the organization independently. This sounds like a great way to get a large number of birders involved including people new to the activity and I would be very curious to know how successful the model has been, both in terms of species seen and money raised for conservation.

A little closer to home Maine Audubon also organizes a yearly bird-a-thon to raise money for conservation. From what I can tell Maine Audubon, much like the Golden Gate Audubon Society also allows birders to head out on their own and create their own bird-a-thon, which is an interesting concept. Personally I like both concepts, the idea of doing a bird-a-thon as part of a competitive team is exciting and the the idea of being able to do one's own bird-a-thon is also interesting. Maybe I'll try and do my own personal bird-a-thon sometime in the future to raise funds for conservation and education. For anyone living in Maine (or interested in birding in Maine) I would defintiely recommend checking out the Maine Audubon website if you'd like to learn more about opportunities to explore this great New England State.

As you can see there are a number of organizations who have embraced this fun, creative way to raise funds for conservation and environmental education. Personally I'm really excited to have the opportunity to become a part of this important tradition and to help raise funds for Mass Audubon, and of course I'm also looking forward to sharing this experience on my blog, so please be sure to check back again mid-May (if not sooner !) to hear about my bird-a-thon adventure.

Oh, and if you'd like to help sponsor me in the bird-a-thon, please click here.  Any amount helps and is enormously appreciated.

Thanks for reading.

Copyright Daniel E. Levenson 2013.

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