We did it – the 2011 NH Audubon Birdathon yielded over 200 species of birds in a single day! 202, in fact. More important than numbers, birders on the Birdathon celebrated bird diversity, migration, and the NH birding community, raising the awareness of birds through raising their binoculars, and adding to our knowledge of birds through their findings and reports.
On Saturday, May 21, dozens of Birdathoners in over 20 teams traversed many parts of the Granite State in search of birds. From the offshore waters beyond the Isles of Shoals to the boreal bogs of Pondicherry, and from the Massachusetts/Vermont/NH border in Hinsdale to the coastal border of Maine, and much in between, birders scoured NH’s finest birding hotspots – and found some of their own ones, too. Six NH Audubon Chapters participated in the Birdathon effort, and some of them even turned the event into a Chapter fundraising event to support great programs at monthly meetings. And many pledged contributions to NH Audubon’s wildlife sanctuaries – places like Pondicherry and Willard Pond that are so special to so many people and innumerable denizens of the natural world.
The birding locally theme continues to grow in popularity, and all teams appeared to have stayed within their Chapter region, either on bike or by car, and some teams opted for the ‘Single Location’ category, counting species from one park, wildlife sanctuary, or doing a ‘Big Sit’ in their own backyard.
This year’s categories again included a special prize for finding the most “conservation species” – some of New Hampshire’s rare, endangered, threatened, or declining avifauna. However, this year’s event reflect a drop in observation of species on the ‘Conservation Species’ list, with only 28 of the 39 those on the ‘Conservation Species’ list (compared to 33 found last year), but this may have been a result of fewer participants covering NH’s North Country. Some conservation species detected in 2011 included Peregrine Falcon, Common Nighthawk, Bicknell’s Thrush, and Eastern Whip-poor-will – all species monitored by NH Audubon’s conservation programs.
The top finds of the ‘Big Day’ included pelagics – Leach’s Storm-Petrel, Red-necked Phalarope, Sooty Shearwater, and the Northern Fulmar (which was awarded ‘Best Bird’, an out of season species found by Len Medlock on the Granite State Whale Watch); Clapper Rail behind Little Jack’s Restaurant in Hampton, American Oystercatcher picked out by Greg Tillman on the Hampton Harbor mudflats, Little Gull, Gray-cheeked Thrush, a very late American Tree Sparrow, and the now resident Mississippi Kites of Newmarket. A few other notable species were Least Bittern, Black Guillemot, Cape May Warbler, Roseate Tern, and Olive-sided Flycatcher.
The annual potluck dinner on the following evening was again a fun celebration of birds and NH’s birding community, where participants swapped stories and shared their day’s highlights over home-cooked food. NH Audubon’s Nature Store donated many of the prizes. Books, including an autographed Stokes Field Guide, notecards, t-shirts, and nest boxes were among them. Steve and Jane Mirick (“Pish & Chips”) again won top honors for highest statewide total with their personal best total of 155 species despite staying mainly within Rockingham County. The Seacoast-based “Bird Brains” (Dan Hubbard, et al) won the Seacoast Chapter Award with an impressive 131 species. Bob Quinn and company stayed within the Capital Chapter region and found 92 species for top Chapter area honors, and the biking duo of Rich Frechette and Scott Spangenberg “The Peddling Peregrines”, found 119 species in the Monadnock Region to win the “human-powered” category. Julie & Phil Brown peddled their way across Cheshire County to find 15 ‘Conservation Species’, which was top honors after the previous winners. Also notable was the team of Don and Lillian Stokes and friends, who enjoyed a relaxed day of “Big Sit” birding, recording their personal best – 72 species throughout the day from their back deck – but also raising the most funds for NH Audubon. They were edged out in the ‘Single Location’ category by Team Pondicherry (Mary Boulanger, Sam Stoddard, Sheridan and Deb Brown), who found six species more while covering the entire Pondicherry Wildlife Refuge.
Last, but not least, young birder Aiden Moser added seven species to his life list, winning the Newbies Award. Thanks to all who participated, and congratulations to all the winners!
The Birdathon isn’t all about seeing the most birds. You don’t have to be an expert to play. It’s the memories of the day that stand out most and also knowing that you help to play a role in conserving birds. We count on YOU to continue celebrating birds by helping us to better understand them by being a good citizen scientist and submitting your reports to E-bird and NH Audubon!
The celebration of peak bird diversity and the NH birding community, along with spring migration, peaks in late May. That’s when we hope to see you on the next NH Audubon Birdathon. For more information, check out the Birdathon website at http://www.nhaudubon.org/birding/birdathon.