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Rye Team Wins Townie Award in Birding Competition

Rye Team Wins Townie Award in Birding Competition

NH Audubon’s “Twitcher Reunion Tour” Team won the “Townie Award” in the SemiSuperbowl of Birding on February 5, 2022. The Superbowl competition involves looking for as many bird species as possible in 12 hours and is run by Massachusetts Audubon’s Joppa Flats Education Center. Teams can compete in Essex County, MA and/or Rockingham County, NH in various categories. Each species has a point value with the rare species worth more points than common ones.

The 2022 Twitchers and the Jeep which they needed to get into unplowed parking areas. Photo by Steve Bennett.

The event was originally scheduled for January 29 but was postponed for a week because of the snowstorm. “We were glad they postponed it, but the rain and snow on Friday still made conditions messy,” said Becky Suomala, Team Captain. “It was snowing at 5:00 am when we started hooting for owls but it was sunny in the afternoon, although very windy and cold!” The veteran team of Kathryn Frieden, Jenna Pettipas, Susan Wrisley and Suomala was well prepared with hand warmers, toe warmers, multiple jackets, mittens and hats.

The Team spent the entire day in Rye, NH, tallying 62 species, just one shy of the all-time Twitcher record for Rye. Their 106 points were well above the Rye average of 100 points. The team has competed in Rye for 12 years but has also tried Hampton and Seabrook.  “We were thrilled with our results this year,” said Suomala. “For a cold day that started with snow showers and ended in a windy afternoon, during a winter which has frozen all fresh water bodies, and left few rarities or winter finches around, it was a fantastic result.”

The Twitchers also experimented with doing a “Big Sit” at Odiorne Point State Park in Rye for part of their day. They had only 11 species and 16 points during the 50 minutes they stayed in a 25-foot circle, but it was still worth it. The Superbowl judges made an exception to the rule of one award per team, and awarded The Twitchers the Sitting Duck Award because they were the only team that did it.

Other highlights included the Team’s first-ever Thick-billed Murre in Rye, a Razorbill, and a Black Guillemot, all relatives of the puffin. A Gray Catbird and a Yellow-rumped Warbler were big surprises because they are usually not here in the winter. “Of course, the Snowy Owl at Rye Harbor State Park is always a treat to see,” said Suomala, “and a bird we always hope for.”

The Twitchers also raise money to support two NH Audubon programs, New Hampshire Bird Records and NHeBird. The full story of their adventures will be on the website along with past years’ results.