Words On Birds by Steve Grinley
Superbowl of Birding Offers Fun Day of Birding
January, 19, 2008
Next weekend is the Superbowl. No, not the Patriot’s Superbowl, which is the following weekend. Next Saturday is the fifth annual Superbowl of Birding, hosted by the Mass Audubon Joppa Flats Education Center. This is a twelve hour competition that begins at 5:00am and ends at 5:00pm. Teams of four to seven members try to see as many species of birds as possible in Essex County and/or Rockingham County , NH. One to five points are earned for each species, depending on its relative abundance in late January. Canada geese are one, turkey vultures are five. The first team to call in a five point bird earns three bonus points. It’s really quite simple.
Prizes of up to $100 per team member are awarded. The coveted Joppa Cup is awarded to the team with the most points in the contest area. Many of the teams will be striving for this top honor. Scouting goes on in the days, and even weeks, before the competition. Finding the same bird at the same spot on the day of the Superbowl may not happen, but a bluebird or oriole coming to a feeder in the area may be more dependable than an elusive pileated woodpecker that covers miles of territory each day.
This year may be depend on luck more than skill. There are several rare gulls on Cape Ann this season that could up a teams point total. But finding one or two special gulls among the thousands of gulls that move in and out of Gloucester harbor will depend as much on timing as on identification skills. There are also flocks of winter finches and Bohemian waxwings around. Redpolls, crossbills, pine grosbeaks and waxwings are all being seen off and on in various locations. But these are nomadic species that roam large areas in search of food. Again, timing and luck will be needed for these birds.
There are other awards that can be sought, that are more manageable for new and intermediate birders. Teams can limit themselves to the Parker River NWR on Plum Island as an award goes to the most points for birds seen there. Snowy owls and bald eagles may add to your point total there. There is also the Seekers Award that has a set list of just 30 birds for a team to try to find.
For those that don’t want to travel far, there is a Sitting Duck Award which goes to a team with the most species from a fixed point. You can join the team at Joppa, or have a family team that just views the birds in your backyard. If you have a favorite “spot” you can choose to use that as your Sitting Duck point.
A Newbies Award goes to the youth team with the most points. Such a team must have at least two members under the age of 18. This could be an all youth team, or a family team with 2 or more young members.
Then there is the Lifers Award. This goes to the individual with the most “Life Birds” on Superbowl day. If you are a new birder, you have the best chance of winning this award!
This is all designed to offer a day of fun for all who participate. It wraps up with an awards “dinner” of pizza and fun. Lots of door prizes are also given away including binoculars, bird seed, books and other bird related items. There is still time to join the fun. You can find more information at www.massaudubon.org or call the Mass Audubon Joppa Flats Education Center at 978-462-9998.
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