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Bird Watching Competitions – I Spy With My Little Eye

Bird watching typically conjures up images of people pursuing a relaxing day of staring into the sky with binoculars. Ah, but then there is the competitive side of birding.

Flying Emus…err, Elbows

For many people, something is only worth undertaking if there is an element of competitiveness. With bird watching, no such element really exists unless you include adding to your life list as a competition. Even if you do, it is a rather vague, indirect form of competition. This is where bird watching competitions come in.

Also known as “bird days” or “big days”, bird watching competitions are typically one or two day events held in a specific geographic area. The idea behind the competition is to bring a bunch of birding enthusiasts together and see who tally the most species in a particular time period.

Since the honor code is tied into reporting your tally, the competitive aspect of such competitions isn’t overdone. This isn’t a situation like bass fishing where they roll you into a stadium afterwards to count your sightings in front of screaming crowds. Then again, perhaps an opportunity presents itself…

Can you imagine ESPN covering the event?

“Bob, it looks like Long-bill Louie is in fine form today. Look at the way he balances those binoculars and what rotation!”

Probably not, but a man has to dream!

Back in reality, participating in a bird watching competition is a good idea for two reason. First, the organizers tend to pick spots with lots of species you may not have documented before. Second, it is a tremendous opportunity to meet other people who have caught the itch. This often can lead to future opportunities to bird watch with new friends in previously unknown areas.

If you must compete, there are official bird watching competitions. The World Series of Bird Watching is put on by the New Jersey Audubon Society. Teams of birders are formed and pitted against each other in early May of each year. With humorous names such as the “four loons”, “stokes stompers” and so on, it is a good time. The next competition is May, so you have plenty of time to get in top birding form.

Birding competitions are a bit serious for me, but to each his own. Having a Big Day, however, is a great way to get kids interested in watching.


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