The month of May is International Migratory Bird Month and is celebrated across the globe. One of the ways this event is celebrated here in Prescott is the opportunity to participate in a friendly Birdathon competition sponsored by our local Prescott Audubon Society chapter.
The Birdathon is the largest fundraiser for the chapter’s education efforts. Monies raised are used in a variety of ways, including an annual $1,000 scholarship to a continuing college student who is pursuing studies in areas of either conservation or ecology. In addition, these funds are used to pay for awards at the Northern Arizona Regional Science and Engineering Fair.
Another way these funds are used is to support bird watching activities for the Prescott Junior Audubon Nature Club at Abia Judd Elementary School. Over the years, the Prescott Audubon Society has provided field guides and binoculars for this after-school program. Prescott Audubon also funds the purchase and distribution of “Audubon Adventures”, the National Audubon’s elementary school curriculum for local classrooms, which covers science- and natural history-related subjects.
There are rules that govern the Birdathon event. Each team must stay within its county and must complete its count within a 24-hour period. Some team members will be in the field from sunrise to sunset hoping to come in with the highest species count for the competition.
This year, it looks like there will be six teams in the field — the Monday Lady Birders, the Chick-a-DeeDees, the Sullivan team, the Jay’s Bird Barn team, and two teams from the Prescott Junior Audubon Nature Club at Abia Judd.
To give you an idea of how long this event has been going on, the Sullivan team will be participating for its 30th consecutive year! The highest count by any team in the past 30 years was 151 species, and the lowest species count was 112. As you can imagine, seeing 151 species in Yavapai County in a 24-hour period requires a lot of effort!
A few years ago, we hand-picked our Jay’s Bird team — you could call it the “A Team” of birding. We started in the Verde Valley at the crack of dawn and birded our way back to Prescott. Some of the places we hit in the Verde were Page Springs Fish Hatchery, Bubbling Ponds, Sedona Wetlands, and Dead Horse Ranch State Park. We made our way back to Prescott on Highway 89A, going over Mingus Mountain, and birded at Butterfly Springs.
Once back in Prescott we hit a variety of habitats, including Watson Woods, Willow Lake, Granite Creek, and some oak/chaparral areas. Unfortunately, we had a major challenge that year — it was extremely windy, which made it difficult. However, we still logged more than 100 species for the day!
I will be leading the Jay’s Bird Barn team this year, and I invite you to pledge an amount of money to my team either as a flat amount or a dollar amount for each species seen. However you choose to donate, the goal is to raise as much money as we can for educational purposes and to help get youth interested in and involved with nature, conservation, and birding!
With so many programs supported by this fundraiser, I encourage you to support Prescott Audubon’s efforts to encourage youth in engaging in programs and activities that will expose them to the wonders of nature.
Donations for all of the teams can be dropped off at Jay’s Bird Barn, or they can be mailed directly to the Prescott Audubon Society at PO Box 4156, Prescott, AZ 86302. All contributions are tax-deductible. May the best team win!
Until next week, Happy Birding!
Eric Moore is the owner of Jay’s Bird Barn, with two locations in northern Arizona — Prescott and Flagstaff. Eric has been an avid birder for more than 50 years. If you have questions about wild birds that you would like discussed in future articles, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.