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EXPLORING THE NIAGARA FRONTIER: DEC contest gets families into birdwatching



We’re almost at the halfway point of summer break and many parents are probably at their wits end, asking, “How do I keep my kids learning over the summer?” and “How do I get these kids out of the house?”

Well, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has just the fix.

Earlier this summer, the DEC launched a birding contest that will get them outdoors to find and learn about some of our feathered friends. Run through the state’s I Bird New York program, which was launched in 2017 and highlights the diverse avian life in the Empire State, the Beginners Birding Challenge is geared towards children 16 years of age and younger.

The contest has the participant find 10 common birds and then note where, when and in what habitat it was seen. The birds they are to look for are house sparrows, American robins, European starlings, northern cardinals, black-capped chickadees, mourning doves, red-tailed hawks, red-wing blackbirds, mallard ducks, and northern mockingbirds. All of them are easily recognized, so it’s a manageable science project for the kids.

The only bird that might give one fits is the mockingbird. I don’t consider them especially common and they definitely aren’t in my stomping grounds in eastern Niagara County and southern Allegany County.

My daughter has had her eyes peeled and ears open for more than a month now with no luck in finding one. She’ll find one one of these days, but, I’m in no rush (I know of some nesting sites I could drive her to)…the thrill of the search is exciting for her. When she finds that lone standout she’ll be so excited.

The young birdwatchers must fill out an official form which can be downloaded here:

https://www.dec.ny.gov/docs/administration_pdf/ibirdchallenge.pdf

It has to be completed by September 15 th and the form must be in the DEC’s hands by September 30 th. All of the kids who find all 10 birds will receive from the DEC a completion certificate and an official I BIRD NY bracelet.

Participants will also be entered into a random drawing for a pair of binoculars or a spotting telescope.Those are some excellent prizes that will certainly inspire the young winner to do more birdwatching.

If you’d like to make this birdwatching exercise a family affair, the state is also running the I Bird NY Experienced Birder Challenge.

To complete the challenge, birders must find at least 10 of 50 listed bird species that are less common than those the kids are looking for. All participants in this challenge will receive a special certificate, bracelet, and be entered into a drawing for a spotting scope. Those entries must be received by September 30 th .‎ Not only is the Experienced version open to adults, but kids can take part in it, too. So, if they dominate the Beginners challenge, they can tackle this one as well.

The Experienced Birder Challenge can be downloaded here:
https://www.dec.ny.gov/docs/wildlife_pdf/ibirdnyexpchal.pdf

The list of applicable bird species is here:
https://www.dec.ny.gov/animals/113702.html

Take of advantage of these birdwatching contests this summer. There are plenty of rewards to be had: You get to spend time outdoors…with your family…who will learn about the environment…and you might even win some really cool prizes by doing so.




+Bob Confer is a Gasport resident. His column, Exploring the Niagara Frontier, is published every Thursday on All WNY News. Connect with Exploring the Niagara Frontier on Facebook for conversations about nature and the outdoors in WNY.