AUSTIN— The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s Great Texas Birding Classic celebrated its 20th anniversary this year with a record 750 participants enjoying a range of tournament categories that appeal to all levels, from novice to avid birders. The Classic also awarded $36,000 in conservation grants, bring the total to $880,500 of on-the-ground habitat acquisition, restoration and enhancement projects since the Classic first began.
“The best part about the Birding Classic is the number of people it connects with the outdoors each year,” said Shelly Plante, Birding Classic program manager. “With great entry level events like the ‘Big Sit!’ and ‘Sunrise to Noon’ tournament categories, there truly is something for everyone, and we’ve seen that reflected by the growth in participation year after year.”
Teams in many categories won the privilege of selecting the conservation and nature tourism projects that will receive grant dollars raised from tournament sponsorships, donations and team registrations. Sevenconservation grants, totaling $36,000, were awarded this year:
The $10,000 Weeklong Conservation Grant, selected by the NRG Eco-Eagles/NRG Energy team, will be awarded to a native plant ecosystem restoration project submitted by the Gulf Coast Bird Observatory.
The $5,000 Upper Coast Regional Big Day Toyota Conservation Grant, selected by the team of HAS/Swarovski Optik UTC Hawks/Swarovski Optik N.A., will be provided to the Horseshoe Marsh bird sanctuary wetland boardwalks project submitted by the Houston Audubon Society.
The $5,000 State Park Conservation Grant, selected by the Dirty Swainsons team, will benefit the wild bird viewing enhancement to the visitor’s center project submitted by the Devils River State Natural Area-Del Norte Unit.
The $5,000 Lone Star Bird Award Conservation Grant for the Big Sit category, selected by the Swarovski Optik Sitting Hawks/Swarovski Optik N.A. team, will be awarded to the Nature Preserves of Port Aransas- Joan & Scott Holt Paradise Pond enhancement project submitted by the city of Port Aransas.
The $5,000 Regional Big Sit- Heart of Texas East Conservation Grant, selected by the Tweeting Chats team, will be dedicated to the Explore and Restore Youth Program submitted by the Travis Audubon Society.
The newest tournament category, the Texas Two-Stop, will provide a $5,000 conservation grant, selected by the Swarovski Optik Wandering Hawks/Swarovski Optik N.A. team, to the Lakeview Bird Viewing Area project submitted by the Friends of Estero Llano Grande State Park.
The $1,000 Conservation Grant Project winner, selected by Scenic Galveston Sandhill Craniacs/Scenic Galveston team, will go toward Quinta Mazatlán’s Great Homes for Great Birds’ project submitted by the city of McAllen, Quinta Mazatlán World Birding Center.
The Birding Classic event was made possible by sponsorship and registration fees, donations from event sponsors Toyota, Swarovski Optik N.A., Texas Ornithological Society, Port Aransas Chamber of Commerce/Tourist Bureau and the awards ceremony sponsor, Audubon Texas.
The Birding Classic features several categories for any skill level, region of the state, age or number of team members. The “Big Sit!” is one of the most popular categories, with an unlimited number of participants able to spot birds from within a designated 17-ft. diameter circle.
Texas State Parks held more than 13 “Big Sit!” events this year, giving park visitors the opportunity to bird with more experienced birders who lead these events. Youth tournament categories are another important part of the Classic, giving young people a chance to learn about birds while competing in a fun tournament.
Jordan Rochlitz, a participant in the 13-years-old-and-younger category, said “…It was a great experience – I learned new things, saw ‘life birds’ and connected with nature.”
To view a complete list of the results for all tournament categories, including more detail about the winning grants, visit the TPWD Great Texas Birding Classic page.
Photo Editors: Images associated with this news release are available on the TPWD Web site (http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/newsmedia/news_images/).