AUSTIN—At the close of the biggest, longest, wildest birdwatching tournament in the country, organizers of the Great Texas Birding Classic (GTBC) announced a huge philanthropic milestone. Thanks to Texans who have been forming teams for a quarter-century to watch and listen for as many species of birds as possible, funds raised for conservation projects has topped $1 million.
“As the tournament continues to grow, we look forward to donating even more towards habitat conservation projects in Texas,” said Shelly Plante, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) Nature Tourism Manager. “It’s thrilling to see so many families, kids and friends connect with nature through the event.”
This year, team registrations and sponsorships to the monthlong, 191-team tournament made it possible for the GTBC to award $44,000 in conservation grants to on-the-ground habitat acquisition, restoration and enhancement projects throughout the state.
The following is a list of the conservation grants awarded throughout the state:
$10,000 Dispersed Flock Statewide Big Day Conservation Grant
Socially Distanced Flycatchers, sponsored by Deep South Marine
Project: Davis Mountains Preserve Wildlife Viewing Area and Water Feature – Submitted by The Nature Conservancy, Texas Chapter
Location: Davis Mountain Preserve, Jeff Davis County
$5,000 Toyota Conservation Grant for State Parks – Gawking Geese
$1,000 Prairies and Pineywoods West Big Sit! Conservation Grant – Brazos Banditry, sponsored by Moore Wild Birds
Project: Lake Somerville ADA Accessible Bird Blind – Submitted by Rio Brazos Audubon Society
Location: Lake Somerville State Park, Burleson/Lee Counties
$5,000 Sunrise to Noon Conservation Grant – Swarovski A.M. Kestrels, sponsored by Swarovski Optik North America
$1,000 Central Texas Coast Big Sit! Conservation Grant – Port Aransas Spoonbills, sponsored by Port Aransas/Mustang Island Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Bureau
Project: Nature Preserve at Charlie’s Pasture (Enhancing Clay’s Hill Habitat) – Submitted by City of Port Aransas Nature Preserve
Location: Nature Preserve at Charlie’s Pasture, Port Aransas
$5,000 Intact Flock Heart of Texas East Big Day Conservation Grant –Parking Lot Birders
Project: Wildlife Viewing Station and Interpretive Trail at Wildwood Park – Submitted by Keep Nolanville Beautiful
Location: Nolanville, Bell County
$5,000 Intact Flock Upper Texas Coast Big Day Conservation Grant – Swarovski Second Jabirus, sponsored by Swarovski Optik North America
Project: Resoft County Park Wetland Habitat Development – Submitted by Brazoria County Parks Department
Location: Resoft County Park, Alvin
$5,000 Intact Flock Upper Texas Coast Big Day Conservation Grant – Free Falling Falcons
Project: Creation of a Bird-Viewing Area at Joseph S. and Lucy L. Cullinan Park – Submitted by Cullinan Park Conservancy
Location: Joseph S. and Lucy H. Cullinan Park, Sugar Land
$5,000 Lone Star Bird Award Conservation Grant – Off Their Nuthatches
Project: Birding on the Border, Know Your Natives! – Submitted by Valley Zoological Society — Gladys Porter Zoo
Location: Gladys Porter Zoo, Brownsville
$1,000 Heart of Texas East Big Sit! Conservation Grant – Birding on Broadmeade
Project: Montopolis Habitat Restoration – Submitted by Ecology Action of Texas
Location: Circle Acres Nature Preserve, Austin
$1,000 Upper Texas Coast Big Sit! Conservation Grant – Centerpoint Wirebirds, sponsored by Centerpoint Energy
Project: Quintana Sanctuaries Re-Veg Project – Submitted by Gulf Coast Bird Observatory
Location: Quintana Neotropical Bird Sanctuaries, Quintana
It was a banner year for participation in the GTBC as well, with a 60 percent increase in the number of participants and a 38 percent growth in the number of registered teams. Records were broken for the number of Big Sit! and Sunrise to Noon teams. There were several first-time teams and 15 youth teams. In all, 421 species were identified during the tournament by more than 1,000 participating birdwatchers throughout the state.
“Our son has thoroughly enjoyed his time on the team,” say Danielle and Micah Hale of Conner, member of ABNC Terrific Tanagers (Roughwings team). “We cannot go anywhere without him pointing out birds, telling us what they are and some type of nerdy bird fact. In our hectic life, sometimes we don’t always slow down and enjoy our beautiful surroundings. Conner reminds us daily to simply stop and look around.”
Some of last year’s adaptations to the pandemic were kept for the 2021 competition, like the Dispersed Flock category, allowing participants to team up with others from around the state, connecting electronically or by phone to combine and share their results.
“The girls and I enjoyed ourselves,” says Deborah Waguespack, member of a three-generation Dispersed Flock team. “We texted and chatted throughout the day keeping up with what each group was seeing. A great family fun day!”
Toyota and the Texas Ornithological Society were event sponsors; Audubon Texas sponsored the awards ceremony. For more information about the GTBC, visit the TPWD Great Texas Birding Classic page.