AUSTIN— The 23rd annual Great Texas Birding Classic (GTBC) has wrapped up another year and the winners of the largest and longest bird-watching competition in the United States have chosen 10 conservation projects to award grant funds. Grants range in amount to $1,000 to $10,000.
The Birding Classic continues to grow in popularity year after year, and it’s been thrilling to see so many families, kids and friends connect with nature through the event,” said Shelly Plante, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Nature Tourism Manager.
This year, 850 participants statewide participated in this event that spanned a full month during spring migration. Despite heavy rains during the final half of the tournament, teams saw a wide variety of bird species during their time in the field. In total, all 136 teams saw 411 species of birds during the monthlong competition. Among those were 19 youth teams called Roughwings (ages 13 and younger) and Gliders (ages 14-18). Thirteen of the youth teams were sponsored by the Texas Ornithological Society.
Since its inception, the winners of the GTBC have been able to award $993,000 in on-the-ground habitat acquisition, restoration and enhancement projects. This year, team registrations and sponsorships to the monthlong, 136-team tournament made it possible for the GTBC to award $39,000 in conservation grants to projects throughout the state.
For many participants, the GTBC offers more than just a chance to check off birds on a list and win prizes, but also an opportunity to connect with nature and appreciate the diversity of birds around them.
“I was introduced to birding last year through this competition and loved it so much,” said Isabelle Zentil, an 18-year-old Gliders participant. “I started to go birding with my dad over the summer and was thrilled when I got the opportunity to do it again this year.”
“In addition to the hundreds of people participating each year, the real winner is the birds since funds raised go toward bird conservation grants here in Texas,” said Plante.
Grants chosen by the winners to receive funding from the GTBC include:
$10,000 Weeklong Conservation Grant– Selected by Colluding Curlews/Baker Barges
Project: Addition to the Coastal Heritage Preserve – Submitted by Artist Boat, Inc. This grant will fund the purchase of the 75-acre Anchor Bay, which will be added to and be managed as part of the Coastal Heritage Preserve.
Project Location: Artist Boat Coastal Heritage Preserve, Galveston Island
$5,000 Toyota Conservation Grant, Regional Big Day- Upper Texas Coast– Selected by Free Falling Falcons/Independent
Project: Quintana Beach County Park Bird Viewing Station – Submitted by Brazoria County Park. This grant will fund the construction of a slat covered observation deck overlooking the lagoon, which will provide better bird and Monarch watching opportunities.
Project Location: Quintana Beach County Park, Quintana
$5,000 Conservation Grant, Regional Big Day — Central Texas Coast- Selected by Swarovski Optik Bay-winged Hawks/Swarovski Optik North America
Project: Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge Audio Tour – Submitted by Friends of Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge. This grant will fund the production and creation of an audio tour of significant sites and activities on the Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge.
Project Location: Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge, Anahuac
$5,000 State Park Conservation Grant– Selected by Gawking Geese/Independent
Project: Alligator Lake/Grebe Marsh Restoration – Submitted by Friends of Estero Llano Grande State Park. This grant will fund the replacement of the flow meter for irrigation control for Alligator Lake and Grebe Marsh, the two most popular wetlands at Estero Llano Grande State Park.
Project Location: Estero Llano Grande State Park, Mercedes/Weslaco
$5,000 Sunrise to Noon Conservation Grant– Selected by SCENIC GALVESTON Sandhill Craniacs/SCENIC GALVESTON, Inc.
Project: McAllen Nature Center Pond with Stream – Submitted by City of McAllen, McAllen Nature Center. The McAllen Nature Center will use this grant to build a small pond with a babbling waterfall and stream at the main bird feeding station in the north area of the park.
Project Location: McAllen Nature Center, McAllen
$5,000 Lone Star Bird Award– Selected by Lucifer Madness 2019/Independent
Project: Calera Spring Wildlife Viewing Area and Evening Photography Blind – Submitted by Compadres del Rancho Grande. Funding from this grant will cover exclusion fencing to keep feral livestock out of the Calera Spring site at Big Bend Ranch State Park and the construction of a wildlife viewing area and photography blind near the spring within the exclusion area, including interpretive signage for visitors.
Project Location: Big Bend Ranch State Park, near Presidio
$1,000 Texas Two-Stop Conservation Grant– Selected by Swarovski Optik Wandering Hawks/Swarovski Optik North America
Project: Ibis Pond Boardwalk Restoration – Submitted by Friends of Estero Llano Grande State Park. This grant will fund the replacement of portions of trail that have started to deteriorate with recycled plastic lumber, which does well in shaded areas. These improvements will also help the trail remain ADA accessible.
Project Location: Estero Llano Grande State Park, Mercedes/Weslaco
$1,000 Central Texas Coast Big Sit! Conservation Grant– Selected by Swarovski Optik Sitting Hawks/Swarovski Optik North America
Project: Pollywog Pond – Submitted by Audubon Outdoor Club of Corpus Christi. This grant will fund the creation of permanent signage, including a property map with the location of trails, with images and descriptions of common wildlife that uses Polliwog Pond Bird Sanctuary.
Project Location: Pollywog Pond, Corpus Christi
$1,000 Heart of Texas East Big Sit! Conservation Grant– Selected by The Peli-cans!/Mitchell Lake Audubon Center
Project: Coastal Wetland and Migratory Stop-over Interpretation Signage – Submitted by South Padre Island Birding and Nature Center. This grant will fund the creation of interpretative signage about the ecology and wildlife that utilize coastal wetlands for wintering, nesting and rest-stops during migration. Signage would be placed along boardwalks and around migratory songbird gardens surrounding the visitor center.
Project Location: South Padre Island Birding and Nature Center, South Padre Island
$1,000 Upper Texas Coast Big Sit! Conservation Grant– Selected by CenterPoint Energy Wirebirds/CenterPoint Energy
Project: Chimney Swift Towers and Interpretive Sign for Seabrook – Submitted by Seabrook Open Space and Trails Committee. This grant will fund the creation of two towers with accompanying interpretive signage. One tower will be installed in Pine Gully Park and the other tower will be installed adjacent to that park on land owned by the Port of Houston.
Project Location: Pine Gully Park, Seabrook
This event is made possible by sponsorship and registration fees, donations from event sponsors Toyota, Texas Ornithological Society, and awards ceremony sponsor Audubon Texas.
For more information about the GTBC, visit the TPWD Great Texas Birding Classic page.