Thursday, May 19, 2011

Audubon Society’s Adirondack Birdathon

They say it is the most fun you can have outside with your clothes on. And, no it is not bushwhacking through an Adirondack wilderness. It is the Birdathon, the National Audubon Society’s largest annual fundraising event and the globe’s biggest birding competition. It is happening soon and it may be taking place in some parts of the Adirondacks.

The Birdathon is a 24-hour long marathon competition to find as many bird species as possible within a given region. Species can be identified by sight and/or sound and you are free to bird for as many or as few hours within the 24-hour duration as you desire. Most people participate in teams but if you are of the anti-social persuasion then it is perfectly fine to go solo.

Although the Birdathon is a fundraising event soliciting sponsors is entirely optional. If you do chose to beg-up some sponsors it can be either for a fixed amount or on a per-species basis. If you are good at identifying birds and you know a few birding hotspots the per species alternative might be your best bet.

Individual Audubon chapter’s rules for the Birdathon vary. The date of the event, some of the rules and the region are all individualized to fit each of these chapters. Search for your local Audubon chapter to inquire about whether they participate and for more information about their specific rules.

Generally, the Birdathon takes place anytime between April and June, with the actual day coinciding with the peak bird migration of the local region. Some chapters designate a single day while others allow any single day with a particular period. In the Adirondacks the peak migration period is typically mid-May when the most species are present ranging from migrating transients to year-long residents.

At least three different chapters include areas within the Adirondacks. The Onondaga chapter, which includes the counties of Herkimer and Oneida in their designated birding area, holds their single day Birdathon on May 21, 2011. In contrast, the Southern Adirondack chapter, which includes Warren, Washington and northern Saratoga Counties, allows the participants to choose a single day between May 19 and 22, 2011.

The Adirondacks are ideal place to participate in the Birdathon. Beaver meadows, remote lakes, dense forests and tree-less mountains summits are just a few habitats available in the Adirondacks. This wide variety of habitats provides the opportunity to find a wide range of bird species, some found nowhere else in New York State.

My experiences with the Birdathon within the Adirondacks have always been positive, with the possible exception of the year I was caught totally unprepared when it snowed in the Five Ponds Wilderness. Most of my early years of participation involved searching along the trails in the Five Ponds Wilderness in the northern portion of Herkimer County. Last year, after a lengthy absence from participating, I began the tradition of doing my birding while bushwhacking through the Pepperbox Wilderness.

The Audubon Society’s Birdathon provides an ideal opportunity to get outside and enjoy nature while enjoying a friendly competition to find as many bird species as possible. But please, keep your clothes on while you are out there. At least until after bug season passes.

Photos: Common loon by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Hermit thrush by Lee Karney/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Common yellowthroat by George Gentry/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Dan Crane blogs about his bushwhacking adventures at Bushwhacking Fool.

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Dan Crane writes regularly about bushwhacking and backcountry camping, including providing insights on equipment and his observations as a veteran backcountry explorer. He has been visiting the Adirondacks since childhood and actively exploring its backcountry for almost two decades. He is also life-long naturalist with a Master of Science in Ecology from SUNY ESF and 10+ seasons working as a field biologist, five inside the Blue Line.

Dan has hiked the Northville-Placid Trail twice and climbed all 46 High Peaks but currently spends his backpacking time exploring the northwestern portion of the Adirondacks. He is also the creator of the blog Bushwhacking Fool where he details his bushwhacking adventures.

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