Calling all birders: ‘Inaugural Monadnock Region Birding Cup’ Sept. 14

  • Can you identify birds like this red-tailed hawk? An upcoming birding cup might be for you. Staff photo by Ben Conant

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 9/6/2019 11:28:56 AM

How well do you know your birds? Can you identify them by their unique songs or are you more of a person who needs to see them fly overhead or perched in a tree to know what species they are?

The key thing for the inaugural Monadnock Region Birding Cup is that participants have a passion for birding, know others who share that passion and want to spend 12 hours on a Saturday canvassing the area for as many birds as they can count.

Hosted by the Antioch Birding Club, the event will be held on Saturday, Sept. 14 from 5 a.m. to 5 p.m. encompassing towns all throughout the region. With September known as the peak time for fall migration, countless numbers of waterfowl, raptors, and songbirds travel through the area, joining the already stunning array of bird species that call the Monadnock Region home. According to the birding cup website, over 180 species of birds have been identified in the region during the month of September, including 14 species of waterfowl, 12 species of shorebirds, 17 raptor species, and 27 species of “confusing” fall-plumaged warblers.

Steven Lamonde, a coordinator with Antioch Birding Club and the event organizer, said they had been hosting outings for Antioch students since the club was founded in 2016, but “wanted to branch out and do more public offerings.”

“And we wanted to have it during the peak of migration,” Lamonde said. “Teams could have some very exciting species totals.”

The goal is to identify as many species by sight or sound as possible, while raising funds for student-driven bird conservation and research through the club. Each team must have at least three individuals and there is no cap to the number of team members, as long as each are active participants.

The contest area is restricted to the Monadnock Region of New Hampshire. This includes the entirety of Cheshire County and portions of Hillsborough County, including the cities and towns of: Alstead, Antrim, Bennington, Brookline, Chesterfield, Deering, Dublin, Fitzwilliam, Francestown, Gilsum, Greenfield, Greenville, Hancock, Harrisville, Hillsborough, Hinsdale, Jaffrey, Keene, Lyndeborough, Marlborough, Marlow, Mason, Milford, Nelson, New Ipswich, Peterborough, Richmond, Rindge, Roxbury, Sharon, Stoddard, Sullivan, Surry, Swanzey, Temple, Troy, Walpole, Wilton, Westmoreland, Winchester, and Windsor.

The team must remain together for the entirety of the contest. Teams may not split to bird different areas simultaneously. Travel between areas does not have to be restricted to one vehicle, but vehicles must travel together, taking the same route.

“For locals that really know the area, they’ll be going to all those familiar places,” Lamonde said.

Each species on the official checklist has a value of one point. All accepted write-in species have a value of one point each as well. Every team must submit its official contest checklist to the judges at Antioch University New England by 6 p.m. on the day of the contest. Teams that do not check in with contest officials by 6 p.m. will incur a penalty.

There are a handful of categories to enter. There’s the Carbon Footprint Challenge, a green contest where teams cannot use any fossil fuels during the 12-hour competition, so that means get creative. The team with the most species counted will win, but all will be recognized for their environmental awareness efforts. To level the playing field, electric vehicles and other motorized equipment are off-limits. Cars may be used for transportation prior to 5 a.m. and after the team is done competing.

Brand new to birding? Well the Fledglings category is for you. Each team must have a maximum of five years combined birding experience.

“It’s not just for the diehard birders,” Lamonde said. “We really want to encourage new birders.”

Known as the Big Sit, it’s a stationary bird count in which the team creates or imagines a 17-foot circle and bird watch from within. Birds must be viewed from within the circle but can be physically outside the circle. Grab some chairs, binoculars and get ready to stay a while.

Do you have a favorite town in which to bird? Well due to to the regional nature of the competition, a town-centric category – Townie – is available for those that want to count as many birds as they can within the boundaries of one town within the region.

And there’s the all-important Youth category for the birders of tomorrow. All team members of this category must be younger than 18 years of age. Mentors are allowed for this team to drive underage participants and verify identifications of team members, but cannot point out or identify birds themselves.

The team that has the greatest number of species (points) will be declared the winner of the Monadnock Region Birding Cup, regardless of which competition category they are registered for. In each category, the winning team will tally more species than all others within the predetermined specifications. Most of the categories are ones that are used in other birding competitions, like the Superbowl of Birding held each winter by the Massachusetts Audubon.

The event is rain or shine and teams must register by Sept. 13. Cost is $35 per adult, $25 for students, and youths (under 18) are free. 100% of registration fees, sponsorships, and donations go directly to funding the Monadnock Region Birding Cup and a new scholarship program for research and bird conservation in the Monadnock Region. In order to get a T-shirt, participants should register by the end of August.

“We’re expecting a smaller first year,” Lamonde said. “But really the more the merrier.”

While species checklists can be submitted via email, all teams and participants are encouraged to attend the post-competition celebration held at Antioch University New England, 40 Avon St., Keene. Pizza, beverages, and goodie bags will be handed out starting at 5:30 p.m., and the awards ceremony will commence at 6 p.m.

“We hope to do this every fall and involve more people,” Lamonde said.

For more information, complete rules and to register, visit www.monadnockregionbirdingcup.com or email antiochbirdclub@gmail.com.


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