The Port Aransas Chamber of Commerce sponsored team, the Port Aransas Spoonbills, won the Big Sit! Award for the Central Coast division during the first state-wide Great Texas Birding Classic for the most species spotted during a 24-hour period, spotting 125 species. In addition to this highly coveted award, the team was chosen to receive the Lone Star Bird Award. This award goes to a team that spots a randomly selected species and includes a $1,000 award to a particular conservation grant project which the team has the option of choosing. Eight teams spotted the Wide-eyed vireo, but the Port Aransas Spoonbill team won the luck of the draw this year. The team consisted of team leaders Joan and Scott Holt joined by other veteran members Tony Amos, Mikael Behrens, Suzette Freeman, Georgia Neblett, Bobby Sherwood and Ann Bracher Vaughan. Councilmember John Price joined the team this year and was “amazed at the number of species spotted” at the Leonabelle Turnbull Birding Center, the team’s chosen location.
Team leader Joan Holt was thrilled that the Port Aransas Spoonbills won the Big Sit this year. “Competition day (May 5th) was a lot of fun with large numbers of migrants flying over the birding center. Wilson’s Phalaropes, Scissor-tailed Flycatchers, Baltimore Orioles, and Yellow-headed Blackbirds in huge numbers passed over our heads. Our team birded from 6:30 am to 7:30 pm to get the winning number of 125 species. Thanks to all who came out and helped make this happen and to the PA Chamber of Commerce and Tourist Bureau for sponsoring the team.”
The Chamber of Commerce sponsored a youth team as well during the tournament. The young birder team, the Uncommon Terns, competing in the Gliders division, took home the top award in their category. According to Holt, “the team was awesome. This group of 14 year olds birded from before dawn till after dark and counted 137 species to beat all other youth teams in Texas. Kyle Jones was captain and spotting-scope specialist, Charlotte Lee Ramsden was owner of warblers, Traver Truax was the recorder extraordinaire, and Eric Anderson the spotter and cameraman. Julie and I loved working with the team and congratulate them on their success.”
President/CEO of the Chamber of Commerce, Ann Bracher Vaughan stated that she is extremely proud of the fact that the Chamber has participated in the Classic since its inception in 1997 and without exception, all the teams they have sponsored over the years have placed every single year, a testament to the outstanding birding venues and birders in our community”, said Vaughan. Team member Mikael Behrens was on hand during the awards presentation Saturday, June 1 in San Antonio to accept the awards.
The Great Texas Birding Classic was expanded into a statewide tournament this year after it was revamped by Texas Parks & Wildlife. Traditionally held in the springtime each year, the Birding Classic helps bring about bird habitat conservation, increases public awareness of Texas bird diversity and promotes community nature tourism development. For more Great Texas Birding Classic information, please visit the Texas Parks & Wildlife website.