Winning teams in the 2008 Great Texas Birding Classic have awarded their conservation prize money to fund seven habitat projects totaling $73,000 along the Texas coast. Touted as the world’s longest birding competition, the Birding Classic has funded a total of $651,000 for avian habitat conservation since it began 12 years ago.
Each year, winning teams allocate prize money to fund wildlife habitat conservation and restoration projects approved by the Birding Classic staff. This year’s event ran April 27-May 4. The competition is jointly hosted by Gulf Coast Bird Observatory and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. Conservation prize money comes from corporate sponsors, team entry fees, community and individual donations, a Wildlife Diversity Conservation Grant from Horned Lizard Conservation License Plate funds and a grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Coastal Program.
“A number of conservation prize projects this year will help restore or improve land that’s already protected by local or statewide organizations,” said Carol Jones, Gulf Coast Bird Observatory education program manager. “A common thread among several of the 2008 projects is to remove invasive, nonnative plants and replace them with native flora that better support birds and wildlife.”
This year, the $20,000 top prize was funded entirely by revenue from the sale of specialty vehicle license plates bearing the Texas horned lizard image. Money from horned lizard license plate sales supports nongame and endangered animals and their habitats statewide, as outlined in the recently completed Texas Wildlife Action Plan. The Borrow Ditch Wetland Restoration Project at the Texas City Prairie Preserve is located within the high priority habitat of the plan’s Gulf Coast Prairies and Marshes region and directly benefits bird species listed as priorities in the action plan.
Projects funded with prize money from the 2008 Great Texas Birding Classic include the following:
$20,000 Weeklong Tournament
Texas City Prairie Preserve, Borrow Ditch Wetland Restoration Project, Galveston County
Restore habitat to create coastal marsh and mud flats, providing shelter and forage for migratory birds at this Nature Conservancy of Texas site.
Chosen by: Reliant Energy Environmental Partners
Team Members: Bill Baker — Captain, Lalise Mason, Greg Mason, Tom Roberts
Sponsored by Reliant Energy
$10,000 Runner-up Weeklong Tournament
- Texas Ornithological Society, Sabine Woods Oak Motte Enhancement, Jefferson County
- Restore critical stopover habitat by planting live oak and mulberry trees to provide additional food and cover for migratory birds.
- Chosen by: ConocoPhillips Cranes
- Team Members: Tony Frank — Captain, Lynn Barber, Sheridan Coffey, David Sarkozi
- Sponsored by ConocoPhillips
$10,000 Energy Saver — Coast wide
- Frontera Audubon Society, Wetlands Restoration Project, Hidalgo County
- Restore wetland habitat by controlling invasive plants and planting native species beneficial to birds, wildlife and water quality.
- Chosen by: Weslaco Slice of Good Lifers
- Team Members: Wayne Bartholomew — Captain, Jim Booker, JD Cortez, Martin Hagne, Dan Jones
- Sponsored by Weslaco Chamber of Commerce
$10,000 Upper Texas Coast
- Texas Ornithological Society, Hooks Woods Motte Enhancement, Galveston County
- Restore critical stopover habitat by planting live oak, bald cypress, hackberry and mulberry trees to provide food and cover for migratory birds.
- Chosen by: Texas A&M University Galveston WildBirders
- Team Members: Susan Knock — Captain, Chris Roberts, Katie St. Clair, Emily Watson, Logan West
- Sponsored by WildBird
$10,000 Central Texas Coast
- Nueces County
- Restore habitat through Brazilian pepper tree removal and tree plantings at two Port Aransas sites-Joan and Scott Holt Paradise Pond and Leonabelle Turnbull Birding Center.
- Chosen by: Zeiss LSU Tiger-Herons
- Team Members: Richard Gibbons — Captain; Phred Benham, Erik Johnson
- Sponsored by Zeiss Sports Optics
$10,000 Lower Texas Coast
- Gabriel Tree of Life Foundation, Warbler Rest Stop South Padre Island, Cameron County
- Restore native trees and shrubs to create more habitat for migratory birds in an area that is rapidly being lost to human development.
- Chosen by: Swarovski Roadside Hawks Two
- Team Members: Joel Simon — Captain, Nick Block, Father Tom Pincelli
- Sponsored by Swarovski Optik
$3,000 Lone Star Bird Award
- Friends of the Anahuac Wildlife Refuge, Coastal Prairie Invasive Species Control, Chambers County
- Restore habitat by controlling invasive plants like Chinese tallow on 350 acres of coastal prairie to benefit grassland birds.
- Chosen by: Vopak Vultures
- Team Members: Don Verser — Captain, Mary Ann Beauchemin, Betsy Black, Marcy Brown, Flo Hannah, Pam Smolen, Bo Verser
- Sponsored by Vopak North America
More information about the Great Texas Birding Classic is online.