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Friday, March 11, 2016

Vermont Returns to the Superbowl

The team scans the dunes of Plum Island as the sun sets
Yes, the Superbowl (of football) was last month. And the Superbowl we'll be discussing here was the month before that. But it is never too late to share the exciting story of youth birders exploring the Massachusetts coast, and having a great time while doing it! Here is our belated report:

Superbowl of Birding XIII took place on January 30, 2016. In this 12-hour event, sponsored by Massachusetts Audubon, 23 teams competed to see which could see the greatest number of bird species and earn the most points. The point-value of each species varied by its rarity, with common species like chickadees worth 1 point and the rarest of species worth 5.

For the 7th year, a Vermont team competed in the Superbowl. Three youths and four adults awoke at 4 AM, and while they failed to find an owl in the pre-dawn hours, the morning light revealed a great variety of birds, including a 4-point Black-headed Gull and a 5-point Redhead duck in Gloucester. Working north along the coast towards Rockport, the team picked up some other nice birds on the ocean, including Thick-billed Murre, Harlequin Duck, Purple Sandpiper, Barrow’s Goldeneye, King Eider, and many others.

As the team continued its journey north, a number of valuable birds were spotted in Ipswich. A Turkey Vulture in January earned the team 5-points, and just minutes later, a 1st winter Red-headed Woodpecker put in an appearance… another 5 point bird. Four Snow Geese along RT133 were another nice surprise, earning the team another 4 points.

A rare Black-headed Gull puts on a show at Eastern Point
The team ended their day in the birding hotspot of Plum Island, where the lack of owls before dawn was made up for with 3 Short-eared Owls hunting over the marsh and a Snowy Owl perched prominently on the dike. As the sun went down, the team had tallied 59 species and 105 points. While not enough to win the competition, Vermont again put on a strong performance in the Superbowl of Birding and planning has already begun for next year’s event.