March 8, 2012
Peregrine Falcon at Watson Lake
Peregrine Falcon at Watson Lake

If you’re a hard core state lister looking for a way to keep your passion aflame, or if you’re just a casual birder wanting to ramp up your love of nature, this one’s for you.  Eric Moore, owner of Jay’s Bird Barns in Prescott and Sedona, has devised a fun, low key birding contest to grow our birding game and get you and more people outdoors more often.  It’s called the Arizona Centennial Challenge, and if you weren’t aware that this is our beautiful state’s centennial year, you are now.

You can check out the rules for Jay’s Bird Barn’s contest at, but here are the simple basics:  the Centennial Challenge runs from January 1, 2012 through December 31, 2012; you can enter and start any time during the year; for the $15 entry fee you get a T-shirt and an incentive to go birding more often, in more places, and have more fun doing it; the contest is set up so beginners have as great a chance for prizes as the top listers in the state; youth (under 19) and adult divisions.  The two grand prizes are a Vortex spotting scope and Vortex binoculars, but there are other, smaller prizes as well.

Tickets for the prizes will be drawn on February 14, 2013—that’s Arizona’s 101st birthday.  The “challenge” part of the Centennial Challenge is to have as many tickets as possible in the drawing, and there are three ways to earn tickets:  one ticket for every increment of 50 birds reported; one ticket for every county in Arizona where you’ve recorded a bird; one ticket for every birding/nature festival you attend in 2012.

Let me do the math for you.  That’s about thirty tickets max, give or take.  If I were a recluse and hadn’t left my house so far this year, I’d have three tickets.  If I went to the Birdyverde festival next month, stopped in Prescott on the way to check out the waterfowl and raptors around Watson Lake, and went up to Sedona afterwards to look for Common Black Hawks in Oak Creek, I’d probably have eight or nine.  So, even if you’re a beginning birder new to the birding game, your odds for a prize are fairly good if you’re willing to do a little homework and do a little driving.

I can tell you three things from my own birding experiences:  for a nature lover there’s nothing more exciting than seeing a bird you’ve never seen before; there’s awesome scenery and remarkably diverse natural history in each and every Arizona county; there’s no better way to learn about our avian fellow travelers and meet people with a similar passion for the outdoors than attending a birding festival.

Let me reiterate what I’ve written in this column many times over the years.  Awareness leads to knowledge which leads to caring which leads to preservation.  Let me quote directly from an email I received from Eric Moore about the contest:  “The objective is to motivate participants to get out and explore the state.  I am trying to make this a state-wide event, open to all ages, skill levels, and adapted to however much time and effort people are willing to put into this event.”

Thanks to Eric for devising a fun way to grow our game and help preserve outdoor Arizona.