AUSTIN— With the 21st annual Great Texas Birding Classic wrapped up for the year, the winners of the largest and longest bird-watching competition in the United States have chosen the nine conservation projects that will be awarded grant funds. Grants range in amount from $1,000 to $10,000.
This year, the $38,000 in grant funding comes from entrance fees and sponsorships to the monthlong, 129-team tournament. Since 1997, the Great Texas Birding Classic has awarded $918,500 in grants for on-the-ground habitat acquisition, restoration and enhancement projects.
“As the tournament continues to grow, we look forward to donating more and more toward habitat conservation projects in Texas,” said Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) nature tourism manager Shelly Plante.
Among the field this year were 18 youth teams, called Roughwings (ages 13 and younger) and Gliders (ages 14-18), many of which were sponsored by the Texas Ornithological Society.
Of the 129 teams, some of the most successful saw as many as 214 species during the competition. Overall, participants spotted a combined 412 species — a sizable chunk of Texas’ bird diversity, since the state has recorded 647 species of birds total.
The competition had a light-hearted, fun feeling, with many of the teams boasting bird-inspired names: “Free Falling Falcons,” “Always Bunting, Never Shrike Out,” “Bird is the Word,” and “Chatty Chickadees,” to name a few.
For many participants, the Great Texas Birding Classic offered more than just a chance to check off birds on a list and win prizes, but also an opportunity to connect with nature and appreciate the diversity of birds around them.
“This event drove me to study, listen and spend more time with birds,” said Craig Davis, a member of the youth team TOS-SAYBC Junior Chickadees. “I would not be a birder if it was not for the San Antonio Young Birders Club and events like this one.”
Grants chosen by the winners to receive funding from the Great Texas Birding Classic include:
$10,000 Weeklong Conservation Grant – Selected by NRG Eco-Eagles/NRG Energy
Project: The fourth addition to Settegast Coastal Heritage Preserve through acquisition at Anchor Bay – Submitted by The Artist Boat, Inc. Artist Boat is expanding the bayside portion of the Coastal Heritage Preserve by purchasing 65 acres on the West Galveston bay side. This grant will help with that acquisition, protecting high priority wetlands and coastal prairie and bringing the total number of protected acres at the preserve to 669.
Project Location: Settegast Coastal Heritage Preserve, Galveston Island
$5,000 Toyota Conservation Grant, Regional Big Day — Upper Texas Coast – Selected by HAS-Swarovski Optik UTC Hawks/Swarovski Optik, N.A.
Project: The Held/Moran Nature Preserve – Submitted by Audubon Outdoor Club of Corpus Christi. Funding from this project will be used to remove invasive Brazilian Peppertrees, create walking trails, and develop and install permanent educational signage, including maps and interpretive wildlife information.
Project Location: Held/Moran Nature Preserve, Corpus Christi
$5,000 State Park Conservation Grant – Selected by Gawking Geese/Independent
Project: Resaca de la Palma Lane Rehabilitation Project – Submitted by Resaca de la Palma World Birding Center. Funds will be used to repair an existing park road to re-connect the park to currently inaccessible trails as well as connect the paved tram loop of the park to key birding areas. Additionally, new bilingual interpretive signage will be created and installed to enhance the visitor experience for birders and other wildlife watchers.
Project Location: Resaca de la Palma State Park and World Birding Center, Brownsville
$5,000 Sunrise to Noon Conservation Grant – Selected by SCENIC GALVESTON Sandhill Craniacs/SCENIC GALVESTON, Inc.
Project: Virginia Point Living Shoreline Oystercatcher Nesting Enhancements – Submitted by SCENIC GALVESTON, Inc. The Galveston Bay Area Chapter – Texas Master Naturalists will use these funds to create large nesting pads that would provide critical nesting habitat for the American Oystercatchers and additional space for oystercatcher chicks. The pads will be created within a few hundred feet of existing oyster reefs to provide a convenient food source. GBAC plans to add native vegetation to provide protection for chicks.
Project Location: Virginia Point Peninsula Preserve, Galveston Bay shoreline on mainland
$5,000 Lone Star Bird Award – Selected by Bird is the Word/Independent
Project: Nature Preserves of Port Aransas — Joan & Scott Holt Paradise Pond Enhancement – Submitted by City of Port Aransas. This project will beautify the street entrance to the Paradise Pond property by creating a new native pollinator garden along a 275-foot fence line leading to the preserve. These gardens will increase the native habitat available to wildlife as well as help identify the entrance to this popular birding area.
Project Location: Joan & Scott Holt Paradise Pond, Port Aransas
$5,000 Upper Texas Coast Big Sit! Conservation Grant – Selected by Artist Boat’s Courageous Conservationists/Artist Boat, Inc.
Project: Polliwog Pond Bird Sanctuary – Submitted by Audubon Outdoor Club of Corpus Christi. Funds will be used to remove invasive plants and trees at Polliwog Pond, install educational signs with maps and wildlife identification, and construct a pier/boardwalk into one of the pond areas to enhance viewing experiences for birders and other wildlife watchers.
Project Location: Polliwog Pond Bird Sanctuary, Corpus Christi
$1,000 Central Texas Coast Big Sit! Conservation Grant – Selected by Port A Spoonbills/Port Aransas Chamber & Tourist Bureau
Project: B.J. Bishop Wetlands Viewing Center – Submitted by La Junta Heritage Center. Project funding will be used to build a viewing blind on the north side of the wetlands. The building will be constructed of adobe with an ocotillo roof, complementing the area architecture. There will be room for visitors to view wildlife at the sanctuary as well as kiosks containing recent sightings and interpretive materials.
Project Location: B.J. Bishop Wetlands, near Presidio
$1,000 Heart of Texas East Big Sit! Conservation Grant – Selected by FBI-Feathered Body Inspectors/Independent
Project: Wetland Restoration and Enhancement Project – Submitted by Friends of Estero Llano Grande State Park. The wetlands at Estero Llano Grande State Park are a premier birding destination but are in need of repairs. Funds will be used to make improvements to the wetland that include controlling invasive plants and bolstering, repairing, and replacing existing water control structures.
Project Location: Estero Llano Grande State Park and World Birding Center, Weslaco/Mercedes
$1,000 Lower Texas Coast Big Sit! Conservation Grant – Selected by South Padre Island Birding & Nature Center’s Wrong Terns/South Padre Island Birding & Nature Center
Project: McAllen Nature Center Native Plant Nursery – Submitted by City of McAllen, McAllen Nature Center. McAllen Nature Center will use funds to create an on-site plant nursery in order to grow plants specific to the site’s needs that are unavailable at local nurseries. These funds will enable the center, more specifically, to increase native forbs beneficial to birds and other wildlife.
Project Location: McAllen Nature Center, McAllen
The event is made possible by sponsorship and registration fees, donations from event sponsors Toyota, Texas Ornithological Society, Swarovski Optik N.A. and awards ceremony sponsor Audubon Texas.
For more information about the GTBC, visit the TPWD Great Texas Birding Classic page.