From the drop of the ball on January 1st to the stare from the yellow eyes of a Snowy Owl on December 31st, hundreds of Vermont birders scoured fields and fens, mountains and meadows, lakes and lawns to discover as many species as possible during a single calendar year. The 3rd annual Vermont County Birding Quest pitted county versus county, birder against birder — all engaged in a friendly rivalry for top honors of the highest species count. The main idea behind the year-long Quest is simply to get people out birding, promote camaraderie, and better document bird life across the state, using Vermont eBird. With over 29,000 eBird checklists submitted and over 2.4 million individual birds tallied, there is no doubt it was another banner year for Vermont birders.
Green Mountain Birders Put Up Big Numbers
The final results were based on a carefully calculated “par” system, realizing that not all Vermont counties are created equal in terms of avian diversity. Par scores reflect the number of species that a given county should find in a year with consistent birding effort. The bird rich counties of Addison and Chittenden once again took top 2013 honors in absolute numbers of species tallied with 243 and 239, respectively. Orange County edged out Windsor by one species and claimed the 2013 Quest Cup with a score of 25 birds over par. Top checklist honors went to Addison County with 5,619 checklists submitted to Vermont eBird, an all-time record by any county.
Many birders ventured outside their home counties, and the statewide leaders in total species observed were Ian Worley (247), Allison Wagner (233) and Craig Provost (232). Ian Worley continued his annual domination by submitting a remarkable 1,733 checklists, besting his previous winning years. Craig Provost wasn’t far behind with 1,436 checklists followed by Ron Payne with 821.
Birders who identified 150 species or more in a county were also inducted into the prestigious “150 Club”. Even in counties with higher avian diversity, a birder must be dedicated and in the field during all four seasons to join this club. Fred Pratt pulled it off for four counties in 2013, a remarkable effort. Nine birders now have joined the 150 Club in two counties. Overall, 59 individual birders have joined the elite 150 Club since the Vermont County Quest contest began in 2011.
Congratulations to everyone for a fun year of birding. We hope some of you will vie for top honors in 2014! Even if you come up short, all of the data collected in Vermont eBird is valuable for science, education and conservation.