For the Birds

Give NH Audubon's Birdathon a try



Our state bird, the purple finch, could be among your finds during Birdathon.

If you think piping plovers are cute, then just wait until you see the rest of the avian world.

You can survey all kinds of feathered critters (and a few floral ones) when New Hampshire Audubon hosts its annual Birdathon/Bloomathon. On May 20, birders around the state, from first-timers to experienced pros, are invited to join the Audubon in their efforts to catalog New Hampshire’s avian population — and to have a lot of fun in the process.

When the event began in 1980, says Audubon Community Engagement Manager Ruth Smith, it was little more than a summer kickoff party for nature enthusiasts. Two teams participated, and their survey consisted of traversing the coastline for the day and then meeting at Rye Beach to celebrate, fresh-poured pink lemonade in hand.

Modest though the event was, the group still surveyed more than 130 species that day and raised $3,000 for the Audubon — money that eventually launched NH Audubon’s Endangered Species Program. A tradition had begun.

Today, Birdathon and its sister event, Bloomathon, takes place in nearly every corner of the state, with annual fundraising totals in the five digits and participants spotting birds from robins and sparrows to peregrine falcons.

The way it works these days is essentially as follows: You create a team of 2-6 people or join a group through your local Audubon outpost, you solicit pledges for the Audubon department of your choice, and then you pick your survey area and get birding. Though there are small prizes for those who spot the most species or raise the most money, Birdathon is entirely what you make it — whether that’s driving around the whole state in a 24-hour search or gathering the kids and watching the feeder in your backyard over lunch. Birdwatching offers something for everyone, and, in recent years, outdoor enthusiasts have taken notice.

“Birdwatching or ‘birding,’ as we like to call it, is said to be one of the fastest-growing hobbies in the country,” says Smith. “People are looking for opportunities to get outside, enjoy the natural environment and to be with other people. Wherever you go, there are likely to be birds.”

Glued-to-their-phone types can add bird identifying apps and rare species alerts to their birding, while environmentalists can enjoy the sport in the knowledge that their observations can help the experts keep tabs on changes in the local ecosystem. Those with limited mobility (or limited patience for subjects that keep flying away) can opt into the floral end of things, where the stationary wildflowers provide an easy target to observe, count and report.

If you’re ready to sign up for Birdathon/Bloomathon, registration is available at nhaudubon.org. Your one day of birdwatching can help raise critical funds for NH Audubon’s work protecting our environment for wildlife and for people, and it’s a sure bet you’ll have a good time too.

Through Birdathon, Smith says, “We have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for endangered species and other work that we do, and, I think just as importantly, we’ve been able to engage thousands of people in getting out and birding. At the end of every Birdathon day, one of my teammates always says, ‘Why don’t we do this more often? This is so fun!’”

By the end of your first Birdathon/Bloomathon, you may just be saying the very same thing.

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