Audubon Arkansas's inaugural BirdLR Birdathon was a success thanks to 43 birders who formed 7 teams to compete to see the most birds on May 12, 2018. Teams started as early as 3 AM and birded across Pulaski County until 5 PM. Teams consisted to 2-4 birders, except Audubon Society of Central Arkansas's monthly public bird walk with 25 participants.
A pre-dawn start allowed teams to count nocturnal birds like Chuck-will's-widow, Common Nighthawk, and Barred Owl, as well as a few early singing songbirds such as Northern Mockingbird and American Robin. Dawn is a time that birders look forward to, when the chorus is strongest. Breeding birds were in full song, allowing teams to rapidly add species to their list like Red-eyed Vireo, Eastern Wood-Pewee, and Summer Tanager. Consensus though was that migration had slowed, and many birds passing through on their way to more northern breeding grounds were not singing, making them harder to find. Still we tallied an impressive list of migrants including 24 species of warbler, such as Worm-eating, Golden-winged, Blue-winged, Mourning, Wilson's, and Canada.
As the day progressed, teams turned to grassland and water birds, which tend to remain active even in the heat. All teams saw Eastern Meadowlarks, Dickcissels, and Blue Grosbeaks among the fields and pastures scattered across the county. Almost all saw a Painted Bunting. Along the Arkansas River were American White Pelicans, Forster's Terns, and a few lingering Lesser Scaup.
At 5 PM everyone convened at the River House in North Little Rock for the Bird Bash. There we ate, shared stories, and learned who took home the prizes for the most species seen and most money raised.
All together teams tallied 137 species. Of those, 23 were seen by only one team, including Snowy Egret, Eastern Whip-poor-will, Peregrine Falcon, Gray-cheeked Thrush, Field Sparrow, and Bobolink. The Early Birds & The Worm won the prize for most species seen with 105. Just a wing-length away were The Thrashers with 100.
Teams also raised funds for Audubon Arkansas's bird conservation and environmental education programs by securing donations and pledges per species seen. Collectively we raised $7,483. The Early Birds & The Worm also won the prize for the most money raised with $4,828.
Audubon Arkansas thanks all participants for devoting their time and talent to the event, and for helping to raise funds and friends. Time to start strategizing for next year!