Chilly bird watch nets a success

  • This Snowy Owl, seen at the Hampton/Seabrook line, was one of five owl species found by the Twitcher teams in the Semi-Superbowl of Birding on Jan. 30. Courtesy of Rebecca Suomala

Published: 2/14/2021 9:08:56 PM

N.H. Audubon’s “Twitcher” Teams had a successful Semi-Superbowl of Birding on Jan. 30. Despite a cold day with wind chills as low of -5 degrees, the team “Birding with Impunity” in Rye took home the coveted Rockingham County Award for the most points in the county and the “Townie Solitaire” won the Townie Award for the most species in a town.

The Superbowl competition involves looking for as many bird species as possible in 12 hours and is run by Massachusetts Audubon’s Joppa Flats Education Center. Teams can compete in Essex County, Mass., and/or Rockingham County, New Hampshire in various categories. Each species has a point value with the rare species worth more points than common ones.

Because of COVID rules, the “Twitchers” had to split up into three teams this year, each competing in a different town: Rye, Hampton, and Seabrook. There were 21 teams in the competition, ten competing for the Townie Award. “It was great to have so much competition this year,” said Becky Suomala, the “Townie Solitaire” (aka The Lone Twitcher).

Temperatures started out at a very chilly 8 degrees at the 5 a.m. start. “The wind wasn’t as bad as we thought it would be,” said Pam Hunt of “Birding with Impunity.” The relative calm meant good conditions for pre-dawn owling.

Suomala was thrilled to find four owl species. “I was so excited to hear a Great Horned Owl at my first stop,” Suomala said. “It’s great to get just one owl on the Superbowl, but to have four was a thrill.”

The “Twitch-n-Dip” team in Hampton and the “Townie Solitaire” in Seabrook saw the same Snowy Owl that perched where they could both see it from either side of the town line.

“Birding with Impunity” had three rare five-point species, and received the three-point bonus on two of them for being the first to call in that species, boosting their point total. “I had 64 species, one more than Pam,” said Suomala, “but she had more points than I did.”

The three teams combined had 83 species, six of which were new for the Twitchers since they started in 2009.

“It was so interesting to see how the three Twitcher teams did on the coast and then compare that to the inland town competitors,” said Suomala. “We all had a great time!”

The Twitchers also raise money to support two NH Audubon programs, New Hampshire Bird Records and NHeBird. The full story of their adventures will be on the web site with past years’ results

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