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Local youth on top birding team

Allan Muise is mostly known as an aspiring soccer player and a cut-up in class at St. George’s Episcopal School of Milner. He has other passions, too. He loves nature of all kinds, and can often be seen capturing grasshoppers, frogs and other critters. Taking after his parents, he also enjoys watching and identifying birds. On April 28-29 his team the ‘Wood Thrushes’ won the elementary division of the seventh annual statewide Youth Birding Competition, having identified 101 species of birds in Georgia. Of 25 teams, the Wood Thrushes placed sixth overall, beating several middle school and high school teams. The competition is 24 hours long, from 5 p.m. one day until 5 p.m. the next. ’Tracey and I met at a nature center and our first date was a bird watching trip in Tennessee’ says his father Charlie. ‘We’ve always taken him to ornithological society meetings, nature conferences and the like. He just grew up with it. He helps me with my bird banding all the time.’ The Wood Thrushes ‘“ which also includes Philip Black and Ewen Pritchard ‘“ started the competition on Jekyll Island. The first bird they spotted was an ovenbird. Covering important parts of the island in just a couple hours, they headed to Altamaha WMA for dusk, and then attempted to find barn owls in Darien. By 1:30 a.m. they were checking off whip-poorwills and chuck-wills-widows at Allan’s home before getting a few hours of sleep. Dawn found them checking the screech-owl box in the backyard and counting birds on the feeders. They didn’t find the owls ‘“ one of many such misses that day. There were also surprising finds ‘“ bobolinks in south Lamar County, unusual shorebirds at E.L. Huie wastewater treatment plant in Clayton County and a singing Louisiana waterthrush very near the finish line at Charlie Elliott Wildlife Center near Mansfield. The winning prize was a new pair of binoculars and bragging rights among the 95 youth who turned out that day. His favorite bird of the trip? ’Either roseate spoonbill or painted bunting,’ said Allan. The 24-hour birding event is held by the Georgia Wildlife Resources Division. Teams raised $1,178 for conservation organizations. This year supported the American Bird Conservancy and the Georgia Nongame Wildlife Conservation Fund. There was also an art contest.

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