AUSTIN — At the end of the nation’s largest, longest and wildest birding tournament, organizers of the Great Texas Birding Classic (GTBC) have announced a huge philanthropic milestone. Thanks to Texans who have formed teams for a quarter of a century to observe and listen to as many species of birds as possible, funds raised for conservation projects have surpassed $ 1 million. “As the tournament continues to grow, we look forward to making even more donations for habitat conservation projects in Texas,” said Shelly Plante, head of natural tourism for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD). “It’s exciting to see so many families, children and friends connecting with nature through the event.” This year, team registrations and sponsorships for the one-month tournament of 191 teams enabled the GTBC to award $ 44,000 in conservation grants to habitat acquisition, restoration and improvement projects. on the ground statewide. It was also a banner year for GTBC participation, with a 60 percent increase in the number of participants and a 38 percent increase in the number of teams entered. Records have been broken for the number of Big Sits! and the Sunrise to Noon teams. There were several first-time teams and 15 youth teams. A total of 421 species were identified during the tournament by more than 1,000 birders statewide. “Our son really enjoyed his time with the team,” said Danielle and Micah Hale de Conner, ABNC member Terrific Tanagers (Roughwings team). “We can’t go anywhere without him showing us the birds, telling us what they are and some type of nerdy bird doing. In our hectic life, sometimes we don’t always slow down and enjoy our beautiful surroundings. Conner reminds us daily to just stop and look around. Some of last year’s adaptations to the pandemic have been kept for the 2021 competition, like the Scattered Herd category, allowing participants to team up with others from across the state, connecting electronically or by phone to combine. and share their results. “The girls and I had a great time,” says Deborah Waguespack, a member of a three-generation Dispersed Flock team. “We texted and chatted throughout the day following what each group saw. A great day of fun with the family! ” Toyota and the Texas Ornithological Society were the event’s sponsors; Audubon Texas sponsored the awards ceremony. For more information on the GTBC, visit the TPWD Great Texas Birding Classic page.