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Test your birding skills with the Spring Warbler Challenge

The Western Cuyahoga Audubon Society contest promotes birding and raises funds for the non-profit.

CLEVELAND, Ohio — This year, the Browns may challenge for a Super Bowl, Cleveland's baseball team may challenge for the pennant, and the Cavs...well, they're just challenging.

But this Spring, anyone can test their senses and knowledge in a very special competition. It's the Spring Warbler Challenge. Tension fills the air as nature lovers of all skill levels await the call.

Ladies and gentlemen, start your...binoculars?

"It's already started until the end of May, because this is the peak of migration", Nancy Howell, treasurer and wearer of many hats with the Western Cuyahoga Audubon Society, said.

The friendly contest is a fundraiser for the non-profit. Soon, Ohio will be teaming with the small, colorful birds. You can go birding as many times as you want and list the warblers you see and/or hear, but there are a few rules. 

"We ask that people only count the warblers in the county in which they live," Howell said.

They have also supplied a spreadsheet on their website so you can track your sightings, whether it's a Bay Breasted in Bay Village, a Cape May in Mayfield Heights or a Parula in Parma. Nancy says the information gathered by citizen scientists is helpful.

"It's a way that data is going into the system," she said, "so you know that this park that maybe never had hooded warblers before, [now you say] 'Wow! There's a hooded warbler there!'"

The entry fees, $8 for members and $10 for non-members, goes to outreach and club projects, and the Western Cuyahoga Audubon Society has many that need funding. One big project is in the works that could add valuable information on the warblers that pass through Ohio on their way to Canada in the spring and back to Central America for winter.

"We have perhaps something in the works to fund a bird banding station in Nicaragua," Howell explained.

For instance, a prothonotary warbler from Portage County may show up in Central America, adding new information on bird migration. It's a great way to enjoy Spring.

"It's not just all about the birds," Howell gushed. "It's the wildflowers, it's the dandelions, it's the insects and I think it's important to get outdoors and know what's in our area."

Nancy also asks to please remember to wear your masks and follow COVID distancing to stay safe in the field. It's a great way to look closer at the abundance of life that surrounds us.

So grab your field guide and a friend and get outside. The Blackburnians, black-and-whites, and blackpolls await!

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