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Cool weather prevailed and a mid-day rain shower confounded some of the best laid birding strategies, but a crazy good time was had by all at the 2014 Montezuma Muckrace. This ‘Big Day’, 24-hour birding event is the premier fund-raising effort of the Friends of the Montezuma Wetlands Complex.

A new record of 29 teams registered.

This included 11 Recreational teams, 6 teams in the Family/Mentor category (a new high), 2 teams in a new Photo category which required participants to identify AND photograph their birds, 1 Low-Carbon team (no fossil fuels used), and 9 Competitive teams. The total of 107 participants was second all-time. As of this date, over $10,200 has been raised to support conservation efforts in the Complex, especially those efforts that will contribute to more birds and better viewing of birds.

Congratulations to the winning teams in each category.

In the competitive category it was Wind Birders (L & B Farms) with 121 species including a new species for the 18-year old Muckrace – a Cackling Goose. Wind Birders also had ‘good finds’ of Ruddy Turnstone and Hudsonian Godwit. In the Recreation category, the Geneseedeaters (Rochester Davis-Fetch Corporation), topped the tally with 111 species, including ‘good finds’ – Stilt Sandpiper, Common Nighthawk, and Blue-gray Gnatcatcher. The Blue and Bluer team (self-sponsored) topped the Family/Mentor category with a remarkable 100 species and ‘good finds’ of Hooded Merganser and Lincoln’s Sparrow. The Shutterbirds (Eaton Birds) won the new Photo category with 70 species and notable species of Merlin and Bank Swallow. Finally, the Low-Carbon category was won by Team Sittidae (Eaton Birding Society) with notable finds of Northern Shoveler and Sandhill Crane.

Highlights and Notables

  • 15 species of waterfowl
  • 9 species of diurnal raptors
  • 23 species of shorebirds
  • 21 species of warblers
  • 8 species of sparrows

Cackling Goose was the only species added to the cumulative 17-year Muckrace total. It was seen by two teams. Of the 16 species seen by only one team – Sanderling, Dark-eyed Junco, Canada Warbler, and Red-breasted Merganser were notable. The Merganser was, in fact, the only diving duck recorded this year. 24 of the species listed on the all-time Muckrace list were not seen this year – including Ruffed Grouse, Ruddy Duck, black-backed gulls, oriole, and the Red-headed Woodpecker that many were familiar with during the nesting season.

A Common Nighthawk was the ‘best bird’ for several teams when it was spotted by one of the Buckholz family under another team’s parked car. One other ‘best bird’ had to be a swamp sparrow recorded by the Loon-Atics with only minutes left in the competition to bring them up to a tie for the coveted top team from the DEC. The lone Snow Goose spotted my many teams on the refuge wildlife drive was a pleasant surprise. It was also great that a team of undergrads from the SUNY-ESF Bird Club out-scored a team composed of their Graduate Teaching Assistants. As the TA’s suggested at the closing ceremony, it was really a ‘win’ for them either way.

Top business sponsors for this year’s event

  • Wild Birds Unlimited
  • Nucor Steel
  • Bass Pro
  • Seneca Meadows
  • Ernst Conservation Seeds
  • Avinet

20 other local businesses donated food or prizes for the participants. Many teams found sponsorships to cover their registration costs. Teams had until September 30th to do additional pledge drives. Donations on behalf of any team, or for the Muckrace in general, can be made through the Friends of Montezuma website or via mail at Friends of Montezuma, c/o Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge, 3395 Rt 5 & 20 East, Seneca Falls, NY 13148.

Fundraising is a big part of the Muckrace

Top 10 fundraising teams for 2014 are:

  • Team Sittidae ($1,153)
  • Bobolinks ($976)
  • MAC Daddy & the Chicks ($645)
  • Mommazuma & the Malerds ($590)
  • Geneseedeaters ($490)
  • Mottled Mucks ($485)
  • Loon-a-Tics ($470)
  • Wind Birders ($400)
  • Arrogant Bustards ($399)
  • Bleary-eyed Vireos ($315)

A new ‘Top Fundraising Team’ trophy was designed and built by the Planning Committee, and Team Sittidae will be honored on this trophy as top Fundraising Team, 2 years in a row.

In the 18-year history, over $110,000 has been donated in support of bird habitat restoration, research or public access.

Recent projects have included:

  • a 30-acre wetland restoration
  • improvement of water level management on a 448-acre impoundment
  • support of the Complex’s volunteer network for habitat improvement
  • construction of an observation deck
  • support for American Black Duck winter banding and preseason Mallard and Wood Duck banding

Potential projects for future Muckrace funding include:

  • habitat restoration at the new Refuge property off Armitage Road
  • Nursery Pond construction on Howland’s Island
  • shorebird habitat (mudflat) management
  • two additional observation platforms
  • improved access to Crusoe Lake
  • an exhibit at the Montezuma Audubon Center on habitat restoration

Next Year’s Muckrace

If you’d like to start making plans for next year’s Muckrace – of course you would! – reserve the 18th and 19th of September. That’s following our new formula, instituted this year. We moved the start date one week later than usual to avoid the busy back-to-school week. We believe that will allow families and students a better opportunity to participate without the complications of Labor Day week and the first week of school.

Several nice comments have been received from participants and posted on the Cayuga Bird listserv. Speaking for the Planning Team and Volunteers, we sincerely appreciate those kind words. It has been fun watching this event grow over the years and we hope everyone will return next year and help spread the word.

Please contact the Friends if you’d like to help organize next year’s Muckrace. It is truly a unique event on many levels: the richness of species found in the Complex, the challenges of bird identification in the fall season, and the success as a fundraiser for local projects. But, last but not least in the uniqueness category are the crazy birders who can now say, they survived the 2014 Muckrace! Hope to see you again next year.