I love birding games. Big Days, Big Years, County, state, and patch lists. I’m constantly on the lookout for different angles to take with my birding. Not that birding for its own sake isn’t great, but sometimes you need that extra little motivation to get you out the door on a day you’d just as well sleep in. Enter my newest creation, the Piedmont eBird Challenge!

Way back last year, a whole two weeks ago, a sudden influx of Ross’s Geese in central North Carolina led to an unofficial competition between myself and some birders in the Raleigh-Durham Area. An informal goose competition can become a more formal regional competition. Clusters of four counties, each home to a handful of birders, competing in 2015 to see who can produce the biggest team list. The prize? Well, that’s yet to be determined, but bragging rights would appear to be a significant motivator. Beyond that, maybe a beer or two.

Piedmont eBird challengePardon the roughness of the map. I work exclusively in MS Paint.

Orange is the Triad, Winston-Salem/Greensboro/High Point, my new home as of the summer of 2013. We are small in total number of birders, but what we lack in numbers we make up in the underdog’s spirit. Green is what is known as the Unifour counties, on the cusp of the mountains and even getting up in elevation on the western end. They may be sluggish early on but spring and fall in the escarpment ought to make them competitive. And of course, the 500-lb gorilla in blue, the Triangle, whose advantages with regard to number of birders are legion. Already, a week into the new year, Triad and Triangle are neck and neck, just shy of 100 for each, with Unifour bringing up the rear. The strategy has yet to be called into play, but rest assured, there will be some planning involved, or at least some gamesmanship.

We’ve decided to add a secondary total ticks competition as well, sort of like the regular season title versus the tournament championship. I fully expect each group to push that into the 500-600 range by the end of the year. I’m not the competitive sort, but it’s funny how that sort of stuff can get drawn out in something like this.

I fully expect that this is the sort of thing that is only interesting to birders who are participating in it. It’s like your list – no one cares but you. but I’m curious to know if any other birders out there are doing something similar. Some game with friends that gets you out in the field, maybe checking some unlikely places for unlikely birds. I like these small scale, year long, endeavors because it plays to the inherently friendly competition that we as birders are drawn to (well, maybe you’re not, to each their own!). Because in the end, once all the birds are seen and the numbers are tallied, it’s all about creating a bunch of great memories we can share in the field or when we all get together for a few beers. For me, that’s the best part anyway.

Written by Nate
Nate Swick is a birder. He grew up in the midwest but currently makes his home in Greensboro, North Carolina, with his wife and two young children, who are not yet aware that they are birders too. He has a soft spot for Piping Plovers and loves pelagics even when his stomach doesn’t, which makes him the quintessential Carolina birder. Nate is the editor of the ABA blog, host of the American Birding Podcast, and author of two books, Birding for the Curious and The ABA Field Guide to Birds of the Carolinas.