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Feathers fly -- only a little -- at local bird-watching contest

Monday - 6/16/2014, 3:24pm  ET

birds_1200 (K.Ryan0
Brooks Paternotte of Irvine Nature Center congratulates the winner of the Bird-A-Thon crown, Lisa Alexander of the Audubon Naturalist Society of Montgomer County (Kate Ryan/WTOP)
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WASHINGTON -- The World Cup is filled with exciting rivalries, but the birdwatchers who threw down in the Battle of the Beltways Bird-a-thon were just as competitive.

The event took place April 22 to May 26, and the results recently posted at the The Audubon Naturalist website. What amounted to an elaborate bird- counting contest, the event engaged two chief rivals, the Audubon Naturalist Society of Montgomery County, and the Irvine Nature Center in Baltimore County.

Participants watched for, and counted birds in the Baltimore-Washington region.

According to the ground rules each team or individual participant could choose any 24 hour period and any location in which to operate. This could include their own backyard, local woods -- wherever one wanted to find birds. As part of the fundraising element, birdwatchers were urged to get sponsors.

Believe it or not, competitive birdwatching makes for some interesting trash talk.

"I am a little competitive," says Fran Toler, of Mt. Ranier. "Yes, I've been accused of that before."

But Toler said as the competition unfolded, she was schooled by one of her own teammates. She called this "kind of embarrassing, because he was 14, and he was vastly better than I am."

Brooks Paternote, CEO of the Irvine Nature Center, said he had to brush up on his birding skills. He recalled his son's tutelage: "'No daddy, that is not a velociraptor...that is actually a cardinal.'"

The real point was to raise money and interest, but the Audubon Naturalist Soiciety took the crown -- a decorative bird's nest -- by spotting 750 varieties, compared to Irvine's count of more than 400 birds.

WTOP's Kate Ryan contributed to this report. Follow @WTOP on Twitter and WTOP on Facebook.

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