The Grosse Pointe Woods team of Martin Blagdurn and Rosann Kovalcik has won the fourth-annual Grosse Pointe Birding Challenge, which was held on May 2.
The competition pits teams from the Grosse Pointes in a seven-hour race to find as many bird species as possible between 5 a.m. and noon in their respective communities. At noon, all teams gather in a restaurant in the Village to tabulate results, declare a winner and swap stories of the day. Each team reports their sightings on the honor system. The Challenge is becoming a fun spring tradition for members of the Grosse Pointe Audubon Society. The event is held in the spring because of the tremendous variety of birds that migrates through our community this time of year.
This is the first year the Woods team has won the Challenge, earning 64 points by seeing 56 species of birds. The Grosse Pointe Farms team finished second with 55 points. The Grosse Pointe Park finished third with 50 points, and the City team finished fourth with 44 points. Each team received one point for each species they saw, one additional point for each species they saw exclusively, and five points for seeing this year's bonus bird, the Northern Yellow-shafted Flicker. The City team had been the defending champion going into the 2009 event.
Even though the event is designed to be a fun competition, members of other teams express jealousy over the advantages that Kovalcik and Blagdurn have. Kovalcik is the owner of the Mack Avenue Wild Birds Unlimited, which is the epicenter of Grosse Pointe bird gossip. Customers share their sightings with Kovalcik and she knows exactly where to go to find the largest variety of birds. Kovalcik and Blagdurn have also turned their yard into a sanctuary that often attracts uncommon birds. Without having to leave their kitchen, they counted a Carolina wren, a somewhat uncommon bird in the Pointes, visiting a feeder in their yard.
Bill Rapai, the lone member of the City team, was the competition's early bird. He visited Neff Park at 5:15 a.m. to search unsuccessfully for the Eastern Screech Owls. Chris Chamberlain and Mark O'Keefe, the Farms team, found a Ruby-throated Hummingbird on the grounds of the Country Club of Detroit. Mike and Judy Florian, the Park team, found a Least Flycatcher. The Woods team found a Sandhill Crane, the most unusual bird of the day, flying north along the Lake St. Clair shoreline. Altogether, the four teams found 79 species of birds during the seven-hour count period.