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BirdSpotter photo contest: Take your best shot

A yellow-bellied sapsucker is an enterprising little woodpecker that laps up the leaking sap and any trapped insects with its specialized, brush-tipped tongue. (Photo: Richard Simms)

As the temperature falls birds begin flocking to their favorite backyard feeders. Grab your camera and your keyboard and submit your photos and bird-watching stories to the BirdSpotter contest run by Project FeederWatch at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. This year marks the 31st season for the citizen-science project, which collects observations about feeder birds from November through early April. Wild Birds Unlimited is sponsoring the current FeederWatch season and the BirdSpotter contest. Anyone can participate in the photo contest, whether they are a FeederWatch participant or not.

The 16-week contest runs until March 1, 2018. Every two weeks the photo category changes. Winners in each of eight categories will be chosen through public voting (People's Choice) on the FeederWatch website and by internal judges (Judges' Choice). Bi-weekly winners will receive Wild Birds Unlimited gift cards plus other prizes from the Cornell Lab, such as the All About Backyard Birds book and a tote bag.

During BirdSpotter's final week, everyone is invited to vote and help determine which three photographers will be this season's Grand Prize winners.

The BirdSpotter contest also rewards registered FeederWatch participants who report their bird counts. When participants submit their data, they will be asked share a bird-related story. During November 12-23, the "stories and tips" theme is about people's "spark" bird. Participants are asked to share what bird sparked their interest in birding and got them hooked.

Four winners will be randomly selected from the "stories and tips" entries submitted by registered FeederWatchers. Prizes and recognition on the website will also be awarded to three randomly selected FeederWatch in the Classroom participants. We are celebrating teachers and students who love birds.

Go here to see this year's winners selected so far.

Project FeederWatch is a winter-long, citizen-science project from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Bird Studies Canada. Participants report their feeder visitors to help scientists learn more about backyard birds. Visit FeederWatch.org to learn more and sign up for the project in either country.

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