Register to take flight for the Tahoe Big Year |

Register to take flight for the Tahoe Big Year

Ruby Lyon
Special to the Bonanza

Local children and TINS volunteers look for birds in the Spooner Backcountry this past summer.

INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — In a few months time, when the clock strikes midnight to begin 2015, the Tahoe Big Year will take flight, setting off a friendly competition to see as many birds as possible in the Tahoe region during 2015.

Hosted by the Tahoe Institute for Natural Science, the year-long event is meant to inspire people to explore Tahoe's natural areas, promote Tahoe as a birding destination, and cultivate a thriving community of nature and wildlife enthusiasts.

Participating bird enthusiasts, both local and visiting, will attempt to find as many bird species as they can within a set boundary (essentially the Lake Tahoe Basin and north through incorporated Truckee) and will submit any records of new species on the Tahoe Big Year website.

The competition is free and open to anyone, though those who become TINS members (starting at $35/year) will enjoy quite a few perks during the Tahoe Big Year.

Members can join on monthly guided Tahoe Big Year tours and each month TINS will focus on new groups of birds. Additionally, TINS members will be eligible for prizes, monthly random prize drawings, and discounted lodging among other benefits and special events.

With two categories to compete in, Youth (15 years of age or younger) or Adult, everyone in the family can participate.

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In January 2016, a special gala for TINS members will award first, second, and third place winners for each age group to celebrate a full year of enjoying Tahoe's birds.

With over 300 bird species having been documented in the Lake Tahoe basin, new birding opportunities will continually arise, with migrant species arriving, departing, or simply passing through the Tahoe region.

Finding Tahoe's resident owls will require effort, and finding wayward rare species will require both luck and perseverance.

Throughout the year, Tahoe's dynamic and ever-shifting bird community will keep things exciting and inspire participants to get out, explore, and find that next new species to add to their list.

This will also be an excellent opportunity for contribution to our understanding of the status and distribution of Tahoe's birds.

Species missed in late winter or spring will likely return in the fall, so folks that miss out on the first half of the year may be able to catch up.

It's never too late to start, but early entrants will have the best odds at winning one of the random monthly prizes.

We encourage those interested in participating to register at Early registrants will be entered into a raffle for two pairs of Northstar tickets during the 2014-15 ski season: one for those registered by Nov. 1, and a second for those registered by Dec. 1.

The Tahoe Institute for Natural Science is a member-supported nonprofit organization seeking to advance the natural history, conservation, and ecosystem knowledge of the Tahoe region through science, education, and outreach.

Ruby Lyon, an AmeriCorps volunteer is Outreach Program Manager for Tahoe Institute for Natural Science. For more information on TINS, visit