Science institute holding year-long bird scavenger hunt

The Hairy Woodpecker is one of the many birds that birders can find in the Tahoe Basin.
Provided by Ronan Hurley

With COVID-19 still ever so present, many are flocking to the outdoors to connect with nature and others in a safe, socially-distant way.

According to Tahoe Institute of Natural Science in Incline Village, interactions with wild animals in their own habitat can boost one’s mood and decrease physical symptoms of stress, such as fatigue, difficulty sleeping or even help to alleviate feelings of anxiety or depression.

TINS announced its 2021 “Tahoe Big Year” event. The year-long scavenger hunt invites people to scour the region for as many bird species as possible.

Registering for this free event gives participants a platform to track all the bird species spotted throughout the year, while competing with other birding enthusiasts to see who can find the most species.

The Tahoe Big Year is not strictly a competition. It is also a space for the entire community, from first timers to experts, to experience the Tahoe region’s diverse bird community.

“Birding is an activity uniquely situated to provide plentiful health benefits while conforming to the guidelines and restrictions of the pandemic itself,” said Will Richardson, executive director at TINS, in a press release. “Recent research shows that life satisfaction is greater for those living in environments of higher biodiversity, and with over 300 bird species that have been recorded around Tahoe, there are a lot of birds to see. But this is really something anyone can do for fun no matter where they live.”

Participants have access to expertise and advice from TINS staff and each other through monthly virtual get-togethers, presentations and other learning opportunities.

Past Big Years have strengthened Tahoe’s birding community, and TINS hopes to make the 2021 edition as social as possible through these virtual events, birding list-servers, and the Tahoe Birding Facebook group.

The event is open to anyone, though those who become TINS members, which starts at $35 a year, will get additional perks during the Big Year such as a monthly prize drawings with prizes like Patagonia jackets, hats and field guides.

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