Stanford birders beat Cal

Western Bluebird (Photo by Jasen Liu)
Western Bluebird (Photo: Jasen Liu)

The whistle blew at 7 a.m. The two teams hailed from opposite ends of the Bay. Stanford sports an acreage advantage, but Cal was counting on its redwood-lined creeks to put it ahead.

The game was birding – and fundraising. The longtime rivals squared off Sunday, April 13, in the first Big Game Birdathon, a match of eyes and ears to see who could spot the most birds in four hours. Stanford – the winner – now has bragging rights as the birdiest university around (sorry, no Axe). The final score? Stanford 75, Cal 64.

“We have so many birds, we’ll win,” ROB FURROW, a biology graduate student and captain of Stanford’s birding squad, predicted in an interview with Stanford Report last month.

His UC Berkeley counterpart, MAUREEN LAHIFF, a public health lecturer at Cal, said she first thought Stanford would not agree to the contest.

“These Stanford people, they aren’t any dummies,” Lahiff said. “They know our advantages.”

The good-spirited bout raised money for the Audubon Society and drew attention to the joys of bird-watching and the importance of birds in the natural environment.

Pitting the longtime rivals seemed like a “win-win,” said STEPHANIE ELLIS, the executive director of the Santa Clara Valley Audubon chapter. The annual  Birdathons are the major fundraising event for Audubon Society chapters throughout the Bay Area, she said. Teams compete to count the most birds in a set period of time.

The Stanford Birding Club attracts a mix of graduate and undergraduate students as well as some staff members.  At the birdathon, the Stanford team  focused on Lake Lagunita and the Dish Area. Cal’s birders focused their attention on the Faculty Glade and the botanical garden.

Even though this year’s matchup is over, supporters can still contribute to the cause. Visit the Santa Clara Valley Audubon Society’s website for more information.

 —BECKY BACH, Stanford News Service intern