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Young Duluth birder wins state competition

Special Photo Gwinnett County resident John Deitsch, 13, and his partner, J.R. Robbins, 13, of Alpharetta, won for their division in the state Youth Birding Competition. From left: Bob Sargent with the Georgia Ornithological Society, Robbins, Youth Birding Competition Coordinator Tim Keyes and Deitsch.

Special Photo Gwinnett County resident John Deitsch, 13, and his partner, J.R. Robbins, 13, of Alpharetta, won for their division in the state Youth Birding Competition. From left: Bob Sargent with the Georgia Ornithological Society, Robbins, Youth Birding Competition Coordinator Tim Keyes and Deitsch.

DULUTH -- Can you tell the difference in a Hooded Warbler, a Palm Warbler and a Worm-eating Warbler?

No?

Well, 13-year-old John Deitsch can. He could probably do it with his eyes closed.

The Duluth resident used binoculars to watch for avians and listened for their calls in identifying 128 different species of birds recently during the annual state Youth Birding Competition.

For he and partner J.R. Robbins, 13, of Alpharetta, it was a successful adventure. Their team, the "Eagle Maniacs," won first place in the middle school division at the annual event, which is sponsored by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources -- Wildlife Resources Division.

Among the birds they spotted, just to name a few: Indigo Buntings, a Red-breasted Merganser, Wood Storks and a Bald Eagle.

Competitors fanned out across the state on the weekend of April 14 in search of as many species as they could find.

Deitsch said the Eagle Maniacs started off in Athens and "then we birded there a little bit, and drove down to Jekyll Island."

According to a news release from the Georgia DNR -- Wildlife Resources Division, the event's goal is to cultivate an interest in birds and wildlife conservation.

Twenty-eight teams totaling 128 members signed up for it. Participation during the weekend ranked the second-highest since the event began eight years ago.

It raised more than $1,100 for wildlife conservation.

Deitsch said he's already excited about next year's event. This year marked his third time winning the first-place prize.

Using an online checklist called eBird, he keeps a comprehensive record of each species he's spotted since starting his hobby. He's logged 219 different species in Georgia, many of which he's seen in his own backyard in Duluth.

Deitsch also is a member of the Southern Wings Bird Club, which meets monthly. For information about the local avian enthusiasts, visit www.southernwingsbc.com.

For more information about the event, visit www.georgiawildlife.com/conservation.