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A loggerhead shrike drawing by Owen Li, an 11th-grader at SKA Academy of Art and Design in Duluth, was the overall winner in the T-shirt Art Contest in Georgia’s 15th annual Youth Birding Competition.

SOCIAL CIRCLE — Four budding bird artists have been selected as T-shirt Art Contest winners in Georgia’s 15th annual Youth Birding Competition, according to the state Department of Natural Resources.

A loggerhead shrike drawing by Owen Li, an 11th-grader at SKA Academy of Art and Design in Duluth, led the contest’s 155 entries from 47 public, private and home schools statewide. As the grand-prize winner, the 16-year-old will receive a $100 Amazon gift card and have his artwork featured on T-shirts at the 2021 Youth Birding Competition.

The art contest is part of the annual birding competition, in which teams of children and teens try to find as many bird species as possible across Georgia in 24 hours. The fun, free bird-a-thon is set for Sept. 24-25 and includes an awards banquet at Indian Springs State Park’s Idlewilde Event Center in Flovilla. The deadline for teams to register is Aug. 13.

The art contest entry by Li also led the High School division. Other division winners included:

— Primary (pre-K-second grade): eastern bluebird by Lillian Tucker, 6, homeschooler in Doerun.

— Elementary (third-fifth grade): sedge wren by Aleena Huang, 11, from SKA Academy of Art and Design in Duluth.

— Middle School (sixth-eighth grade): eastern screech owl by Angela Kim, 13, from SKA Academy of Art and Design.

The other division winners will each receive a $50 Amazon gift card.

Art contest coordinator Linda May praised participants and stressed that the focus “isn’t just about art.”

“It’s about teaching kids to observe and connect with nature,” May, the outreach coordinator for DNR’s Wildlife Conservation Section, said. “Birds are a great focus since they’re beautiful, fun to watch and easy to find.”

To encourage wildlife conservation, both an awareness and appreciation of animals and their habitats are essential. The contest helps form that foundation through art. Research shows that participation in nature art also promotes children’s well-being by developing confidence and supporting creativity.

All T-shirt Art Contest entries will be displayed online, and division winners honored during the awards banquet Sept. 25 at Indian Springs State Park. The winner of the best artwork by a birding team participant also will be revealed at the banquet.

The birding competition and T-shirt Art Contest are sponsored by DNR’s Wildlife Conservation Section, the Environmental Resources Network Inc. or TERN – friends group of the Wildlife Conservation Section – and others including the Georgia Ornithological Society and the Atlanta and Albany Audubon societies.

T-shirt Art Contest winning entries are available for viewing at: bit.ly/3xtEbxm § Youth Birding Competition: georgiawildlife.com/YBC § DNR Wildlife Conservation Section: georgiawildlife.com/about/what-we-do#nongame-conservation § Indian Springs State Park: gastateparks.org/IndianSprings.

Persons interested in preserving wildlife are encouraged to donate, including online at georgiawildlife.com/donations, to buy or renew a wildlife license plate at georgiawildlife.com/licenseplates, to purchase a hunting or fishing license at gooutdoorsgeorgia.com or to volunteer at georgiawildlife.com/about/volunteer.

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