With more drama than March Madness, the number of tie-breakers today brought the tension high as judges struggled to choose winners from a highly competitive crowd. Forget the NCAA; this is the Maine Junior Duck Stamp Challenge!
Five judges gathered at Maine Audubon’s Gilsland Farm center in Falmouth today to choose winners from more than 450 paintings, sketches, drawings, and other artworks from students across Maine, all depicting live portrayals of a native North American duck, swan, or goose. There were entries in ink, paint, pastel, crayon, and pencil. Many of the categories ended in tie-breakers and the voting for the prestigious Best in Show award was very tight.
Maine Audubon collaborates with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) annually and this year marks the 28th annual Federal Junior Duck Stamp Program. The program is a dynamic, multidisciplinary curriculum that teaches wetland and waterfowl conservation, encouraging students to explore their natural world, investigate biology and wildlife management principles, and express and share what they have learned with others through art.
Maine students submitted entries of approved waterfowl art into the competition. Designs were judged in four grade categories: K-3rd grades, 4th-6th grades, 7th-9th grades, 10th-12th grades. The award winners (first, second, and third places and honorable mentions) will be announced on Friday, March 25. All students were also encouraged to write a Conservation Message that captures the essence of what they have learned about conservation, and a winner in that category will also be announced.
The judges included Maine Audubon Staff Naturalist Doug Hitchcox, artists Michael Boardman and Bevin Holmberg, USFWS biologist Kirstin Underwood, and Peggy Page. All of them have judged in the past, and they all acknowledged that this year’s judging was difficult due to the high quality of the work. Boardman said he was impressed with the quality of the artwork, saying, “It seemed like students used the pandemic to focus on their artwork and more meditative things.” Holmberg added, “It’s inspiring to see the attention to detail and the time students are taking to observe and educate themselves on their local wildlife.”
Maine Audubon educator Linda Woodard, who organizes the program, noted that many of the students paid a lot of attention to habitat. The artwork is supposed to show waterfowl in their native habitat, and this year’s entries showed impressive detail and focus not just on birds but on their environment and surroundings.
Also on hand for the judging were Cynthia Phillips and Thomas Wall from the USFWS and volunteers Turk Duddy, Deb Wright, and Vivian Howe.
Read more about the Junior Duck Stamp program here and look for the announcement of winners on March 25.