Judging Jr. Duck Stamp Entries

Tuesday was one of the coolest days of my life as a birder and park ranger!  I was one of the judges for the Minnesota Jr. Duck Stamp competition.  This wasn't the final judging for the Jr. Duck Stamp, our Best In Show entry is entered into the final round and I think it stands an excellent chance of winning.  Here's a snippet of walking through the Kindergarten and 3rd grade entries: [youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E-8NyhLJ5Ts[/youtube]

What an honor to be part of the panel and to take a look at all the hard work kids from Kindergarten to 12th grade created.  The other judges included artists like Joe Hautman and wildlife folks like Peg Callahan of the Wildlife Science Center.

Kindergarten thru 3rd grade was fantastic, so much potential with artwork and such interesting interpretation of key waterfowl field marks.  At first glance, some of the pictures looked wildly inaccurate, like a bufflehead with a rainbow of colors on its head.  But then you realized that the young artist was trying to communicate the iridescence that can be seen when the sun hits the male's plumage in the right way.  Other pictures had a story you could tell was working its way through a kids brain.  One of my favorites had what looked like a female wood duck flying through the woods and then you noticed a cavity drawn in a tree with two sinister red eyes looking out--what was that all about?  What did that kid imagine was staring out from that cavity?  Was the wood duck flying through a haunted wood?  I don't know, but I loved it.

Our mission was to judge the different age groups: Kindergarten through 3rd grade, 4th thru 6th grade, 7th thru 9th grade and then 1oth thru 12th.  For one group, they would give us 10 poker chips and we placed a chip on the picture we wanted to stay in (no picture could have more than one chip) and we'd get to narrow down our favorites--leaving 50.  After that, all of use would get five chipa, narrowing it down further.  This would go on until we narrowed it down to five illustrations.  We could also use field guides to confirm id.  Since I have six different field guides on my iTouch, I kept that with me.

Then we five judges would be shown the final five images one at a time.  We were given numbers and we had to hold up the number we'd like to score each image.  If we had any ties, we'd have to re-score.  We only had a few ties and they were solved quickly.

The challenge I had was picking through photos that actually fell into the rules of the competition and weren't just a creative interpretation.  As much as I loved the cubism seen in the black duck it, I had to keep in mind, which of the finalists showed habitat?  It was nerve wracking.  Since the judging was public, we did have some spectators.  Peg and I couldn't help but notice that one little girl was doing some serious hand wringing while we studied the pictures.  We had to turn our backs so as not to be influenced by all her hopes, fortunately she placed well in the competition.

After we picked our favorite pictures, we had to decide on a Best in Show from all the first place winners and that one is entered in the National Jr. Duck Stamp contest.  I don't know if Best in Show has been announced on the website, so I don't want to post it yet.  But the person who won best in show was there and got to witness the judging.  All of the finalists will be up at the Science Museum on April 23 and there will be all different kinds of programs going on.  I'll be doing a program on tools birds have for surviving in a marsh habitat but there will be artists giving tips on creating waterfowl art.  I did get a video of the winner of the K-3rd grade division:


Don't you just want to eat him with a spoon?