2014-04-10 / Nature

Duck Stamp Winners Announced

By Jack Kelly

Harlequin Duck painting by Lea Fabre, 15, was an award winner. Harlequin Duck painting by Lea Fabre, 15, was an award winner. Award ceremonies for the 22nd annual Federal Junior Duck Stamp Art Contest for Rhode Island were recently held at the Exeter-West Greenwich High School in Exeter. The event was the culmination of an innovative project that teaches wetlands and waterfowl conservation to students from kindergarten through high school. Developed in 1989 through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the program incorporates scientific and wildlife management principles into a visual arts curriculum, enriching students across the nation with a “conservation through the arts” educational experience.

Today, more than 29,000 students from the United States, American Samoa, and the Virgin Islands submit entries to a state or territorial Junior Duck Stamp Contest. Each state holds an annual competition to select first, second, and third place winners in four age groups, while each Best of Show state winner competes in a national competition for scholarships and prizes. While not valid for postage, winning stamps are sold to collectors and others for five dollars, with revenues supporting U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service environmental education programs.

Jack Kelly, a native Newporter, is a wildlife photographer and nature enthusiast who enjoys sharing his experiences with others. Jack Kelly, a native Newporter, is a wildlife photographer and nature enthusiast who enjoys sharing his experiences with others. This year’s competition in the Ocean State, sponsored by the Friends of the National Wildlife Refuges of Rhode Island, drew 636 entries from students across all grades.

As the winners and honorable mentions were announced in Exeter, it was revealed that this year’s Best in Show is a spectacular colored pencil rendition of a mallard duck by Joel Dunn, 16, a junior at Toll Gate High School in Warwick. Dunn’s submission will now compete nationally at the USFWS National Conservation Training Center in Shepherdstown, W.V., on Friday, April 18. His artwork will also adorn a special Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management stamp next year.

Two local artists also won awards. Siblings William Lauder, 9, and Maggie Lauder, 7, are both students at Melville Elementary in Portsmouth. William, participating in his fourth competition, received Honorable Mention in his group, while Maggie, participating for a third time, won Second Place in her group.

Junior Duck Stamp Coordinator Shannon Griffith is pleased with the participation in this year’s contest. “We received many wonderful art submissions. There is a tremendous amount of talent in our little state and it was on display in this competition. We were all amazed at the time and thought that the students put into their art. Our volunteer judges had their work cut out for them. They spent many hours poring over each and every entry during the judging stage,” Griffith said.

“Our winners displayed knowledge of their subjects’ anatomy and habitats. They brought their selected waterfowl subjects to life through many types of drawings, pastels and paintings. We were very proud to see so many fine representations of North American waterfowl. But as successful as this year was, we are hoping to expand the program next year to include even more students and activities.”

The awards ceremonies opened with a presentation by Horizon Wings, a nonprofit wildlife rehabilitation center in Connecticut that specializes in birds of prey. The audience of over 250 student artists, proud parents, and friends were enthralled by the display of very special guests and education tools. Mary-Beth Kaeser, owner of the center and a rehab specialist, along with her husband, Alan Nordell, and volunteer Colleen Backman, introduced the hushed crowd to a number of their permanent resident raptors. Kaeser explained, “These birds were brought to us with severe wing and body injuries, and after medical and rehab attention it was determined that they would not survive in the wild. We keep them at our facility to live out their natural lives in comfort, and they assist us in teaching the general public about their species, environmental issues they face, and their habitats.”

Attendees were introduced to a Peregrine Falcon, the fastest creature on the planet that can achieve speeds of over 200 mph in spectacular dives; a Great Horned Owl; and a female Red-tailed Hawk who serves as a surrogate mother for injured juveniles brought to the rehab center. But the star of the show was a tiny Northern Saw-whet Owl, the smallest of North American owls.

William and Maggie’s parents, Bill and Phyllis Lauder, commented, “We are very proud of both of them and the hard work that they put into their art. They both love to watch wildlife across the island and we visit Sachuest Point on a regular basis. They both have long ‘life lists’ of birds they have observed and identified.”

“Of course,” they grinned, “Maggie is giving her brother a little ribbing because she placed higher than he did this year; it’s the first time she’s done that. This is a great program for children.”

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