Kirk Wickizer of Huntsville is the winner of this year’s Alabama Waterfowl Stamp Art Contest. His painting featured a male red-breasted merganser.

Seven other artists entered the 2018 contest. Eric Greene of Mobile took second place with his painting of a pair of wood ducks. Third place went to Barbara Keel Lunsford of Auburn, who also painted wood ducks.

The winning artwork will be used as the design of the 2019-20 Alabama Waterfowl Stamp, which is required for licensed hunters when pursuing waterfowl in Alabama. This was Wickizer’s first time entering the state contest.

Photo |Alabama Dept. of Conservation & National Resources

Kirk Wickizer of Huntsville won this year’s Alabama Waterfowl Stamp Art Contest with his painting of a male red-breasted merganser. The artwork will be used as the design of the 2019-20 Alabama Waterfowl Stamp, required for licensed waterfowl hunters.

“I was a little nervous and didn’t think I would win,” Wickizer said. “I was having lunch [in Huntsville] with my wife during the judging. When I got the call a few hours later, I was extremely pleased. I’m very happy about it.”

In addition to his career designing airplane structures for Boeing, Wickizer runs a YouTube channel that showcases his passion of painting. The channel, Kirk Wickizer Art, features several videos on subjects ranging from how to paint landscapes to how to make your own canvas panels.

“I’ve been painting for a long time, but after my experience in this year’s contest I’m going to focus more on wildlife,” Wickizer said.

He said it was the visual flair of the duck’s breeding plumage that drew him to the red-breasted merganser. In Alabama, the bird is usually found on estuaries, bays, shallow coastal waters, lakes and deep, slow-moving rivers during its seasonal migration.

The 2018 contest was judged by a panel of experts in the fields of art, ornithology and conservation during the Fins, Feathers and Flowers event at Lakepoint State Park in Eufaula. Entries were judged on suitability for reproduction as a stamp, originality, artistic composition, anatomical accuracy and general rendering.

The designs were limited to living species of North American migratory ducks or geese. Winning species from the past three years — American wigeon, mallard and green-winged teal — were not eligible subjects for this year’s contest.

BayBears back in action

The Mobile BayBears open their season at home on Thursday, hosting the Pensacola Blue Wahoos at Hank Aaron Stadium at 6:35 p.m.

As in the past several seasons, all Thursday games will be “Thirsty Thursday.” This week’s game is presented by Lagniappe.

Here is a listing of this season’s daily specials:

Sunday Fun Day and Bark in the Park — Children can play catch on the field before the game and run the bases after the game. Fans can bring dogs to the game. With a free Kids Club membership in 2018, all children will receive a free ticket to every Sunday game.

Every Monday Matters — Free ticket with donation of two nonperishable food items, two books or two gently used clothing items. Among those benefiting from the drives are Feeding the Gulf Coast, Goodwill Easter Seals and the Mobile Public Library.

Two-For-Tuesday — Buy one, get one free ticket to every Tuesday game.

Weenie Wednesday — $1 hot dogs throughout the game.

Thirsty Thursday — $1 12-ounce Rolling Rock and Natural Light (from 6 p.m. until end of seventh inning).

Wind Creek Friday Night at The Hank and Fireworks Friday — Fireworks show following every Friday game.

AutoNation RAM Truck Saturday Night — special $1 concession nights on the first Saturday of every month and other special promotions (such as Cook’s Pest Control T-shirt giveaway and Star Wars Night).

The roster for this season was not available by deadline. A full report on the BayBears will appear in next week’s Lagniappe.

SHC beach volleyball in nationals

The Spring Hill College beach volleyball “Sandy Badgers” have accepted an invitation to participate in the inaugural America Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) Small College Beach Championships. The event is set for Saturday and Sunday at Hickory Point Beach in Tavares, Florida.

“As one of the original small schools to add beach volleyball, we couldn’t be more thrilled with the opportunity to compete in the inaugural AVCA Small College Championship,” said SHC head coach Shawn Taylor. “The AVCA was not only instrumental in establishing the first beach volleyball championship, but crucial to the NCAA recognizing beach volleyball as a collegiate sport. Without their support, research and behind-the-scenes work, it’s fair to say that beach volleyball would probably not exist as an NCAA sport.”

The tournament will feature pool play on Saturday and bracket play on Sunday with teams from seven NCAA Division II schools. The teams will be divided into one three- and one four-team pools. Pool groupings will be determined by the results of February and March competitions and specific pools and match times will be announced April 2.

“As the field begins to grow in the college ranks, there has developed a large disparity among universities in terms of how they choose to support a program with various resources,” Taylor said. “As beach volleyball continues to be the fastest growing of all NCAA sports, the AVCA has recognized that it is a good time to implement a season-culminating event for smaller programs. Our hope is that history repeats itself and we are able to take it from the AVCA Small College Championships to the NCAA Division II and Division III Championships.”

Because Spring Hill is in its final year of transition into joining the NCAA ranks, this tournament marks a major event for the Badgers.

“When we received the invitation from the AVCA, I was excited,” Taylor said. “The most difficult part was keeping it from the team as the details were worked out. What better way to showcase what we have been working on? What better way to celebrate our first class of beach players who have competed for four years? It also means that we will be the first program from SHC to compete in a postseason event since the school started the process of NCAA Division II membership.”

The AVCA Small College Beach Championships were created in response to the explosive growth of college beach volleyball across the country. Just 15 institutions sponsored teams in 2012, but today 120 colleges field varsity teams. There are 65 in the NCAA at Division I level, 11 at Division II and three at Division III. Six compete in the NAIA, and 35 are in the California Community College Athletic Association. Another 12 institutions have announced their intention to add a squad next season.