Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine

Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine

Egret flying © D.Z. Johson

Watch for egrets!
© D.Z Johnson

April 2014

2014 Great Wisconsin Birdathon

This May, flock to the action and support our state birds at WIBirdathon.org .

Alyson Douglas

Young birder flies high

At age 14, Lydia Martin of Mount Horeb organized a 24–hour Birdathon event with friends and family, put together a Birdathon presentation for the 4–H competition at the Dane County Fair — and was one of the event’s top individual fundraisers. Intimidated? Don’t be. Lydia shares her ideas and experiences to inspire other birders, no matter what their age.

Why birds? What is it about them that makes you curious or excited?

When I was little I thought birds were amazing because they could go wherever they wanted. They were adorable, too, and kids love cute things. I was in a seventh grade science competition (Science Olympiad) and one of my events was ornithology. I took it because I love animals and it looked interesting. That’s probably when I got hooked on identifying birds and wanted it to be a hobby. Now that I am older, I love learning more about them and seeing birds I have never seen before.

Wisconsin has so many interesting habitats to explore for a large variety of birds. It also is pretty neat to be able to follow birds throughout the seasons — we listen for the sandhill cranes to return in the spring and look forward to watching birds in the yard during the summer. I like to spot the killdeer and bobolinks in our pasture, too. In the fall, I’ve been lucky to watch the whooping cranes leave Green County with Operation Migration. Last winter (early 2013) was a fun one for seeing a variety of owls, including the northern hawk owl, great gray owl and snowy owl.

What did you most enjoy about doing your Birdathon last year? Did anything about it surprise you or challenge you?

The year before, I had made a Birding Weekend that went for two days for me and my family. In 2013, I lined it up with the Birdathon so my sightings would count towards both. I also made a scrapbook for the fair about it.

I was asked to speak at the Madison Audubon Society about my Birdathon. The Natural Resources Foundation also wanted to meet with me. I found that challenging because I have a hard time speaking in front of people. I am glad I had the experience, though.

Did doing the Birdathon make you want to do another one this year? If so, what is your goal for this year?

Yes. My goal is to reach at least 80 species for the 2014 Great Wisconsin Birdathon. I would like to see more kids doing a birdathon, too.

Is there a birder you’d like to meet, or a Wisconsin bird you haven’t seen yet that you’d love to add to your list?

I would like to meet someone who blends art with birds since I love both those things — maybe Sam Timm, he’s from Wisconsin. I also want to see a peregrine falcon. I have never seen one in the wild and they look so cool. I would love to watch while it’s hunting.

What advice would you give to other teens or adults who might be intimidated by the idea of doing a Birdathon?

You might be surprised how many people share interests in birding. My family is really supportive of my hobby and if you love birding, I’m sure others would support you, too. There’s no harm in just trying it. I enjoy it and you might, as well.

Bird–a–thon: Helping Wisconsin’s birds by spending any portion of a 24–hour period in May observing birds and asking for pledges per species seen.

Last year, 155 birders and 850 pledgers raised $56,000 through the Great Wisconsin Birdathon! This year, the event is soaring even higher, aiming to raise $75,000 for our state’s birds.

Whether you’re a backyard birder, a serious bird watcher or you simply love birds, there are plenty of ways to get involved as a birder or pledger. Donations and pledges are tax deductible and are handled simply and securely online.

Support a Signature Team

Signature Teams are made up of well–recognized birding experts. They will bird at their favorite regional hotspots and update their supporters via their team web pages at WIBirdathon.org . Our 2014 Signature Teams are:

  • Cutright’s Old Coots (Carl Schwartz, Tom Uttech, Marilyn Bontly and Joan Sommer)
  • Door County Team (Mike Grimm and Kari Hagenow)
  • Horicon Marsh Team (Bill Volkert)
  • Lake Superior Team (Ryan Brady and Nick Anich)
  • Lower Chippewa River Titmousketeers (Bill Hogseth, Steve Betchkal and Anne Geraghty)
  • Madison Green Team (Sumner Matteson and Tod Highsmith)
  • Northern Highlands Team (Anna Pidgeon, Jess Gorzo and UW–Madison Forest Resources Practicum Students)

Start a Great Wisconsin Birdathon Team or fly solo as a birder

Individuals can bird on their own or create a team and bird with coworkers, friends or relatives. Set up your own web page, share your team’s photos and news there and point people to your team’s page to pledge or donate. All you have to do is go birding!

Biker watching birds. © Madison Green Team
Bird any way you like – even by bike – for the Great Wisconsin Birdathon.
© Madison Green Team

Join a Birding Blitz Field Trip

New to birding or want to learn how an official Birdathon is conducted? Spend a memorable and educational day with experts at birding hotspots during a Birding Blitz Field Trip. Your $87 registration fee includes a $75 tax–deductible donation to support the Bird Protection Fund. Register online through the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin’s Field Trip Program at WisConservation.org. (See pages 4–9 in this issue of Wisconsin Natural Resources.)

Join a Birding Blitz Field Trip

New to birding or want to learn how an official Birdathon is conducted? Spend a memorable and educational day with experts at birding hotspots during a Birding Blitz Field Trip. Your $87 registration fee includes a $75 tax–deductible donation to support the Bird Protection Fund. Register online through the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin’s Field Trip Program at WisConservation.org. (See pages 4–9 in this issue of Wisconsin Natural Resources.)

Take a long walk for birds

Last year, Milwaukee’s Bill Mueller walked 246 miles from Lake Michigan to the Mississippi River and raised $10,000 for the Birdathon. This year, Mueller has doubled his goal to $20,000 and he needs extra hands and feet. Volunteers can sign up to walk any part of the route that goes from the Illinois state line in Kenosha County to the Michigan state line in Marinette County. Walk any time during May, alone or with friends. To learn more click on the “Long Walk” tab at WIBirdathon.org.

Conduct an oriole count (perfect for schools, scouts and other youth groups)

Provide jelly or fresh fruit and attract bright orange Baltimore orioles to your schoolyard, playground or park. Create an Oriole Count Team and compete for great prizes. As an option, compete to raise money for birds. The first 60 teams to register will receive fruit and jelly feeders, donated by the Wisconsin Society for Ornithology and Mequon’s Wild Birds Unlimited. Two teams will win a birdwatchers’ bonanza worth $1,100 each: five pairs of binoculars, a spotting scope, and a tripod — all donated by Eagle Optics. One prize will go to the school/group that raises the most money for the Bird Protection Fund; a second winner will be selected in a drawing among all teams who participate.

Making a better place for birds

Funds raised through the 2014 Great Wisconsin Birdathon will support the Bird Protection Fund, a partnership of the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Bird Conservation Initiative (WBCI) and the Department of Natural Resources.

Nonprofit conservation organizations that are endorsers of the Wisconsin Bird Conservation Initiative can use the Birdathon to raise money for their bird conservation projects and grow their membership. Participating organizations keep half of the funds they raise while using the event to attract new donors.

The Bird Protection Fund supports projects that benefit the full life–cycle needs of Wisconsin’s birds for breeding, migrating and wintering. Proceeds from this year’s Birdathon will support eight projects and programs: the 2nd Wisconsin Breeding Bird Atlas, Bird City Wisconsin, Important Bird Areas, Wisconsin Stopover Initiative, reforestation in Costa Rica’s Osa Peninsula, Wisconsin’s bird monitoring program and the recovery of whooping cranes and Kirtland’s warblers in the state.

Alyson Douglas is the Great Wisconsin Birdathon coordinator for the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin.