Contact(s): Ryan Brady, DNR Natural Heritage Conservation biologist, 715-685-2933; Nora Simmons, Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin communications director, 608-266-3138
MADISON - As Wisconsin's bird migration peaks, bird watchers ranging from Mr. Dargatz's kindergarten class in Sussex to a trio of hard-core birders seeking to find 200 bird species in a single day are fanning out across Wisconsin's wetlands, forests, grasslands and school yards to help the birds they love.
They are participating in the Great Wisconsin Birdathon (exit DNR) to raise money for bird conservation. The event is like a walkathon for birds: participating teams tally as many bird species as possible in a day while collecting pledges and donations.
Bird lovers can join existing teams, start their own, or donate to individual teams, individual team members, or a general fund, all through the Great Wisconsin Birdathon website. To join or donate, visit www.WIBirdathon.org.
"Wisconsinites love birds and the Birdathon is a great way for people to go beyond the birdfeeder to help conserve the birds they love," says Ryan Brady, a DNR Natural Heritage Conservation biologist who serves on the steering committee for the event and participates on a team, the Lake Superior eBirders.
"All Wisconsin birds benefit from the funds raised by Birdathon participants, and the funding is key for priority efforts including restoring Kirtland's warblers and whooping cranes," says Brady.
The DNR Natural Heritage Conservation Program is a partner in the Birdathon, which is organized and run by the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin (exit DNR). Brady and several other DNR bird biologists participate on the event's steering team and on teams themselves.
Last year's Birdathon raised a record $90,000 for bird conservation projects and organizers have set an ambitious goal of $100,000 for 2018, says Diane Packett, birdathon coordinator at the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin.
Many of this year's teams (exit DNR) are heading out a bit later than usual due to the later spring, but as usual, clever names and creative ways of birding abound. The River Raptors teams will be birding by canoe and kayak and the Peddling Paddling Prius Pewees who cruised Dane County roads and trails by bike last year, are adding paddling routes and travel via a hybrid car. The Secretary Birds, who have recorded 190 bird species in each of the last two years running a Door County through Green Bay to Horicon Marsh route, are shooting for observing 200 species and raising $1,500.
"The Birdathon got off to slow start this year because of the late snow storms and cold weather, so teams are still signing up and just beginning to go out birding," Packett says. "With spring migration happening and birds setting up breeding territories, we expect a lot more action in the coming weeks. We know Wisconsinites will mobilize to join the campaign to protect their birds."