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April 29, 2014

MADISON - Every day in May is a great day to go birding and now bird lovers can put their passion to work raising money for their feathered friends.

The Great Wisconsin Birdathon (exit DNR) takes flight May 1 with an ambitious goal of raising $75,000, new ways for young people to get involved, and participants including a 15-year-old Mount Horeb girl who was one of last year's top individual fundraisers and a birder who is leading a walk from Kenosha to Marinette that counts birds along the way to raise money.

"Whether you're a backyard birder, a serious bird watcher or you simply love birds, this is the premier way to directly give money to support birds in Wisconsin," says Ryan Brady, who leads monitoring efforts for the Wisconsin Bird Conservation Initiative.

"This year, there are more ways than ever to get involved. You can donate directly online to an existing team, bird on your own or start your own team, or join a birding field trip. And new this year, schools and youth groups can join in our Oriole Count to win the chance at great prizes for their school."

During the birdathon, birders spend any portion of a 24-hour period in May observing birds and asking for pledges per species seen. Donations and pledges are tax deductible and are handled simply and securely online. To pledge, form your own team or learn more about the Great Wisconsin Birdathon, visit the website at (exit DNR).

Last year, 155 birders and 850 pledgers raised $56,000 through the Great Wisconsin Birdathon, soaring above the $40,000 goal. They collectively identified 252 species, including a whopping 188 species identified by a southeastern Wisconsin team. Participants back for 2014 include Lydia Martin, a Mount Horeb teenager who raised more than $400 in 2013, and Bill Mueller, who aims to top last year's 246-mile walk across Wisconsin that raised more than $10,000 by leading a walk from Kenosha to Marinette and doubling his pledges.

Read more about Martin and Mueller and learn more about the 2014 Great Wisconsin Birdathon in the April issue of Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine.

Proceeds from the event go to the Bird Protection Fund, which was created in 2007 and is a partnership of DNR, the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin, and the Wisconsin Bird Conservation Initiative, WBCI.

WBCI partners and Bird City Wisconsin communities that stage birdathons get to keep half of the money they raise for local bird conservation efforts, with the other half going to the Bird Protection Fund to support statewide priorities including the second Wisconsin Breeding Bird Atlas, Bird City Wisconsin, Citizen Science for Birds, Kirtland's warbler monitoring and management, the Important Bird Areas Program, the Wisconsin Stopover Initiative, and the whooping crane reintroduction program.

Baltimore Oriole Count gives youngsters a way to learn and win

New this year, any school, scout, 4-H, home school, or other youth group is welcome to join the Oriole Count, count orioles and compete for prizes. The first 60 teams to register by May 9 will win a free oriole feeder provided by the Wisconsin Society for Ornithology, says Carl Schwartz, president of WSO, which this year became a partner in the birdathon.

Baltimore oriole
Baltimore oriole
Jack Bartholmai Photo

Schwartz says the oriole count was the inspiration of the late ornithologist Noel Cutright, a longtime, well-known WSO leader.

"Noel had hoped for several years to include within the birdathon an educational piece to reach out to young people to teach them about one of the most numerous Neotropical migrants traveling through Wisconsin," Schwartz says.

"Orioles are a good candidate to bring young people in. Partners in Flight estimates that 470,000 orioles come through Wisconsin every year, and orioles are a good feeder bird. Oranges and grape jelly will bring them right in and the birds are easy to identify."

The school or youth group with the highest oriole count averaged over two days will win one of two $1,100 prizes donated by Eagle Optics: five sets of binoculars and a spotting scope and tripod. A second such set will be awarded to one of the other participating teams through a random drawing.

"We hope that many schools and youth groups will take this opportunity to help young people learn more about orioles and win these bird kits for their school or group," Schwartz says.

Learn more about the Oriole Count on the Wisconsin Birdathon website. (exit DNR).

Field trips yet another way to help support bird conservation

With 62 teams already registered to participate, there are plenty of groups to sponsor through pledging, says Maria Sadowski, communications director for the Natural Resources Foundation.

Another way people can participate in the Birdathon is to spend the day in the field with recognized birding experts at one of Wisconsin's best birding hotspots. "These trips will be a three-quarter speed birdathon, finding as many species as possible, with some bird and natural history education along the way," Sadowski says.

The $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 (exit DNR). People must become a member of the foundation to register.

Space is available on these Birding Blitz trips:

Other Special Field Trips

Space is also available on these special birding trips:

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Ryan Brady, 715-421-9018; Maria Sadowski, Natural Resources Foundation, 608-264-6267; Carl Schwartz, 414-416-3272

Last Revised: Tuesday, April 29, 2014

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