All-star birding teams to face off in Big Day competition

Two teams of hotshot Wisconsin birders will go head-to-head in a competition to see the most bird species over the same 24-hour period this month—and to raise the most funds for bird protection while doing so. The two Great Wisconsin Birdathon Big Day teams, Curlew & Screech and Cleopatra & the Stilts, are asking outdoor enthusiasts statewide to donate 10 cents per bird species they find. The teams are targeting a 24-hour period between May 18 and May 20 for the Big Day competition.

For the last 13 years veteran birders Al Shea and Randy Hoffman, team Curlew & Screech, have held the state record for most bird species observed over 24 hours at 230. For the Big Day competition, the two will follow their original path in south-central Wisconsin, starting at Sun Prairie at midnight, moving north to Buena Vista before dawn, on to the Cranmoor, Bear Bluff and Sandhill areas before heading to the Baraboo Hills region, Dane and Columbia counties and ending the day at Horicon Marsh.

“As Master Po might tell his student Caine, “choose wisely grasshopper,” Shea said in a message to Cleopatra & the Stilts. “Your route to find shorebirds will determine your success.”

Birders Cynthia Bridge, Tom Prestby and Quentin Yoerger, of team Cleopatra & the Stilts, average nearly 183 birds in 24 hours. Their path will start at midnight in the marshes of Marquette and Green Lake counties, wind through the grasslands of Mt. Horeb at dawn, move up to Spring Green to work the Wisconsin River corridor east to Columbia County, and will likely end in Sheboygan.

“Two hundred and thirty is an amazing record, but how will that route measure up after more than a decade of range shifts and other changes?” Prestby said. “Curlew & Screech had the genius of inventing their record-winning route, but we have the field experience and savviness to construct our own route.”

Donors who pledge 10 cents per bird or give a single donation of at least $20 to either team will be entered in a drawing to win a $250 Eagle Optics gift certificate or one of six Birdwatching Magazine subscriptions. Funds raised through the Great Wisconsin Birdathon benefit the Bird Protection Fund, which supports eight bird conservation projects and programs, including the Wisconsin Breeding Bird Atlas II, Bird City Wisconsin, and the Important Bird Areas program.

The Big Day teams will each be joined during the 24-hour event by a live tweeter using the hashtag #BigDayWI. Lindsay Renick Mayer, communications director for the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin, will join Curlew and Screech and will take over the Foundation’s Twitter account. Emily Meier, communications and outreach coordinator for Madison Audubon Society, will join Cleopatra and the Stilts and will take over Madison Audubon Society’s Twitter account.

Individuals interested in the Birdathon can also register for a Birdathon Tour or give directly to the Birdathon or to a different team. The Great Wisconsin Birdathon runs until June 15. It is a collaboration of the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin, Wisconsin Bird Conservation Initiative, Wisconsin Audubon Council, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Wisconsin Society for Ornithology, and Bird City Wisconsin. For details go to

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Lindsay Renick Mayer
Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin
[email protected]
608-266-3138 (office)
608-843-6669 (cell)