Each year the Great Wisconsin Birdathon aims to get people outside and connecting with birds while raising funds for priority conservation projects. Hundreds of participants and donors are united each year to support our Wisconsin birds

Another group advocating for the birds is the Wisconsin Society for Ornithology, one of this year’s Great Wisconsin Birdathon sponsors. The Wisconsin Society for Ornithology (WSO) is a volunteer, non-profit organization whose mission is to promote the enjoyment, study and conservation of Wisconsin birds.

Turnstones and nutcrackers and warblers, oh my! Beyond being a few of our favorite Wisconsin birds, these are also a few of the Great Wisconsin Birdathon teams that members of WSO participated with for this year’s event. While WSO’s sponsorship provided essential support for the operations of this year’s event, the teams representing their members really stole the show by breaking Birdathon records during this banner year! 

Cutright’s Old Coots

Captained by Badger Birder Editor Carl Schwartz, Cutright’s Old Coots has participated in the Birdathon each year since the start of the event in 2012. Rather than conducting their usual three county Big Day, their team members stayed local and birded with family as Carl perfectly described, “#AloneTogether and Physically Distanced but Socially Engaged. Their team boasted a record number of “Old Coots” team membersa team record of species found with 176 total, and a record raised for any Birdathon team at $13,546!  

Members of the social distanced Cutright’s Old Coots Birdathon team

The Rudderless Turnstones

The Rudderless Turnstones, led by Passenger Pigeon Editor Tim Hahn, embarked on a Big Day close to home this year. Tim has participated in the Birdathon for many years but saw this year as the perfect opportunity to conduct their team’s first true Waukesha County Big Day.

Their small group practiced social distanced birding across their favorite local birding hot spots to find 120 species! Highlights from their day included a Stilt Sandpiper, two Black-throated Blue Warblers, and the opportunity to observe a group of American Woodcock after sunset. Perfectly capturing the excitement yet exhaustion of a full day of birding, Tim shared, “We all agreed this was an awesome experience and plan to do it again…but not until next year!”

Tim joined by friends Paul and Paula as The Rudderless Turnstones

Wausau Nutcrackers

Myles Hurlburt, immediate Past President of WSO, captained the Wausau Nutcrackers for another year of the Birdathon in support of the Wausau Bird Club. As the saying goes, the early bird gets the worm and the Wausau Nutcrackers shared the title of “early birders” of the Birdathon with 3:00 AM sightings of Eastern Whip-poor-will, American Woodcock, and Wilsons Snipe. After 15 hours of birding, they wrapped up the day with 143 species and over $2,000 raised. Myles summed up their Big Day as, “Great day with good friends for a great cause for the benefit of our Wisconsin birds.

Wausau Nutcrackers Birdathon team, Stilt Sandpiper and Baltimore Oriole by Myles Hurlburt

A Walks in the Parks

A Walk in the Parks, led by WSO members Dee Freeman and Marilyn Bontly and joined by Badger Birder Editor Carl Schwartz, embraced a social distanced Birdathon long before this year. In fact, their approach for many years has been to encourage team members to enjoy a spring Big Day at one of the many Washington or Ozaukee County parks. Their goal each year is to involve as many birders as possible in the event while supporting both the Birdathon and the Noel J Cutright Bird Club. 

Noel J. Cutright Bird Club logo

Jen’s Wehr Warblers

Jennifer Rutten, Communications Chair, led Jen’s Wehr Warblers in support of Wehr Nature CenterFor a Birdathon that was twice as fun, Jen’s Wehr Warblers opted for two events – one in the spring and one in the fall. Jen’s Wehr Warblers was the largest team this year, with bird enthusiasts turning out to support the Birdathon and Wehr Nature Center. Thankfully, they had plenty of space to distance throughout the many trails of Wehr

Their spring Big Day brought the discovery of 84 species including documentation of courting, nesting, and feeding young. For the fall they found an additional 8 species not recorded during their first team outing. In total their team raised over $6,000 for this year’s Birdathon with half going back to support bird conservation at Wehr Nature Center.

Members of Jen’s Wehr Warblers Birdathon team at Wehr Nature Center

Secretary Birds

Another original team, Secretary Birds featuring Records Chair Quentin, are the team to watch each year for their impressive species tally. Each year Secretary Birds strive for the “holy grail” of a Wisconsin Big Day to capture 200 species. This year through social distancing, the team got to test out what a Big Day would look like if you could be in more place than once.

For his route, Quentin birded from Wyalusing State Park to Horicon Marsh finding rarities including a Glossy Ibis, Black-necked Stilt, and even a Blue Grosbeak. Their team finally hit the holy grail and broke the Birdathon record for most species found at 207. Their team shared, “It goes to show how hard 200 is to hit that we all had great days with three different routes and “only” topped 200 by 7!”

Secretary Birds team, image from 2019 Great Wisconsin Birdathon

Magnificent Maywood Merlins

Representing Maywood Environmental Park and captained by Communications Chair Jennifer Rutten, the Magnificent Maywood Merlins joined for their first year of the Great Wisconsin Birdathon. Their team documented the first Carolina Wren ever recorded at Maywood, and the first recorded in Sheboygan County since 2017! Jennifer shared that they ended their fall Big Day with “45 species in all and a renewed energy and respect for the spectacular habitats at Maywood!

Members of the Magnificent Maywood Merlins

Thank you to the Wisconsin Society for Ornithology for their support in making the Great Wisconsin Birdathon a huge success this year.

Written by Sarah Cameron, Birdathon Coordinator

The Wisconsin Society for Ornithology’s mission is: “to promote the enjoyment, study and conservation of Wisconsin’s birds.” For over the past 80 years WSO has grown to become one of the largest and most active ornithological organizations in the nation. 

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