Grab the binoculars and the bird guide! The Great Wisconsin Birdathon wings into Wisconsin in May as the avian equivalent of the 24-hour endurance race: birders have a day to find as many bird species in Wisconsin as possible to raise money for bird conservation.
It’s an event that’s also aimed at helping document and increase awareness in Wisconsin communities of the diversity and importance of birds within their area.
“The Birdathon is a great way for birding enthusiasts to have fun, match their bird identification skills against others, and raise money and awareness for a great cause,” says Andy Paulios, Department of Natural Resources coordinator of the Wisconsin Bird Conservation Initiative, which co-sponsors the event along with the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin. “People who don’t want to participate by birding can still help a great cause by making a pledge.”
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 that do birdathons get to keep half of the money they raise for local bird conservation efforts and the other half goes to the overall bird protection fund for statewide priorities.
People can join in the Birdathon in several ways:
- Start a team. Gather team members and collect pledges from family and friends to sponsor the team for a set amount or based on the number of species observed.
- Join an existing team and gather pledges.
- Join a guided Big Day Field Trip with the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin or with some other group.
- Make a tax-deductible pledge based on the number of species spotted by a team or a set amount.
Making a donation is easy and entirely automated at www.wibirdathon.org.
Paulios and other organizers are encouraged by the interest so far. As of this week, there are 42 teams and more than 100 people participating in the birdathon, and they are half-way to their funding goal as well, he says.
The teams range from ones comprised of birding club members to community teams, to teams of “celebrity” birders like Noel Cutright, historian with the Wisconsin Society for Ornithology, and Scott Craven, emeritus wildlife ecologist at University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Grantsburg, for instance, which bills itself as the “Gateway to Crex Meadows,” is fielding a team called “Grantsburg Bird City Boarder Birders.” The community, with 1,341 people, is one of 66 cities in Wisconsin named as a “Wisconsin Bird City” for two consecutive years.