CALS’ best bird brains will compete in Great Wisconsin Birdathon

This May groups of Wisconsin bird enthusiasts will participate in the Great Wisconsin Birdathon, a fundraiser to support bird conservation efforts in the state. The competition involves counting as many bird species as possible—by sight and by sound—over the course of 24 hours with the goal of breaking the 2012 Birdathon record of 162 species seen in one day.

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This year CALS will field two teams. The Badger Birders, composed of members of the Student Chapter of the Wildlife Society at UW-Madison, plan to count birds on campus, primarily in the Picnic Point area, during the first weekend of May.

The second CALS group, known as the Northern Highlands Team, is competing as a “Celebrity Birdathon Team.” The group includes Department of Forest and Wildlife Ecology faculty Scott Craven, David Drake and Jamie Nack, as well as 20 wildlife ecology undergraduate students.

This group plans to count birds on May 24th during the students’ two-week summer camp at Kemp Natural Resources Station near Minocqua. Learning as they go, the students will be given instruction in various bird survey techniques including point counts, mist netting, playback calls and evening bird surveys. And they may be hard to beat. Kemp Station’s 235 acres contain several distinct ecosystems that attract a wide variety of bird species including old-growth forest, second-growth forest, lake coves, bogs and over one mile of shoreline along Lake Tomahawk.

Both teams are accepting pledges, which can be donated as a lump sum or as a per-species amount. Pledges are due May 1. For those who’d like to be even more involved, you can still start a team, join a team, participate as an individual or sign up for a Big Day Field Trip to help count birds alongside an expert at a birding hot spot.

The Great Wisconsin Birdathon is a collaborative effort of the Wisconsin Natural Resources Foundation and the Wisconsin Bird Conservation Initiative to raise $40,000 for various bird conservation projects in Wisconsin including Bird City Wisconsin, Important Bird Areas and the Wisconsin Stopover Initiative.