Annual Birdathon finds 133 species on protected private lands

Barb Barzen, Project & Grants Coordinator, Driftless Area Land Conservancy

Emily Landmann searched for birds at the Jordahl Farm in Richland County. Photo via Barbara Morford

Call them crazy, but birders like Barbara Morford and Emily Landmann enjoy getting up in the dark to reach the field right as the chorus of birds gets into gear, around 5:30 a.m. The morning of Monday, May 17, they headed to the Jordahl Farm north of Richland Center to go birding for the Driftless Area Land Conservancy’s annual birdathon.

From May 14-17, 20 birders visited 20 properties in the River Valley and beyond that the Conservancy protects through conservation easements or ownership, plus four project areas that partnerships they coordinate focus on, including the Lowery Creek Watershed south of Taliesin.

One of several Sandhill Crane pairs at the Ringelstetter Wetland in the Lower Wisconsin Riverway wanders their territory. The property also hosts nesting Bald Eagles and Trumpeter Swans.

The entire birdathon team, dubbed The Prairie DALCons, set out to get a snapshot of how migratory birds use these properties. The Conservancy is using their effort to raise funding for the organization’s work protecting and managing habitat for birds and other wildlife. The birders agreed it felt good to put their passion to work for sorely needed bird conservation efforts, since many bird populations are in decline.

The team found fourteen state-listed Special Concern species and three state-threatened species – Cerulean Warbler, Upland Sandpiper, and Henslow’s Sparrow. Altogether, they found an impressive 133 species.

“Since the presence or absence of birds indicates the health of the habitat they depend on”, explained Jen Filipiak, the Conservancy’s executive director, “we are heartened by the glimpse this event gave us of how our protected properties and project areas support birdlife. Over 95% of the bird habitat in southwestern Wisconsin is privately owned, so this event sheds light on the importance of assisting private landowners with managing and protecting their land.”

A bluebird peeks out of its nesting cavity in a large tree. Photo by Rebecca Gilman

The Prairie DALCons are one of 62 birdathon teams participating in the statewide Great Wisconsin Birdathon, coordinated by the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin. As an organizational team, proceeds are split between the Driftless Area Land Conservancy and statewide bird conservation initiatives like the Wisconsin Breeding Bird Atlas.

To donate, visit and designate your gift to The Prairie DALCons. Donations will be accepted until June 15.