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WSO honors 9 Passenger Pigeon Award recipients

Despite the challenges of separation and isolation during the pandemic, many people continue to work hard on behalf of birds. After receiving a number of worthy nominations, WSO’s Board of Directors selected nine Passenger Pigeon Award recipients for 2023.  They will be recognized on Friday May 19th at WSO’s 81st Annual Convention  at the Ingleside Hotel in Pewaukee.

This will be a bonus year, as we will also recognize the Passenger Pigeon awardees from 2020, 2021 and 2022 when COVID precluded convening in person. WSO congratulates the following 2023 honorees:

The Bronze Passenger Pigeon Award is presented to individuals who have made outstanding contributions in their local communities or in the state to promote field of ornithology through conservation work or through organizational efforts. This year, Bronze Awards go to Nancy Nabak and Susan Haug.

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Club leader, Bird City rep Nancy Nabak

Nancy Nabak

Nancy has a long tenure as president of the Bay Area Bird Club (BABC), providing leadership that has facilitated significant bird conservation. Green Bay was one of the first Bird Cities in Wisconsin, and in 2012 Nancy was instrumental in accomplishing that goal. She continues as a Green Bay Bird City representative by working on the statewide Chimney Swift Working Group. Nancy also has co-chaired (along with Adam Sinkula) the Big Bay Bird-a-thon since its 2012 inception. This highly successful project has raised over $25,000 for bird conservation projects that include: the Duck Restoration Project; Baird Creek Preservation Society; binoculars purchased and kits for children at the Green Bay Botanical Gardens; sponsorship(s) of the 2nd Wisconsin Breeding Bird Atlas; Red-shouldered Hawk DNA research; project SOAR-Snowy Owl Airport Rescue; and many other worthy bird-conservation efforts.

Nancy recognizes that the bird club members are its greatest resource and BABC members know she values them as people. As a result, they have seen substantial growth in membership. Nancy communicates well with large groups and keeps everyone involved. She transformed their club newsletter "The Chickadee" from paper to an electronic format. She is very effective because of her organizational skills. She is the motivator and the workhorse — setting BABC goals and, together with other club members, meeting them.

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Bird club mainstay Susan Haug

Susan Haug

Susan currently holds the titles of president, vice president, treasurer and secretary of the Wausau Bird Club. Simply stated, without her the club would not exist. She literally organizes everything from the club meetings to the field trips to the annual camping trip held at a different state park every year with planned bird walks.

Susan submits the yearly Bird City Wisconsin application that includes securing a proclamation for World Migratory Bird Day from the mayor of Wausau. She hosts a birding trip to the Nicolet Forest, she coordinates the Spring Bird Count and plans the annual club party after the Christmas Bird Count. She keeps club members informed about other bird-related activities around the state. She encourages them to do what they can for the birds and provides a good example for others by taking care of the birds around her home, such as taking the necessary precautions to prevent window strikes and planting native species that benefit birds.

The birds, the bird lovers and the Wausau area all benefit from her dedication.

The Silver Passenger Pigeon Award is presented to members of WSO for distinguished service to the Society. Silver Awards go to Jenny Wenzel and Wendy Schultz.

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WSO Secretary, bird club leader Jenny Wenzel

Jennifer Wenzel

Jenny served in her distinguished tenure as secretary of WSO for 10 years, two of them with the added challenge of note-taking while the board conducted their meetings via Zoom. She is also a member of the WSO Records Committee and serves as a liaison between WSO and BRAW (Bluebird Restoration Association of Wisconsin).

She helped establish a bluebird trail in Kenosha County and monitors a trail in Racine County. Additionally, she serves as vice president of the Hoy Audubon Society and was president for two terms. She leads many bird walks for the organization and enjoys sharing her knowledge of birds with others. Jenny is a Lifetime member of WSO.

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WSO awards chair, BIBGY organizer Wendy Schultz

Wendy Schultz

Wendy has served as a member of WSO's Board of Directors since 2017, chairing the Awards Committee. In doing so she has helped the board give wider and more deliberate consideration to the fine ornithological work being done in Wisconsin. She not only has made the selection process more comprehensible for the board, she also has made the presentations at our annual convention a must-attend event.

Most commendable is the way she has coped with the impact of COVID-19, (three years without an in-person convention) setting about on a cross-state series of trips to deliver the awards while her husband filmed the exchanges.

Wendy also leads WSO’s Wisconsin Green Birding Challenge. Since 2010, some of our state’s most intrepid bird watchers have shunned the use of fossil fuels for a cleaner pursuit of their hobby. She not only manages the web application that keeps track of the competitors, she compiles the results so that WSO can honor the winners annually.

The Noel J. Cutright Award (originally called the Green Passenger Pigeon Award) is presented to individuals/groups/organizations that work on behalf of endangered, threatened or common species, promote the establishment, management and protection of bird habitat and educate the public on bird conservation issues. Cutright Awards are going to Al Sherkow, Patrick Ready, and Paul Smith.


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Bird banding mentor Al Sherkow

Al Sherkow

Al has been a respected leader in the state’s bird banding community, and his contributions to research projects and teaching Wisconsin bird banders, banding trainees and ornithologists in Milwaukee, Ozaukee and Washington counties for more than 21 years is outstanding. He has utilized his expertise to develop and participate in a number of bird research projects, resulting in new contributions to the field of ornithology.

Al steps up when a need is voiced by conservation organizations, assisting with or directing projects for the Urban Ecology Center, the Milwaukee BIOME project (headed by Bill Mueller), Riveredge Nature Center, the Western Great Lakes Bird and Bat Observatory as well as the banding program at the Milwaukee County Zoo. His work as a bird bander and mentor to trainees has elevated the science of bird banding and contributed greatly to the field of ornithology.

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Osprey, bluebird, kestrel expert Patrick Ready

Patrick Ready

Patrick has been birding for over 60 years and remembers seeing his first Snowy Owl by his house when he was a child. A self-taught Osprey specialist, he became interested in bringing back Ospreys to southern Wisconsin when he moved to Stoughton in 1996. He worked with Alliant Energy and ATC to place nest platforms in safe areas and off utility poles to prevent electrocution and power outages.

Since 2012, Pat has installed more than two dozen American Kestrel boxes in the greater Madison area, personally monitoring seven boxes and overseeing 14 others, helping other monitors with cleanout and maintenance. He assists Madison Audubon with kestrel banding and helps move boxes to new locations when needed.

Above all, Pat is the bluebird guy. Since 1998, he has installed over 100 bluebird boxes, maintained three bluebird trails in Dane County and mentored over a dozen other bluebird trail monitors. He has served for the last 18 years on the BRAW Board of Directors and edited the Wisconsin Bluebird newsletter.. He has fledged over 1,000 Eastern Bluebirds as well as hundreds of other native cavity nesters over the years.

He has served as a field trip leader for Madison Audubon since 1986, teaching many birders the skills to see and ID birds, especially warblers. His dedication to bird conservation and enthusiasm for birds is contagious and he has given hundreds of presentations using his own photography to bird clubs, garden clubs and nursing homes to promote bluebirds, native cavity nesters, wild birds, kestrels and Osprey.

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Journal Sentinel Outdoors Editor Paul Smith

Paul Smith

Paul is a Wisconsin native who has covered the outdoors for daily newspapers in the state since 1994, including as Outdoors Editor for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel since 2008. He has hunted, fished, paddled, hiked, camped AND BIRDED throughout Wisconsin for more than 40 years.

Paul brings a holistic approach in his coverage of the outdoors and sees fit to acknowledge that it most certainly includes the silent non-consumptive sport of birding, and through his articles makes clear to the reader that the avian community is part of the greater web of life.

Paul holds a B.A. from Carthage College in biology, natural science and conservation and also studied photojournalism at Marquette University. He has served as president of the Wisconsin Outdoor Communicators Association and on the board of directors of the Association of Great Lakes Outdoors Writers and Outdoor Writers Association of America, as well as on a hunting safety task force of the National Wild Turkey Federation.

WSO’s Special Recognition Award was created to honor the collective efforts of a far-reaching project or partnership that increases public awareness and appreciation for birds, their habitats or the need for conservation. In 2023 WSO is recognizing BIPOC Birding Club of WIsconsin and the Feminist Bird Club.

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BIPOC Birding Club members visited the Waupaca Biological Field Station for an amazing bird-banding opportunity during
the height of last spring’s migration.

BIPOC Birding Club of Wisconsin

The BIPOC Birding Club of Wisconsin is filling a longstanding need to bring more people of diverse backgrounds, underrepresented populations and historically marginalized groups into the fold of those who care about birds. In their own words, “Birding and the outdoors are for everybody” and in the short couple of years since its inception, the group has put this mantra into practice, creating hubs in Madison and Milwaukee where they have successfully attracted the attention and enthusiasm of many new and diverse birders as well as local and national media. The more people we have engaged in birding, the more people we have willing to speak out for birds and their habitats.


The Wisconsin chapter of the Feminist Bird Club started in 2019 and is one of about 25 in the world—and one of the most active

Feminist Bird Club – Madison Chapter

The Feminist Bird Club launched in 2016 with the goal of removing barriers to birding. Its website describes itself as “a birdwatching club dedicated to promoting inclusivity in birding while fundraising and providing a safe opportunity for members of the LGBTQIA+ community, BIPOC, and women to connect with the natural world.”

Individual chapters take this mission and make it their own. The Wisconsin chapter, located in Madison and started in 2019, is one of about 25 chapters in the world—and one of the most active. It organizes year-round monthly bird outings, publishes an informative monthly newsletter, hosts social events and a social channel (Discord) for ongoing communication, and creates partnerships (with Madison Library, Madison Audubon, the BIPOC Bird Club, among others) to help it meet its goals. Everything they do is free.

What makes the FBC so special is its unwavering commitment to making birding as accessible as possible — searching not only for barriers that keep people from becoming birders but also for solutions to overcome them. They have a “gear library” that loans out binoculars and field guides. They raised money, through a birdathon, to supply the Madison Public Library system with birding backpacks that can be checked out of libraries. They partner with a variety of community groups – such as Open Doors for Refugees -- to bring birding to others rather than waiting for people to find birding.