For the first time in 2015, the Wisconsin Society for Ornithology coordinated its own Great Wisconsin Oriole Count, which had been last year in conjunction with the Natural Resources Foundation as part of the Great Wisconsin Birdathon.
Our objective was a bit different than the Birdathon: Instead of a fundraiser, our goal was to generate awareness and interest about birds among young people. Orioles are. of course. one of the stars of our spring migration and an easy bird to count at feeders, generating excitement and interest for children.
We promoted the count statewide, and 20 groups of a variety of different types registered to participate --from families to school classrooms, Girl Scout troops, a Bird City and even a public library.
All of the participants received special oriole feeders, courtesy of WSO, which we obtained with the help of Dan Panetti of Wild Birds Unlimited in Mequon. We also were contacted by someone from Albert Lea, Minn., who found us while researching this year’s oriole migration, and while they didn’t participate in the count, we still had a nice conversation about orioles in the Midwest.
At this writing, 48 Baltimore Orioles and one Orchard Oriole were reported by counters. Although the count officially began on May 1, several groups registered after that and got a late start, as orioles seemed to come through the state during the first part of May this year.
In addition to the oriole data itself, there were some interesting and rewarding stories about students and teachers becoming more aware of the birds in their yards in general. One had an interesting first encounter with a Northern Mockingbird for more than an hour, which was the highlight of their count.
Eagle Optics generously donated binoculars and a spotting scope to be used for prizes to be given to participants in a drawing -- a great incentive to participate.
We hope that this activity inspires students and the adults they work with to think about the wonderful birdlife present in our state, and what they can do to protect and help the amazing wildlife that share our landscape.
Jim Knickelbine WSO Education Co-Chair