Promoting the enjoyment, study, and conservation of Wisconsin's birds.

 The Passenger Pigeon Awards to be presented at the 77th annual Wisconsin Society for Ornithology Convention in Racine will recognize outstanding contributions to conservation science and education as well as long service to the society, including the staging of its annual convention. The honors will be presented at an awards ceremony at 7 p.m. Friday, May 13, at the Racine Architect Hotel & Conference Center, headquarters for the convention.

The awards and the honorees:

The Noel J. Cutright Award, recognizing outstanding contributions to bird conservation in Wisconsin, will go to David Sample, conservation biologist with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. Sample is being honored as:

  • A state and regional leader in grassland bird conservation and research for more than two decades who worked with Wisconsin Bird Conservation Initiative partners to implement Grassland Bird Conservation Areas on multiple landscapes.
  • Lead author of the highly-respected book “Managing habitat for grasslands birds: A guide for Wisconsin.”
  • Key member of a partner-driven effort to create and implement the Southwest Grasslands and Streams Conservation Area.
  • A leader in effort to conserve the Greater Prairie Chicken population in Wisconsin.
  • Principal investigator on first American Badger study in Wisconsin since mid 1900s.
  • Past president of WSO.

The Bronze Passenger Pigeon Award, presented to individuals who have made outstanding contributions in their local communities or in the state to promote the field of ornithology, will go to Rick Fare, a member of the Board of Directors of the Hoy Audubon Society for more than 10 years who has held many roles, including president. Nominators said Fare:

  • Has devoted countless hours to developing and presenting programs to educate the public about bird conservation and birds in general (beginning bird programs, bluebird conservation and monitoring programs, winter bird programs, bird feeding programs, etc.)
  • Has worked tirelessly with other Hoy volunteers setting up new bluebird trails, coordinating Hoy’s 28 bluebird trails and 30 monitors while continuing to monitor his own bluebird trail and helping set up numerous Purple Martin boxes along the lakefront.
  • Has spent hours volunteering for the River Bend Nature Center, Pringle Nature Center and Hawthorne Hollow, giving programs and leading bird walks for hundreds of children and families.
  •  Has represented Hoy at a farmer’s market, Earth Day presentations and Bird City events, as well as at local schools, talking with children about birds and conservation, and taken many new birders along on Christmas Bird Counts.

The Silver Passenger Pigeon Award, presented to members of WSO for distinguished service to the Society, is being awarded to Christine Zimmerman and Margaret Brasser, both of who have served on the WSO Convention Committee for 12 years. Zimmerman has chaired the committee since 2011; Brasser is the longtime convention registrar and committee secretary. The committee was formed after the 2004 convention in Chippewa Falls to get ready for the 2005 convention in Sheboygan.

Their service has helped WSO restore the convention to the status it had long enjoyed as a focal point of the Society’s annual life and seen attendance recover to a level more than double what it had slipped to in the early years of this century. Both are also avid and active birders involved with Sheboygan County Audubon Society and the Ellwood H. May Environmental Park – Maywood. Brasser, working with web administrator Paul Jakoubek, has overseen the transition to online registration and keeps the committee ahead of the curve with detailed minutes, action items and registration material templates.

“She then handles all of the online and email registrations, confirming them and sending out additional information before finally printing and assembling the registrant packets. She shows up at the convention site ahead of everyone else to staff, along with husband Dave, the WSO registration desk for two days.”

Zimmerman handles negotiations for the convention site, room rentals, luncheon and banquet catering, hotel and motel room blocks with discounted rates, and camping sites. She wrestles the field trip leaders into place and helps establish their routes, while orchestrating a picnic for 100+ people on the opening night of the convention and then launching three sets of early-morning field trip departures.

A Certificate of Achievement, which goes to previous recipients of the Silver Passenger Pigeon who continue to provide exceptional service to WSO, will go to Mark Peterson. Peterson received the Silver in 1992 and went on to serve for 16 more years as fall seasonal editor of The Passenger Pigeon, WSO’s quarterly journal. Peterson also has served over the span of several decades as compiler of four Christmas Bird Counts, conducted multiple Breeding Bird Surveys for the U.S. Geological Survey as well as breeding bird surveys on multiple State Natural Areas. From 1995 to 2000, he served as regional coordinator for Shawano, Waupaca and Menomonee Counties for the first Wisconsin Breeding Bird Survey. Peterson moved to Bartlesville, Okla., in 2004 but has returned to Wisconsin multiple times each year to visit his parents.

A WSO Special Recognition Award will go to the Urban Ecology Center in Milwaukee, recognized for its efforts to educate urban youth and adults about birds and conservation. In announcing the award, bestowed by WSO’s Board of Directors, President Kim Kreitinger said: “The Urban Ecology Center does an incredible job of exposing inner city children to their natural surroundings. Nature does not have to mean wilderness. Nature can be found in some of the most urban settings if one only looks for it, and UEC helps to provide this awareness through their programs. “WSO is so pleased to be a partner in their educational efforts, primarily through our financial support of the I Spy...Birds summer camp. By introducing these students to birds and their natural history, UEC is helping to develop the next generation of ornithologists and conservationists.” With WSO’s financial support, children search for birds through binoculars they get to take home at the end of camp (along with a field guide), play memory games to sharpen their bird identification skills, dance like a variety of bird species, and imitate bird calls, to name just a few of the avian activities they did throughout the week.