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

 -By Dar and Cathy Tiede
WSO Convention Committee Chairs-


Daylight hours are getting longer, cardinals are singing, and spring is on the way! Time to open registration for WSO’s 80th annual convention! The convention will take place Friday May 24 through Monday May 27 in the Eau Claire area with the Gaylord Nelson Audubon Society as local co-host.

Convention activities will take place at or near the River Prairie Center in Altoona, only minutes from downtown Eau Claire on a beautiful bend in the Eau Claire River. The River Prairie development also provides convenient access to lodging, a coffee store, several restaurants, a 24-hour gas station and a 24-hour grocery store.

Pre-registration opens March 1 using the packet on Pages 13-18 of this newsletter or online at Registration fees are the same as last year: $40 for adults and $20 for students. The packet includes a detailed schedule of events. Register by mail or on-line before April 30 to avoid the increased fee for walk-in registration.

The packet also includes information on hotel accommodations. You will need to make your own hotel reservations and special rates are available only until April 23.

Some highlights (included with registration unless otherwise noted):

Friday, May 24 -- Our local co-host will prepare a grill-out picnic from 4 to 6 p.m. in a pavilion right near the River Prairie Center. Friday evening also features the opening welcome followed by the annual Passenger Pigeons Awards ceremony and reception. 

Saturday, May 25 -- The day will begin early with local field trips, returning in time for a “South of the Border” buffet lunch. Build your own taco (or salad) along with a bowl of chicken tortilla soup!

The annual WSO business meeting will follow lunch and then a group photo to commemorate the 80th annual convention, time and weather permitting.  This will be followed by the afternoon speaker program.  See Page 2 of the registration packet for details on topics and speakers.

Saturday evening will include a social hour with cash bar and then a plated evening banquet. See the top of Page 5 in the registration packet for a full description of your meal choices which include chicken, steak, walleye or vegetarian. The banquet is $27 (a dollar less than in 2018) and is not included in the standard registration.

The keynote presentation follows the banquet and features award winning journalist and author Steve Betchkal. Attendance at the keynote is included with your registration fee.

In his 30-year career Steve has produced 11,000 TV stories and hundreds of articles about birds and outdoor adventures for newspaper and magazine. He has received 70 awards for excellence in journalism including 5 Emmys and an Edward R. Murrow Award for news writing.

Steve will speak on the topic “Soft Spot, Hard Sell: The Problem with Promoting Birds in the Media”. We have a soft spot for birds and believe their beauty enhances the quality of our lives.  So why doesn’t everyone feel that same way? Steve will discuss his experiences with the monumental challenge of spreading the word on birds!

Sunday, May 26 -- Sunday will feature five field trip options including conventional car caravans, a special combination bus/railcar trip and a new option to bird by bicycle. Refer to Page 3 of the registration packet for a list of destinations. Box lunches are available for $12; see the bottom of Page 5.

The Sunday bus/railcar option includes a unique opportunity to experience "birding by rail" in the morning, with additional afternoon bus stops on the return to the Eau Claire area. The bus is a motor coach with bathroom.

The railcar adventure features an open-air train that will take passengers on a 5-mile ride deep into the Tiffany Bottoms Wildlife Area, part of the Lower Chippewa River Important Bird Area. Various stops are made along the way to explore the birds in different habitats, including wetlands and floodplain prairies. The train takes along a porta-potty but it’s NOT handicap accessible. The additional $45 fee for this option covers the cost of the bus and rail rides.

You can view a six-minute video to give you a taste of the adventure: 

The Sunday field trips will return in time for an optional evening “Birds and Beers” get-together at Captain Jack’s Saloon in the River Prairie complex. A wide selection of food and drink is available as an out-of-pocket expense.

Monday, May 27 (Memorial Day) -- Field trips feature an additional five options, all by car caravan. See Page 3 of the packet. Note that these trips will NOT return to Eau Claire. They are intended to offer birding opportunities that take participants in various directions toward home. Box lunches are NOT available Monday.

Questions? Contact Dar at or 920-997-9418


--This is one of several timely articles in this month's Badger Birder newsletter; don't miss out on the latest birding and conservation news. Become a WSO member today!