The COVID-19 pandemic’s impact has touched the lives of most Americans and its ripple effects are sparing neither individuals nor organizations. WSO and the rest of the Wisconsin birding community obviously are among those affected.
Most members of WSO may already be aware that, well before Gov. Evers issued his “Safer at Home” order, the Society canceled most of its events through June 1. That includes the 81st annual convention that was to be held in May 14-17 in Two Rivers and several statewide field trips. The health and safety of participants was our primary concern.
If you were already registered for the convention, whether online using PayPal or by check, your payments are being refunded. You will, however, need to cancel your own hotel reservations.
We are currently looking at options for conducting the Annual Meeting, electing new officers and finding additional ways to salute our 2020 Passenger Pigeon Award honorees, featured in this issue of The Birder.
Only one time previously have we been forced to cancel a convention (during World war II). Please watch for further updates in The Birder, on our website, through mailings and on our social media platforms. If you have questions, please contact: email@example.com
While organized field trips have been cancelled through the end of May, that does not mean you can’t be out birding and enjoying the spring migration. Although Ever’s “Safer at Home” Order (issued March 24) generally instructs Wisconsinites to stay at home, it provides an exception for Essential Activities, among which is Outdoor Activity. So long as social distancing requirements are met, the order permits outdoor activities that include walking, biking, hiking, or running “by way of example and without limitation."
Birdwatching would qualify as such an outdoor activity. Visiting public and state parks is also specifically permitted. Travel for the purpose of engaging in an outdoor activity is permitted. Therefore, driving or biking to go birdwatching is allowed. Such travel, however, should be minimal and you need to be aware of local advice and restrictions. (Vacation destinations are discouraging travel to their areas.) The order states at the outset that: “This is a critical moment in Wisconsin. We must all do our part to cease non-essential travel, business and social interactions.”
Fees are now waived for all Wisconsin State Parks and trails that continue to remain open to the public.
While COVID-19 has brought the rest of WSO’s schedule for April and May to a halt, WSO’s Executive Committee is making plans to stage a limited Honey Creek Birdathon & Bandathon event in order to keep intact a 35-year data set for the Harold and Carla Kruse Honey Creek Nature Preserve and to raise funds to support and maintain this critically important bird habitat.
But this will be a different event. Unless health restrictions preclude it, a few birders will gather to conduct the count, and they will keep their social distance as they tally the number of species seen and heard. Prof. Anna Pidgeon and a small team will privately band spring migrants. But that’s it. There will be no group hike up the valley or public viewing of banding, and no refreshments or, alas, fellowship.
We also had hoped to use the occasion to celebrate the latest acquisition to our preserve. After decades of sharing the Cox Nature Center with our neighbors and longtime preserve supporters, the Cox family, WSO recently completed the purchase of their old farmhouse across the driveway using funds that remained from the Dischler addition purchase.
So now, more than ever, we need your support. The Honey Creek Preserve is listed as a State Natural Area and is home to some of the state’s most threatened and vulnerable species, including nesting Cerulean Warblers. The work we do at Honey Creek is critical to protecting these birds both during migration and nesting. Our goal this year is to raise $15,000, but we can only do it with your generous support. See Page 6 for more information and a pledge form.