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

By Bob Domagalski

Unlike the year 2019, when there were few unusual birds to be found, 2020 was a banner year for accidentals.  This abundance of rare species combined with a year of pandemic closures and precautions, in which birding was one of few safe outlets for activity, made for an exceptional year of birding.

Two of the more outstanding finds that remained long enough for birders to enjoy were the second state record of a Tufted Duck, found in Winnebago County, and the first state record of an Allen’s Hummingbird in Green County. 

Intro Tufted Duck photo 3 21

Jim Edlhuber photographed this Tufted Duck from Fresh Air Park in Neenah, on the shore of Lake Winnebago, on April 16, 2020

Intro Allens Hummingbird photo 3 21

This Allen’s Hummingbird (male, hatch year-winter) was photographed by Jeremy Meyer of Franklin. To see more of his photos: https://www.jmeyerphotography.net/allens-hummingbird-in-wisconsin/

In addition, unlike 2019 when winter finches were nearly nonexistent, 2020 proved to be a year when all such finches were found.

In 2019, the only birder to report 300 or more species was Daryl Tessen with 316.  He was followed, not too closely, by Jim Frank with 277 and Aaron Holschbach with 271.  By contrast, in 2020 there were 8 birders recording 300+.  These were Tessen (332), Frank (315), Melissa Kesling (314), Holschbach (307), Jeff Brinkman (304), Jacob Collison (301), Carl Schwartz (300) and Brad Steger (300). 

Lists of Lists - WSO’s annual “lists of lists” compilation – 8 full pages-- includes all the state totals for 2020, as well as county, state and North America life lists. But they only appear in The Badger Birder, the monthly newsletter delivered by mail or electronically to every member of WSO.


The only years with more birders reaching 300 were 2006 with 9 and 2013 with 10.

An additional 13 birders reported totals that were higher than last year’s second place 277 species.

There was a corresponding uptick in state life totals.  Previous to this year, Tessen had the most life species with 421 followed by the late Dennis Gustafson with 389.  This year, Tessen’ s total increased to 423, while Gustafson was surpassed by Kay Kavanagh with 392 and Mark Korducki with 391.  Will these birders eventually reach 400?

Nearly all veteran birders had sizable increases in their life totals.  Among them were Kavanagh (387 to 392), Tom Schultz (375 to 388), Daryl Christensen (381 to 386), Jim Frank (375 to 382), Dan Belter (371 to 379) and John Dixon (369 to 378).

Likewise, there were significant increases in county life totals.  An unprecedented number of counties had replacements for highest county life totals.  These were Barron (Craig Faanes 249), Calumet (Dar Tiede 243), Eau Claire (Anne Geraghty 258), Green (Aaron Haycraft 241), Iron (Bruce Bacon 200), Ozaukee (Jim Frank 320), Pepin (Anne Geraghty 195), and Waupaca (Daryl Tessen 226).

Marty Evanson, with 305, became the eighth birder to report 300 or more species in Dane County; Marilyn Bontly, with 300, became the 10th  birder to report 300 or more in Ozaukee County; Tessen, with 300, became the first birder in Winnebago County to report 300 or more.

Although we do not include year totals for the various counties, there were several significant efforts reported. In 2020, Kathy Kershaw found 283 species in Dane County.  In Door County, Korducki found 239.  This set a new yearly record for that county. The former record was held by Melody Walsh with 216.

Numerous birders added their totals to this report for the first time.  Some of these were veteran birders who have birded many years in counties not well covered.  Among these were Geraghty, Haycraft, Kershaw and Pamela Hoyland.  THANK YOU, and thanks to all those who have participated in these reports over these many years.

In 2020, Domagalski received WSO’s  Lifetime Achievement Award, honoring his extraordinary service to WSO.  Domagalski may be  best known for his longtime work as WSO’s “Compiler of Annual and Life Lists” and as Fall Field Notes Editor. He also has spent hundreds of hours going through old issues of The Passenger Pigeon, compiling lists of Wisconsin rare bird reports and extreme dates – which he has continued to maintain. He received WSO’s Silver Passenger Pigeon Award in 2008 and the Certificate of Appreciation in 2015.