Great Wisconsin Birdathon 2020

Cutright's Old Coots - Signature Team

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Cutright's Old Coots again seek to raise at least $13,000 in 2020 and count on your help to respond to the 3 Billion Birds report 

Cutright’s Old Coots are five people who strongly believe that birds are valuable and need our help – now more than ever.

Birds are telling us we must act now to ensure that our planet can sustain wildlife and people. In less than a single lifetime, North America has lost more than one in four of its birds, according to a report in the world’s leading scientific journal. Published in Science by researchers at seven institutions, the findings show that 2.9 billion breeding adult birds have been lost since 1970, including birds in every ecosystem.

Conservation action rests in the hands of individuals like us to protect the birds we love and their habitats. Despite discouraging reports about habitat loss, invasive species, window collisions and pesticide perils, there are encouraging success stories that show we can make a difference for the birds we love:

  • The bird friendly Fiserv Forum
  • Refreshing changes at the Department of Natural Resources
  • Expansion of Bird City Wisconsin to 109 communities here and the launch of similar programs in 8 other states.
  • The growing success of the Whooping Crane reintroduction program and Kirtland Warbler range extension.

The Great Wisconsin Birdathon is another of those success stories because it has found a way to engage individuals and communities to raise support and awareness for birds in Wisconsin. That’s why we have been proud to be part of an effort by the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin that has raised more than $500,000 since 2012.

And we have done it because people like you – those of you reading this page right now – have agreed that birds are valuable and in need of your help, too. And you can do it all online and later receive a detailed account of our Big Day of nonstop birding when we again will be seeking out every species we can find over a wide area of southeast Wisconsin.

Last year, our supporters turned out in record numbers and showed extraordinary commitmemt to this effort, donating just over $13,000. We hope to sustain that momentum with the support of current donors who also can share this message as we seek to recruit new supporters for this effort!

Our secure web site lets you pick your donation type: You can make a pledge per species or give a flat amount to our effort to observe at least 160 species in just 24 hours. The NRF's  web site takes care of the rest, including handling the pledges and notifying the Coots of your donation. You can donate by check or credit card and if you make a per-species pledge it will notify you how much that amounts to after we complete our Big Day.

Every year since 2012 we have enlisted as many friends, family and colleagues as possible to support a team for the Great Wisconsin Birdathon. Hawkeye and the Ancient Murrelets helped to launch that effort. But then in 2013 our young Hawkeye Seth Cutright went back to school, and ornithologist and dear friend Noel Cutright passed away. So in 2014 Tom Uttech and Carl Schwartz recruited two new teammates -- Marilyn Bontly and Joan Sommer -- to form Cutright's Old Coots, to honor Noel and continue our support of the Bird Protection Fund. Then in 2015 we had added a 5th teammate, Mike Wanger, and last year were joined by an old friend of Noel's, Ric Zarwell, who spearheaded the formation of Bird Friendly Iowa, modeled on the Bird City Wisconsin program.

So the five of us will be setting out on Wednesday May 20 with a goal of finding at least 160 species. We cover all our own costs so every dollar we raise goes to the Bird Protection Fund, which backs conservation projects that are particularly close to our hearts, including Kirtland's Warblers, Bird City Wisconsin (now with 109 communities statewide), the Western Great Lakes Bird & Bat Observatory, Whooping Crane reintroduction and the Wisconsin Breeding Bird Atlas.


Here’s a little more background on the Coots:

Tom Uttech – Noted landscape artist, WSO member and Cutright Bird Club member

Marilyn Bontly -- Schlitz Audubon, WSO and Cutright Bird Club member

Joan Sommer -- Former WSO bookstore operator and Cutright Bird Club member

Mike Wanger -- Milwaukee County coordinator for Wisconsin Breeding Bird Atlas II

Carl Schwartz -- Former WSO president and editor of The Badger Birder


Our team namesake: Noel Cutright (1943 - 2013)

A well known and much admired Wisconsin ornithologist, Dr. Noel Cutright devoted his personal and professional life to bird conservation, citizen science, and ecological restoration. After receiving his Master’s and Ph.D. degrees from Cornell University, he worked for We Energies in Wisconsin for 29 years. As their Senior Terrestrial Ecologist, he promoted numerous environmental projects and initiatives throughout the energy industry.

As president of the Wisconsin Society for Ornithology, Cutright galvanized and advanced the organization’s research, science and conservation efforts. He was senior editor of the landmark first Wisconsin Breeding Bird Atlas. As a long-term advisor to the WDNR and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, he promoted the Wisconsin Bird Conservation Initiative, the State Natural Areas Program, and Neotropical migratory bird conservation efforts. He helped to create the Bird City Wisconsin Program and worked to develop management plans to restore populations of Osprey, Bald Eagles, Peregrine Falcons, Trumpeter Swans and Eastern Bluebirds; and to establish State Natural Areas in Wisconsin and Neotropic Nature Reserves in Belize and Costa Rica.

Cutright received prestigious awards from the WDNR, Gathering Waters Conservancy, and Milwaukee Audubon Society. As an educator, he shared his knowledge and deep love of the natural world, inspiring countless “new conservationists” to work together to restore and protect ecosystems locally and globally.

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Donations and Comments

  • Eric

    about a week ago

    Happy Birthday Dad!

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