Great Wisconsin Birdathon 2019
Donate Now

Goal $100.00


The Finch Gang Report

Great Wisconsin Birdathon

7 May 2018

Finch Gang 2018: Matt & Clare Carlson, Sandy River, Eric Mosher,

Brad Webb, Jeanne Scherer, Karen Etter Hale, Charley Roberts


As one Gang member said last year, “The Birdathon is like Christmas morning wrapped up in the 4th of July”. And so it was, as we hit the trail at 4:40 a.m., too dark to take notes for the next half hour. Stepping out of our cars at Elm Point Road parking lot, we heard Tree Swallows and robins, then a woodcock peenting. Other early risers were a single pheasant crowing, Wild Turkey gobbling, distant Great Horned Owl hooting, and 12 others for a total of 18 for our "nocturnal" count. Alas, no whip-poor-will called this year.


Heading down the Glacial Drumlin Trail, we picked up 15 more species, such as Northern Waterthrush, Veery, and an Eastern Towhee in the next 45 minutes. Scoping from the trestle at the south end of Rock Lake yielded excellent results: 3 Canvasback, 4 Lesser Scaup, several Ruddy Ducks, 3 Bufflehead, a single Horned Grebe and Common Loon, all still lingering after one of our coldest Aprils ever. Other great sightings included 3 Ospreys flying close together, calling (Could one of them have been a youngster from last year?), 2 Black Terns, 2 Forster's Terns, a flock of 5 Double-crested Cormorants, a Spotted Sandpiper along the shore, 2 Orange-crowned Warblers, and a Northern Flicker tossing wood chips out of a nest hole.


The Gang kept a sharp eye out for anyone we could hold up, but both potential victims had already donated (good thing).


At Korth Park, already at 63 species, we added Rock Pigeon, Turkey Vulture, Horned Lark, and our only Eastern Meadowlark and Field Sparrow of the day. Short stops along Rock Lake yielded a phoebe and 3 flyover pelicans. One of our best finds was a Blackburnian Warbler at Tyranena Park (caught in flight by Charley), where we also scored Yellow-throated Vireo, Great Crested Flycatcher, and Swainson's Thrush.


It was an intense 7 hours of birding before we took our first break, stopping for lunch at Waterhouse. Our tally stood at 78, only 13 short of last year's 91, and we had 8 hours to go! In Lake Mills, we picked up some Chimney Swifts, Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, 1 Tufted Titmouse, and a single White-crowned Sparrow.


It was mid-day, and we couldn't find any of the several Pine Siskins we knew to still be around, so it was on to our old stomping grounds, London (aka Zeloski) Marsh. There we added most of the duck species we were missing for the day: Blue- and Green-winged Teal, shoveler, Gadwall, Ring-necked Duck, and Redhead. One Yellow-headed Blackbird was singing (if you can call it that), and we found Marsh Wrens, Sora rails, several coots, and our only Cooper's Hawk of the day. We were excited to see Ospreys again, probably the same three we saw in the morning. This time, two of them were at a nest on the platform at the southwest corner of the marsh. We were also very pleased to find at least one of the resident Red-headed Woodpeckers. This species has been declining in recent years.


By 5 p.m., we had lost several Gang members to appointments and childcare obligations, but that didn't stop any of us. This is the seventh year the Finch Gang has been operating. We started during the 2012 pilot year of the Great Wisconsin Birdathon with three members, expanded to five, then more. With the addition this year of Jeanne "Let 'em Fly" Scherer this year, we are currently a Gang of eight. All of us strongly believe that birds matter and need our help, so while we have a lot of fun birding all day, we are also very serious about raising money for the 10 priority projects for Wisconsin's birds. As has been said so well by others, "Birds vitally need our help as they continue to face strong political headwinds nationally and in Wisconsin as we struggle to deal with the issues of habitat loss, outdoor cats, window collisions, lead poisoning, overuse of pesticides and some public indifference to all of the above." With the money brought in by the Birdathon, we (you!) are making a real difference.


Did we stop for supper?? No! We were on a mission! We were at "only" 95 species, our highest total ever was 105, and we wanted to break it! Could we do it? Four of us headed to the Cambridge area, surprised by 5 Great Egrets at the Lake Ripley Preserve; then a single Solitary Sandpiper, 2 Pectoral Sandpipers, Bank Swallow, and Ring-billed Gull at the West Cedar Rd. ponds. Along Lagoon Rd. north of Cambridge, we listened to the lovely, ethereal song of the Wood Thrush. Moving on, we found at least 10 Purple Martins at a colony on Hope Lake Rd. Meanwhile, Matt and Clare booked an Indigo Bunting, then a bluebird, kestrel, and Brown Thrasher in northeast Dane County, their home territory. Eric and Sandy, who had to return to Madison mid-day, added Caspian Tern and Least Sandpiper at Nine Springs late evening. And lastly, Charley, Brad, Jeanne, and Karen ended our day at Sandhill Station, where at least 4 Sedge Wrens were singing along the boardwalk. The woodcock here were peenting, at 8:22 p.m., just as they were when we started the day at 4:40 a.m.


Our final tally stood at 109, a new record! It included 10 warblers, 13 ducks, 5 raptors, 5 woodpeckers, and at least 15 broods of Canada Goose goslings, which were everywhere (the pair ahead of us has 11)!

Thank you so much for supporting the Great Wisconsin Birdathon!

(Please note: There is still time to donate - until June 15.

We welcome donations of any size. Thank you!)



WARNING: The notorious Finch Gang will be riding again this year, on Monday, May 7. We will be out trying to round up more than our record 105 species, all in one small corner of Jefferson County - or so. Please support our team by donating or pledgingany amount. It’s all for the birds, because Birds Matter.


Many crack teams will be out competing this May, but the Finch Gang is up to the task. Members include Karen Etter Hale, leader of the gang; Brad Webb, co-founder of the Jefferson-Dodge Bird Walks; Matt and Clare Carlson, co-founders of the Friends of Glacial Heritage Area; Charley Roberts; Sandy River and Eric Mosher; and Jeanne ("Let 'em fly") Scherer, disreputable characters one and all.


Once again, we will focus on northwest Jefferson County, especially Zeloski Marsh. Known historically as London Marsh, it's where the notorious Finch Brothers, along with the horses they stole, hid from the law back in the mid-1800s - or so they say. The history of the Fighting Finches, stories compiled in 1937 for the Folklore Section of the Federal Writers’ Project of the WPA (Works Progress Administration), can be found at


All money raised will go to the Bird Protection Fund for very important statewide bird conservation. If you would like a copy of our 2017 report, please contact Karen at


Thank you for supporting our efforts to make a difference to birds. It's the least we can do in return for the great joy they provide us!

If you are unable to donate online, please click here for the offline donation form.


My Status
Number of pledges received:
Goal achievement: 0%
Number of page visits: 40
Days left before event: 25
This is the general team page for 'Finch Gang'
See the Team Finch Gang

Spread the Word!

Share the link:
v4.13.0 20190306-162847 PROD-DPE8-0dd7