May 22
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Pine Warbler

Pine Warbler

Townsend's Warbler

Townsend’s Warbler

He must have had a strong premonition!

A few weeks ago (May 3) my colleague Brian posted a blog entitled, “Competitive Birding for Conservation.” He wrote about Team WBU’s upcoming Birdathon with high hopes and expectations and he questioned if we could surpass a total of 150 birds.

The reality is that we tallied exactly 150 birds! He must be psychic!

The Birdathon was a tough 24 hours of hardcore birding filled with exciting discoveries of uncommon birds and heartbreaking misses of some common ones.

But one of the constants throughout the day was the quest to count as many of the 40 potential species of warblers that can be found in Indiana during spring migration. While some warblers nest in the state, most of them are just passing through. So, you always revere every sighting of these colorful songsters.

We ended the day with 23 warbler species…not as many as we had hoped to find; but, enough to make for some exciting birding.

Warblers are truly the door prize for bird watchers! And while these insect-eating birds are not typically attracted to seed feeders, they can be attracted to your back yard with suet products, mealworms and/or water.

It is truly a magical moment when you glance outside and see your first Townsend’s warbler visiting the suet feeder or a Pine Warbler munching down on mealworms. And I don’t think I have to be psychic to assume that Brian would agree that attracting them to feeders is a whole lot easier than spending 24 hours chasing them all around the state!

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May 03
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John Schaust, Chief Naturalist Wild Birds Unlimited

John Schaust, Chief Naturalist Wild Birds Unlimited

Brian Cunningham, Product and Hobby Education Manager Wild Birds Unlimited

Brian Cunningham, Product and Hobby Education Manager Wild Birds Unlimited

Rob Ripma, Wild Birds Unlimited Sales Associate, Author and Blogger

Rob Ripma, Wild Birds Unlimited Sales Associate, Author and Blogger

119 species in 2011

143 species in 2012

300 species in 2013?

Team Wild Birds Unlimited is participating again in our local Audubon’s Birdathon. We found 119 species in a single day two years ago, 143 last year and hope to find close to 175 this year.

Recently, a Birdathon team from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology made North American history with 294 species recorded in a single day on April 25, 2013 in Texas. With around 400 bird species found in Indiana in a calendar year, Team Wild Birds Unlimited could only dream of that kind of number.

But, it’s not just about the number of species seen for a Birdathon team. It’s about bird conservation.

Birding teams do these Big Day Birdathon events to raise funds for much-needed bird conservation and education. Funds pledged this year for our Wild Birds Unlimited Team go toward bird habitat protection, research and education; particularly for the beautiful and vulnerable Cerulean Warbler. Check out the projects or make a pledge by clicking the links.

Will we surpass 150 species this year? 175? Follow our Big Day Birdathon progress on May 16 via the Wild Birds Unlimited, Inc. Facebook page. We’ll start the day at 3:00 a.m. EDT and will post updates throughout the day.

Make a financial pledge, wish us luck and follow our progress!

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May 04
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From left; John Schaust, Eric Ripma, Rob Ripma, Brian Cunningham and Jim Carpenter

Last year our WBU Big Day Birdathon adventure was; well, we’ll say it was interesting. Don’t get me wrong. We had a fun time; but, we only hit 119 species because we kept running into flooded roads. Read all about last year’s adventure and see a self-explanatory picture clicking here.

But! This year was loads of fun. It also helps when you get really close to your goal because of better preparation and the birds and weather cooperate. All said and done, we wanted 150 species and we ended up with 143.

Here are some of the highlights for me:

? In the field by 3am birding in the dark: Great Horned Owl, Barred Owl, Eastern Screech Owl, Whip-poor-will, Chuck-will’s-widow, Common Nighthawk just to name a few.

? 90 species before 9 am

? 22 warblers in total

? Not one, but two Pacific Loons

? 19 Greater White-fronted Geese

? #120…the bird that took us over the top of last year’s final number … Blue Grosbeak. It was a special moment as we all just stopped and quietly watched the bird for a moment to honor beating last year’s total.

Overall, we were 18 hours in the field, 143 species and five tired guys. I can’t wait to do it again next year!

Click the links to read about more details from our teammates’ Nutty Birder Blog: An April Big Day in Indiana and The Conclusion.

We are still accepting donations so if you would like to donate to our team please click here!

Apr 19
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Cerulean Warbler Photo by Bill Dyer USFWS

Who in their right mind would be birding in the wee hours of the night?

That is precisely what I am going to do on April 26. I am participating in a Birdathon Big Day with four teammates from the Wild Birds Unlimited Birdathon Team. We’ll jump start our day in the wee hours before sunrise to hopefully find nocturnal birds such as owls, nighthawks and whip-or-wills to add to our day’s tally.

This is the second year Wild Birds Unlimited is fielding a birding team in the local Audubon Society Birdathon. We are competing against 10 other teams on two fronts.

The first is for bragging rights to have found the most bird species possible in a 24-hour period. During last year’s Big Day we hit many road blocks, literally because of localized flooding, finding only 119 bird species. Our goal this year is to top 150 species; which is viable.

The second is the satisfaction that our efforts, through others’ generosity, bring in much-needed funds for bird conservation, research and education projects designated by our local Audubon Society. The projects sponsored by the Amos W. Butler Audubon Society have raised over a half million dollars in the last 25 years. Click here to learn more about the projects.

You can follow our Team’s progress on April 26 by following us on the Wild Birds Unlimited Facebook page at

What birds have you heard or tried to find in the dark?

May 17
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Thanks to all those who followed our “Wild Birds Unlimited Team” on Facebook during our Big Day as we competed in our local Audubon chapter’s Birdathon (Competitive Birding is for the Birds). The purpose of the Birdathon was to raise money for bird education and conservation (and have a great time birding in the field). Here are a few highlights.

Our day started off in the dark at 5 a.m. We met in a parking lot to carpool, and we were surrounded by our first bird species; the American Robin. They were singing up a storm.

We headed out of the city and began in earnest in a state forest. The birds were waking up and the dawn chorus (The Dawn of Spring) was in full swing. We had 63 species by 8 a.m. Highlights included Wild Turkey, Ruffed Grouse, Worm-eating Warblers and 15 other warblers.

We were doing really well finding so many birds and then we hit a major road block – literally. There was a lot of flooding and many of our desired locations were inaccessible. The picture I snapped with my iPhone kind of says it all.

By 2:30 p.m. we were only at 91 species which included 23 warblers. We had hoped for 100 species by noon.

By 4 p.m. we had our 100th bird; a Northern Bobwhite! 101 was a Purple Martin.

The rest of the evening was slow, but we still saw some very interesting birds. We found Bobolinks, various sparrows and three rails.
As our Big Day came to a close, we reflected on all that had happened. We were detoured but not deterred by flooding. We avoided a severe storm that produced a beautiful rainbow and a gorgeous sunset. We ended the day with our last bird, a Common Nighthawk. It was species number 119.

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May 06
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The spring birding season is in full swing with loads of bird watchers heading outside looking for loads of resident and migrating birds. Some bird watchers participate in Big Day events and Birdathons. A Big Day is when one person (or a team) tries to positively identify the greatest number of bird species in a 24 hour period. A Birdathon is when a team tries to compete against other teams to find the most species in a single day. These friendly competitions are often used as a fundraiser to support local and international conservation efforts.

Recently a team of birders, known as Team Sapsucker, in affiliation with Cornell Lab of Ornithology, set out to break the previous U.S. record for the most bird species seen on a Big Day! They achieved their goal and found an astounding 264 species, three higher than the previous U.S. Big Day record. They also raised about $200,000 for bird conservation programs. Read more about their Big Day, see photos and check out all the birds they saw by clicking here. They also have a link for those who want to make a donation or see a list of the teams that participated in the Big Day.

My fellow blogger, John Schaust, and a friend of ours (who works at a local Wild Birds Unlimited store) have joined the local Audubon chapter’s Birdathon this year by creating the “Wild Birds Unlimited Team.” We will be heading out for our “competitive” birding day on Thursday May 12. We’ll be traveling around central Indiana trying to find more species than and raise more money than the other eleven teams. The money will be used for local, state and Columbia, South America, bird conservation efforts. Feel free to check out our donation page and learn more about the conservation efforts by clicking here.

You can participate in local conservation efforts by joining a Birdathon team or making a contribution. If nothing else, get out in your backyard or a local park and enjoy those birds.

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