For the Birds Radio Program: Contest Winners!

Original Air Date: March 20, 1989

Today Laura Erickson announces the winners of this year’s winter backyard bird contest. (4:04)

Audio missing


(Recording of a Black-capped Chickadee)

Happy spring! Today is the day we announce the winners in our first annual winter backyard bird contest. The people who saw the most species of all were Ken and Molly Hoffman, who counted 17 species in their Gunflint Trail yard between January first and February 28. Their list included such rare birds as Great Gray and Boreal Owls, and Black-backed Woodpecker. Theirs was the only list to include Boreal Chickadees. And they managed to win without seeing a single House Sparrow or Starling.

Top Wisconsin honors go to Rus Hurt, a master wood carver in Port Wing, who saw 15 species. These winners will receive a window feeder donated by Trico lawn and garden store in Duluth’s West End. Other birders who amassed long lists include Lauren Durant of Duluth with 16 species, Larry Ronning of Two Harbors and Pat and Ron Schmitt of Duluth, who had 15 species, and Alice Johnson and Cindy Hurt of Port Wing, Sarah Perushek of Duluth, and Dick and Kathy Hansen of Alborn, who all recorded 14 species.

Totals in the children’s category were really close, too–I wish I had enough prizes to give to all the kids who entered. Galen Treuer, a 10-year old ace birder from Duluth, saw the most of all, with 15. Galen, who is alert for birds even when he’s goofing off, was the only entrant to note a Merlin. There was a tie for the top children’s list in Wisconsin. Alex and Hans Hurt of Port Wing and Rachel Melis of Washburn each compiled a list of 13 species. These kids will receive a window feeder and a bird book donated by Explorations in downtown Duluth.

I also selected two entries, chosen in a bizarre but absolutely random fashion, to win the Golden Field Guide, Birds of North America, donated by Walden Books in downtown Duluth. These winners turned out to be the Christiansen family of Washburn, Wisconsin, and Megan Bradshaw of Brainerd, Minnesota.

Finally, top honors in the squirrel category easily go to Mr. and Mrs. Gene Taplin of Cohasset, Minnesota, who counted 9 gray squirrels, 2 reds, and 2 flying squirrels, for a grand squirrel total of 13. They write, “On February 16, we spent two hours watching squirrel antics and counting. Apparently one female was in heat, and 7 of them must have been males because 2 were enjoying the feeder and one was guarding her away from all the rest.”

In Wisconsin, squirrel honors go to the Melis family, who explained that their success in attracting 5 red, 1 black, and 4 gray squirrels is due to two reasons: “One is the kids collect acorns in the fall and we put a few at a time out in the winter. Red Squirrels eat them right away, the Gray ones bury them in the snowbanks. The other reason is we have no dogs or cats. My brother from Moose Lake, Minnesota, came to visit last Thanksgiving with his English setter. By the time they left, “Shane” had scared away all the squirrels and they didn’t return til January!”

Since everyone knows that squirrels are for the birds, these winners will receive an official “For the Birds” coffee mug. And everyone who sent in a report receives an official “Bird Brain” certificate and my deepest gratitude.

Out of all our responses, House Sparrows turned up on only 7 lists, Starlings on 4, and pigeons on only one. The rarest bird of all was the Varied Thrush that appeared at Wayne Kegel’s feeder in Spooner. My favorite bird, the Blue Jay, turned up on all but two of the counts—it was the second most common bird reported this year. Only one species was found on every single count—the bird that kept up everyone’s spirits during our frigid February—the most common and welcome Northland bird of all—the Black-capped Chickadee.

(Recording of a Black-capped Chickadee)

This is Laura Erickson, and this program has been “For the Birds.”