At the June 7 Tucson Audubon Birdathon Celebration Party via Zoom, The SaddleBrooke Ranch Cuckoos were crowned grand champions of the 2021 Birdathon. The teams were evaluated for their efforts, which included the number of species seen, funds raised, outreach aspects, and uniqueness of effort. The Birdathon is like a walkathon, only instead of counting miles, you count bird species seen. This is an opportunity to enjoy birds while raising or donating critical funds for the Tucson Audubon Society.
The first Tucson Audubon Birdathon almost did not happen—when Ruth Russell presented it to the board, they voted no. She did not give up, deciding to organize it on her own with four teams, 34 years ago, raising $2,000. Fast-forward to 2021, a record amount of funds was raised—$111,735—with 51 teams participating and a total of nine Birdathon competing categories.
In making the presentation for the Grand Champion Award, Luke Safford, Tucson Audubon’s community engagement manager, said, “There is something about people who are brand new into something, they bring energy, they bring excitement, and not only does it impact themselves, but they also [begin] to impact a lot of other people.” One thing he said, and the judging panel saw was that, “These people inspired a whole community to be involved in their Birdathon project, their passions rubbed off on me and a lot of other people.” Luke went on to say, “The SBR Cuckoos exemplified the mission of Tucson Audubon Society, inspiring people to enjoy and protect birds through recreation, education, conservation, and restoration of the environment upon which we all depend.” The SBR Cuckoos team of Jim Hoagland, Laurie McCoy, James Bradford, and Kathleen Williams is already preparing for next year’s Birdathon, April 8 through May 8, 2022. It is going to be a challenge to top 2021’s award.