Birdathon 2021: A Soaring Success

If Birdathon 2021 were a film, we’d say “it’s a wrap!”

Instead we’ll say, “it’s a rap-tor!”

Golden Gate Audubon Society’s annual fundraiser came to a high-flying conclusion over the weekend, capping two months of innovative new events designed to carry on despite Covid.

Unable to hold our usual in-person Birdathon programs, our creative volunteers came up with three alternatives: a series of ten Virtual Field Trips via Zoom, a socially distanced Christmas-in-May Bird Count, and an online Birdathon Adventure Auction. They culminated with a Birdathon Virtual Celebration on Sunday night.

These new events were highly successful in all respects—number of participants, quality of the experiences, and funds raised. Here’s a flyover raptor’s-eye view of them all.

White-tailed Kite during the Oakland Christmas-in-May Bird Count, by Mark Rauzon
White-tailed Kite during the Oakland Christmas-in-May Bird Count, by Mark Rauzon

Virtual Field Trips

We sponsored ten Zoom “trips” that ranged from viewing Sage-Grouse in Lassen County to a pelagic journey to the Farallones. Over 400 people signed up and attended an average of two trips each. We raised $13,200, or more than $1,000 per trip.

Bonus: Video recordings of all the Virtual Field Trips are available, so you can watch any that you missed! View descriptions of the trips here. Then call our office at (510) 843-2222 to provide credit card payment of $15 per trip and get the link to the recording. The best time to call is on Mondays through Thursdays, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Christmas-in-May Bird Count

Over 140 people signed up for counts in Oakland and San Francisco that coincided with eBird’s Global Big Day on Saturday, May 8th. We managed to cover most of our regular Christmas Bird Count areas, and enjoyed sightings of breeding birds as well as balmy temperatures that aren’t available in December. Oakland count participants got to try out some new features—paperless reporting, using only eBird, plus new digital maps—that will prove useful in future Christmas Bird Counts.

Bird counting at Oakland Zoo
Christmas-in-May Count at the Oakland Zoo / Photo courtesy of Mark Rauzon
Barn Owl during Christmas-in-May Bird Count by David Assmann

Registration fees generated a total of $3,260; one generous member covered fees for people who found them a challenge. Special thanks to count compilers Dawn Lemoine and Viviana Wolinsky (Oakland) and David Assmann and Siobhan Ruck (San Francisco) for creating this successful new event from scratch.

Birdathon Adventure Auction

The online auction, which closed Sunday night, brought in more than $15,000 for Golden Gate Audubon’s conservation and education programs! Big thanks to all the prize donors and bidders who made this possible, and to Eric Schroeder and Catherine Millar who organized the auction.

Social Fundraising

Social fundraising has always been a key feature of Birdathon—participants asking friends and family members to sponsor them with donations to GGAS. This year, fundraising by individuals and teams brought in over $15,600. The top fundraisers were:

San Francisco:
Susan MacWhorter, who raised $3,995 from 13 different donors.
Dan Harris, who raised $3,300 from 48 different donors.

Oakland:
San Leandro Bay team, who raised $3,229 from 27 different donors.
Claremont/Temescal team, who raised $2,135 from 20 different donors.

Winners received tickets to a pelagic trip with Alvaro’s Adventures. The San Leandro Bay team designated its pelagic prize to team member Clay Anderson, and the Claremont team to member Lyla Arum.

In addition to social fundraising and individual donations, GGAS received a generous corporate sponsorship from the March Conservation Fund.

The Claremont/Temescal count team, one of the fundraising winners.
The Claremont/Temescal count team, one of the fundraising winners. Photo courtesy of Lyla Arum.
Western Bluebirds at Fort Mason during the Christmas-in-May Count, by fundraising award winner Dan Harris
Western Bluebirds at Fort Mason during the Christmas-in-May Count, by fundraising award winner Dan Harris

Birdathon Virtual Celebration

Alas, no chatting over wine together in a sunlit garden party this year! But we enjoyed a fun Zoom that featured a Christmas Bird Count trivia quiz by David Robinson and and birdsong ID quiz featuring the outstanding bird whistles of Alex Henry! (If you didn’t know what a Black-bellied Plover sounds like, now you know.)


Overall, Birdathon 2021 raised more than $45,000—amazing for a year when everything had to be re-invented. Over 500 people took part in Birdathon events, which is a testament to the breadth of our community, our members’ passion for birds, and their commitment to Golden Gate Audubon.

So many people supported Birdathon that it’s impossible to thank each one by name here. Please know that however you contributed—as a donor, virtual trip leader or attendee, Christmas-in-May counter, social fundraiser, auction bidder, or organizer—we are so grateful for your help.

Your involvement has allowed us to remain the Bay Area’s leading advocate for birds for 104 years, from long before Covid through the past challenging year. Now, as we emerge from the pandemic, we aspire to be stronger and more effective than ever. Birds and wildlife are facing unprecedented challenges in this era of climate change, and they need all of us working together for their survival. Thank you!

P.S. Birdathon 2021 t-shirts with our Zooming Black-crowned Night-Heron logo are still available: See https://shop.spreadshirt.com/ggas/.

Birdathon 2021 logo

Berkeley Waterfront during the Christmas-in-May Bird Count, by Steve Wiel
Berkeley Waterfront during the Christmas-in-May Bird Count, by Steve Wiel
Dark-eyed Junco at Fort Funston during Chtistmas-in-May Bird Count, by Kaitlin Magoon
Dark-eyed Junco at Fort Funston during Chtistmas-in-May Bird Count, by Kaitlin Magoon
Bald Eagle at Lake Merced during Christmas-in-May Bird Count, by Kaitlin Magoon
Bald Eagle at Lake Merced, chased by a Red-tailed Hawk, during Christmas-in-May Bird Count, by Kaitlin Magoon