Authored by Jeff Beane
Dear friends, loyal past supporters, and potential sponsors:
For the past 20 consecutive years, the “24 Hour Dream Team” has participated in an annual “Wildathon” for Wake Audubon Society. The Wildathon is a marathon event that evolved from National Audubon’s Birdathon. The objective is to identify as many species as possible (birds, in the case of the original Birdathon; vertebrate species in the case of our Wildathon) in a given amount of time.
For the past 20 years, the Dream Team has held 24-hour events (except for the first year, 2000, when we did only 18 hours). We not only survived each, but managed to (mostly) stay awake and active for the entire 24-hour period each year. These activities have frequently straddled, even crossed, the boundaries of wisdom and safety, and as our team members have continued to age, the 24-hour events have become increasingly difficult and dangerous, to the point that most team members began to dread the final hours and agreed that our health and safety should be prioritized. Following last year’s event, long before the COVID-19 pandemic changed our lifestyles, the Dream Team had decided that 20 years of 24-hour Wildathons was sufficient to demonstrate our dedication to the event, and we decided to modify our effort to a “Wildathon Weekend,” which would give us more time not only to sleep, rest, and eat, but also time to cover areas more leisurely and thoroughly and seek out species at a pace that was not only more enjoyable, but far better for our health and safety. Since a weekend, by most standards, begins at 5:00 p.m. on Friday afternoon and ends at midnight on Sunday night, that is what we had planned for—a total of 55 hours, of which probably no more than about 36 would be spent actively searching. This was the modified event we had planned on.
But we had not planned on COVID-19. With sheltering and social isolation restrictions being what they are, we have decided to do a Socially Isolated Wildathon Weekend this year, each of us covering whatever area we can, given restrictions, and compiling all our efforts into a single list. We will maintain contact by cell phone, and some us will be together or may meet at some sites during the event, while maintaining safe social distance.
This somewhat handicapped Wildathon will represent our 21st consecutive annual effort. This year’s team will consist of Jeff Beane, Ed Corey, Bob Davis, Stephanie Horton, and Judy Morgan-Davis.
This year’s effort is scheduled for 5:00 p.m. on Friday, 1 May through midnight on Sunday, 3 May 2020.
Wildathon is a fund-raiser. But we aren’t begging for money—we’re willing to work long, hard hours for it. Our objective is to identify as many vertebrate species (mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fishes) as possible during the event, and enlist sponsors to pledge a certain monetary amount per species (or a flat donation). As always, we will restrict our efforts to North Carolina, and will spend most of our time in the Piedmont, southeastern Coastal Plain, and Sandhills (much of it in Wake County this year).
The rules (same as always):
We will NOT count:
– humans or their domestic animals, such as cattle, horses, dogs, house cats, chickens, ostriches, etc.
– anything in captivity.
– “signs” such as tracks or nests–some portion of the actual animal must be seen or heard (i.e., known to be present during the event).
– Anything we are not certain about the identification of (to the satisfaction of our entire group).
We WILL count:
– species that are heard and positively identified, though not seen.
– Identifiable eggs, larvae, etc. – road-kills or otherwise dead vertebrates, or their readily identifiable remains, including “pieces and parts.”
– established, introduced, non-domestic species (e.g., European starling, house sparrow, Norway rat, redear sunfish).
-any species we can detect by any legal, reasonable method (trap, seine, dipnet, telemetry, Anabat detector, etc.).
Our team’s proceeds will be divided between support for management of Audubon’s NC Coastal Island Sanctuaries (>20 islands between Cape Fear and Cape Hatteras, supporting >1/3 of NC’s nesting waterbirds, as well as other wildlife; see http://nc.audubon.org/conservation/coast-islands-and- sanctuary-program); local Wake Audubon conservation projects; and the NC Herpetological Society’s two main conservation/research projects–Project Bog Turtle (conservation and research initiative focused on protecting the bog turtle and its diminishing habitat in the Southeast; www.projectbogturtle.org) and Project Simus (conservation and research initiative developed to gather information on the natural history, status, and distribution of the southern hognose snake and other species tied to upland longleaf pine sandhills habitats; http://ncherps.org/project-simus/).
If you can sponsor us, please reply as soon as possible with your pledge (no need to feel pressured; we all get too many requests for donations and these are hard times for many; we won’t be offended if you don’t sponsor us). There are different ways of sponsoring. You can pledge a certain amount per every vertebrate species we record, or for herps only, birds only, etc.; or you can pledge a lump sum (e.g., $25 regardless of how many species we record); or you can pledge “up to” a certain amount (e.g., if you pledge $1 per reptile and amphibian species up to $30, and we see 40 species, then you would just owe $30, or if we only see 20 species you would just owe $20). No amount is too small; even if you pledge a penny per species and end up owing only a dollar or two, that will help, because we will (hopefully) have many sponsors. Every bit counts. If you can’t donate this year, just send some positive thoughts our way. We have especially enjoyed the more “creative” pledges from some of you in past years. If you work for a company that matches charitable gifts, you can have them match your pledge or donation. Wildathon donations are tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law.
We expect to end up with at least 200 species (our average over 20 years has been just over 205), but much will depend on weather and various other factors. The fact that we will be separated, and that we will have more time, could potentially offer us better chances at more species, depending on what areas each of our team members are able to cover, but travel and sheltering restrictions will probably mean that we actually cover less area, so there is no guarantee that we will do any better (or as well) as past years, despite the increased hours. Our best-ever total was 248 species (in 2014), and our lowest-ever was 155 (in 2000).
As always, I’ll send a summary of our effort and a complete list of all the vertebrates we observe to everyone who sponsors us.
Pledges will be due in early June. Send your donation by check or via our website.
By check written to “Wake Audubon” and mailed to Wake Audubon, PO Box 12452, Raleigh, NC 27605 Through the Wake Audubon website (www.wakeaudubon.org) by clicking on the “donate now” icon. Be sure to indicate that your donation is for Wildathon. Please let me know if you donate this way, so that we can keep track of all donations. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org
In the past, some have indicated a desire to support only the NCHS projects (Project Bog Turtle and/or Project Simus); if you want to do that, you can make a check out to “NC Herpetological Society,” indicate what the donation is for, and send to either me or Ed Corey (same address as above), or you can donate online at https://ncherps.org/donate/(choose a fund, or indicate in the “comments” line where you would like the funds to go).
Please contact me at the above email address if you have any other questions.
For even more information on the Wildathon, and an account of our 2002 event, see p. 16-19 of the April 2004 issue of Wildlife in North Carolina magazine. You can also read about our 2016 effort in the May 2016 blog on the Wake Audubon website. Thank you!