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Record-setting BRRRRdathon 2024

January 8, 2024 Category:

World’s Coldest Birdathon

January 5-6

Twelve teams competed in this years BRRRRdathon: World’s Coldest Birdathon; the event that puts the “fun” in fundraising, and the “cold” in Coldfinches…Wait, that’s not right.

HUGE kudos to John Ellis of Team The Grousing Twitchers who raised OVER $1,000 from his supportive friends and family via pledges!

Temperatures in the mid 20s were pleasant and the lack of strong winds was welcomed. And thankfully the freezing sleet and heavier snows (2-4 inches) came overnight on Friday-Saturday and did not hamper the birding. nor the birders. nor the birds.

Teams birded from Crow Wing and Aitkin counties in the south end of the “playing field” to Grand Marais in the North; and from Sax-Zim Bog and Cook east to Ashland, Wisconsin. Most birded Duluth (Park Point, WLSSD) and some ventured up the North Shore of Lake Superior to Two Harbors and inland to the Superior National Forest in Lake County.

The Record-smashing composite of 81 species (73 was the old high) was due in part to the mild winter, but also to the teams exploring new territory. In addition, TEN species never recorded on any of the previous 12 BRRRRdathons were found including Tundra Swan, White-winged Scoter, Gadwall (Ashland, WI), Canvasback (Ashland, WI), Brown Thrasher (named “Cleveland”; Park Point in Duluth), Palm Warbler (Duluth), Pine Warbler (Duluth), Chipping Sparrow, Swamp Sparrow, and Dickcissel (Two Harbors).

Other great birds for early January in the North Woods included 18 species of waterfowl (!), 2 Townsend’s Solitaires (one singing!) and 7 Eastern Bluebirds in Grand Marais; 4 Great Gray Owls in Sax-Zim; 2 Northern Hawk Owls, Greater and Lesser Scaup in Duluth; Iceland, Glaucous and Lesser Black-backed gulls at WLSSD in Duluth; American Three-toed Woodpecker in Lake County.

Our only big misses included Snowy Owl, Spruce Grouse, Varied Thrush, American Goshawk and Snow Bunting.

Strategy proved critical to the 2-Day teams where the top two nearly tied in number of species (record-setting 61 and 60!)  but The Grousing Twitchers made a fortuitous trip to the unfrozen portions of Chequamegon Bay near Ashland, Wisconsin to tally SIX 5-point winter rarities (Tundra Swans, Ring-necked Duck, Northern Pintail, Canvasback, Gadwall, and White-winged Scoter). They racked up thirteen 5-point birds which helped create a record-setting 2.53 points per species! 

Second place finishers (and last year’s champions, The Empire Shrikes Back) were the only team to go to the Superior National Forest in Lake County where they scored Northern Hawk Owl, American Three-toed Woodpecker and Pine Grosbeak (a rarity this winter). Emily and the Crow Wingers stuck mainly to the borders of Crow Wing County (finding the competition’s only Sharp-tailed Grouse) while Erik Bruhnke and his Wisconsin friends (Goss Hawks) birded both days in Sax-Zim Bog.

The One-Day competition is a great way to enjoy the BRRRRdathon without the major exhaustion of the Two-Day event. Team White-tailed See Eagles did theirs via Duluth city bus, a unique way to get around for birding. In fact, we will be introducing a “Public Transportation” division for BRRRRdathon 2025. Welcome to first-time participants Jonathon & Kensey of Saw-whet Birding Team! Ben Anderson (Solo Vagrant) racked up 28 species, an especially impressive total for a solo team!

The Wintergreen Division promotes birding under our own power (bike, foot, ski, snowshoe) and is always one of the most competitive divisions. Team Philosiraptors literally walked away with the competition compiling a record-setting 50 points on their 12-mile (!) walk up and down Park Point and over to WLSSD. Longtime participant Andrew Webster was solo this year but picked up the competition’s only Peregrine Falcon and Pine Warbler. Sparky (The Norwegian Solitaire) was the only bike-powered team this year, and appropriately saw the two Townsend’s Solitaires and seven Eastern Bluebirds that continue in Grand Marais. 

We had a raucous compilation dinner at Clyde Iron Works in Duluth, laughing and sharing stories of the team’s adventures from the previous two days of birding. Thanks to all and see you again next year for the BRRRRdathon: World’s Coldest Birdathon!


2-DAY BRRRRdathon

  1. The Grousing Twitchers (157 pts / 61 species) Lars Benson, John Ellis, Alex Ellis, Jesse Ellis
  2. The Empire Shrikes Back (142 pts / 60 species) Trey Weaver, Brandon Lentz, Edward Hicks
  3. Emily & The Crow Wingers (46 pts / 27 species) Mark & Linda Seifert [Crow Wing County]
  4. Goss Hawks (44 pts / species) Erik Bruhnke, Tim Hahn, Ed Hahn, Paula Stich, Jason Weber [Sax-Zim only]
  5. Common Olden Guys (34 species in Otter Tail County) Steve & Diane Millard

1-DAY BRRRRdathon

  1. Solo Vagrant (45 pts / 28 species) Ben Anderson
  2. Saw-whet Birding Team (39 pts / 26 species) Jonathon Logas-Lindstrom, Kensey Cross
  3. White-tailed See Eagles (35 pts / 21 species) Ken Gilbertson, Pat Kohlin [Duluth by bus/foot]
  4. Lou & The Brown-eyed Creepers (33 pts / ?? species) Lori Williams & Dave Steininger & Lou the Dog

WINTERGREEN Non-motorized Division (No Carbon Emisions generated)

  1. Philosiraptors (50 pts / 26 species) Jamie Tiggs, Caroline Irving, Sara Wood [Duluth on foot]
  2. Flying Solo in a Wintery Mix ( 40 pts / 24 species) Andrew Webster [Duluth on foot]
  3. That Norwegian Solitaire (30 pts / 15 species) Sparky Stensaas [Grand Marais on fat bike/foot]

PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION Division coming next year!