Birding in the Land of Leopold

BIRDING in the land of leopold:

a tour of wisconsin's conservation history, and the rare birds it has benefited

may 23 to 30, 2016  

Click here for tour report, including species list

General Information

Join Cape May Bird Observatory director, David La Puma, and Distinguished Professor of Wildlife, and Aldo Leopold Institute board member, J. Drew Lanham, on a tour that weaves the conservation ethic of Aldo Leopold into a spectacular tour of the rare birds of Wisconsin. This tour will begin and end in the capital city, Madison, which itself has a rich history of educating some of the greatest minds in modern conservation including John Muir and, fostering some of the greatest teachers and leaders, such as Aldo Leopold. Aldo would go on to form the forestry and wildlife department at the University of Wisconsin and lay the groundwork for over a century of conservation practice and theory.

We will travel to Leopold’s original shack in Baraboo, Wisconsin, as we listen to the dawn chorus of Neotropical migrants such as the Golden-winged Warbler, Chipping Sparrow and Scarlet Tanager. We will visit the International Crane foundation to witness first-hand the extraordinary work being done to reestablish the Whooping Crane into the Upper Midwest, as well as to protect all species of cranes worldwide. We will then venture out into the field in search of Whooping Cranes in Necedah National Wildlife Refuge, also home to many breeding warblers including Mourning Warbler, and wonderful fire-dependent species such as Red-headed Woodpecker and the federally endangered Karner Blue butterfly. We will traverse the “sand counties” of Leopold’s writings, and discover the state strongholds of Greater Prairie Chickens, Kirtland’s Warbler, and many other sought after species including Henslow’s Sparrows, and Upland Sandpipers. We will then turn west, to the great bluffs overlooking the confluence of the Wisconsin and Mississippi Rivers where we will ponder the skies once darkened by the migration of the Passenger Pigeon. While the pigeon is eerily absent today, we will still notice the many species that do persist in one of the most picturesque regions of Wisconsin, the Driftless area, with air full of songs including some of the most dense populations of Cerulean Warblers in North America. We will return to Madison with many new birds and a heightened appreciation for the conservation efforts of the last century, as well as an understanding of how we too can better steward the land for generations of flora and fauna yet to come.

TOUR SIZE:  This tour is limited to 12 participants.  Travel will be in vans, with no more than seven participants plus a leader in one van.

ACTIVITY LEVEL;  Easy to moderate


Late May in Wisconsin is typically cool in the morning (49-60F) and warm during the day (71-80F), whereas early May averages cloudier, late May is typically clearer and therefore protection from the sun is recommended (i.e. sunglasses, hat, sunscreen, lightweight long sleeves, etc.). Due to the warming temperatures, our coincides with the beginning of the thunderstorm season, so while the probability of precipitation is still low, please be prepared for inclement weather with appropriate rain gear and footwear. 

Breakfasts will be available at hotels and included in the hotel cost. One dinner and one lunch will be included in the price of the tour. Otherwise we will have coolers in the vans and will make several stops for folks to stock up on lunch items. Dinners will be your responsibility, but we will choose a restaurant each night for whomever wishes to join the group.

DATES: Monday, May 23 (meet at our hotel in Madison) to Monday, May 30, 2016 (flights home any time that day)

PRICE:  Cost for this tour is $1,995.00 per person, based on double occupancy.  Single supplement (should you request single occupancy, or we are unable to find you a suitable roommate) is $300.  A deposit of $500, along with a completed registration form, will secure your space until March 20, 2016, when full payment is due.

PRICE INCLUDES:  Lodging, transportation while on the tour, and admission to all parks, centers and fee-based stops.  Also included are two meals: lunch at The Aldo Leopold Foundation, and a traditional Friday fish Fry.  Price does not include travel between home and Madison, WI.

NJ Audubon Eco-Travel
c/o Center for Research and Education
600 Route 47 North
Cape May Court House, NJ  08210

Please make checks payable to: New Jersey Audubon

 by email to travel@njaudubon.org

Call 609-861-1608 x13 with questions.

Photo credits
Greater Prairie Chickens: Greg Kramos
Leopold: The Aldo Leopold Foundation
Drew at Leopold Shack: Nina Cheney
David La Puma: Robert Streiffer
David La Puma is the director of New Jersey Audubon’s Cape May Bird Observatory in Cape May, New Jersey.  David began birding while attending Ithaca College where he received his Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Studies in 1997. In 1998 David traveled to Costa Rica with A. Carl Leopold, son of Aldo Leopold, and his wife Lynn, to work on a tropical forestry reforestation project. Those late-night conversations with Carl and Lynn on the back porch of the remote cabin they lived in provided the foundation for what would become David’s life-long pursuit of conservation-based research. In 2010 David received his Doctorate from Rutgers University where he studied the conservation and management of the Federally Endangered Cape Sable Seaside Sparrow in Everglades National Park. Since then David has held two postdoctoral positions with New Jersey Audubon and the University of Delaware, respectively, during which he used weather radar to map stopover habitat used by nocturnally migrating songbirds across the US. During that time David spent two years as a visiting scholar at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, where he fell in love with the Upper Midwest and especially enjoyed walking in the footsteps of John Muir and Aldo Leopold as well as the many current leaders in conservation and wildlife management. Prior to joining the Cape May Bird Observatory David worked for Leica Sport Optics where he traveled the country giving presentations and leading field trips for thousands of birders and nature enthusiasts. Of all the places David has visited, the sites hand-picked for this tour are some of his absolute favorites.

J. Drew Lanham is a Master Teacher and Distinguished Alumni Professor of Wildlife Ecology at Clemson University. A birder since the age of eight, he is a native South Carolinian holding degrees in Zoology (B.A; M.S. Clemson) and a PhD in Forest Resources (Wildlife Ecology - Clemson). Dr. Lanham is a passionate conservation advocate who believes that our efforts to live sustainably with nature must be a blending of head and heart. To that end he attempts to connect conservation through personal story, natural history and relevant issues of the day. He is an active member on several conservation boards including the American Birding Association, BirdNote and the Aldo Leopold Foundation (headquartered in Baraboo, Wisconsin). Drew has a healthy wanderlust and travels extensively to bird and speak on his naturalist’s passions. He’s birded in forty of the fifty states and spent time abroad in South Africa and South America. He is a regular tour leader and speaker at the Biggest Week in American Birding and The Rio Grande Valley Bird Festival. Dr. Lanham is a widely published nature writer and poet whose first solo work, The Home Place-Memoirs of a Colored Man’s Love Affair with Nature (Milkweed Editions) will be published in late 2016. Drew’s favorite bird is the next one he sees!