volunteer

October 2018 Keystone Volunteers: Bob and Gerry Bennicoff

Bob and Gerry Bennicoff are the October 2018 Keystone Volunteers

Bob and Gerry Bennicoff do it all. For years, the dynamic duo have volunteered at Goose Pond Sanctuary doing whatever needs to be done: seed collecting, counting frogs, cleaning out the barn, and more. When Bob and Gerry were looking for an organization to volunteer with, we were sure glad they chose Madison Audubon!

Bob and Gerry are a major volunteers for the American kestrel nest box program where they monitor nest boxes, assist with erecting/retroffing nesting boxes, and banding adults and young; they help survey for the Columbia County Breeding Bird Atlas and have assisted with whip-poor-will counts and canoe routes — extra difficult and time-consuming activities; they provide assistance when large groups come out to tag monarchs and they also tag monarch on their own; they are key volunteers with our prescribed burn program and with prairie seed collecting and planting. They also help with the annual butterfly count, frog counts, and other projects at Goose Pond Sanctuary.   

Bob and his granddaughter releasing a newly tagged monarch at Goose Pond in 2016. Photo by Arlene Koziol

Bob and his granddaughter releasing a newly tagged monarch at Goose Pond in 2016. Photo by Arlene Koziol

“Gerry and I first became aware of Goose Pond in the late summer of 2015 at Madison Audubon's Monarch Tagging Event,” Bob recalls. “We fell in love! Oh my — the variety of flowers! Since then we have had the unique opportunity to help in many other ways. The prairie soothes our souls!”

Fortunately for Madison Audubon, the land they help, and the people they interact with, Bob and Gerry don’t plan to stop volunteering any time soon. “Gerry and I plan to volunteer for many years to come,” added Bob. “We feel the Madison Audubon organization and all the volunteers we have worked with are truly remarkable people.”

We are tremendously grateful for this power couple and all they do for the natural world and the people who tend it. If you’re interested in volunteering with Madison Audubon, we’d love your help — click here to find out ways you can best connect.

Written by Brenna Marsicek, communications director, and Mark Martin and Susan Foote-Marin, Goose Pond Sanctuary resident managers

September 2018 Keystone Volunteers: Levi Wood and Peter Fissel

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This dynamic duo has been responsible for organizing Madison Audubon’s expansive list of public, diverse, and fascinating field trips for years. Each fall, Levi and Peter sit down with a calendar, a grin, and a bag full of ideas for what types of trips we should host the following year, and who we might ask to lead them. Their large network of birding, butterflying, botanically minded cronies are persuaded into service, thanks to Levi and Peter!

In addition to planning out the types, locations, and dates of the 20-40 field trips we host each year, Peter and Levi often lead them too! They bring people to nature, and make birding, butterflies, and natural history things to explore openly and thoroughly.

Thank you to both Levi and Peter for the many hours you dedicate to Madison Audubon each year, in particular for this work, as well as all the other ways you contribute to our mission!

Interested in volunteering with Madison Audubon? Fill out our interest form here.

Written by Brenna Marsicek, communications director

July 2018 Keystone Volunteer: Kerry Wilcox

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The birding world is blessed to have people with a variety of skills and interests, and a willingness to share them. Kerry Wilcox is a perfect example of this: he came to Madison Audubon with the idea to run a "Birding by Ear" field trip that was particularly geared for folks with visual impairments. His idea blossomed into a wonderful class that exceeded all of our expectations!

"I'd recently moved back to Wisconsin after a couple decades in California where I worked for the National Audubon Society as a biologist and was looking to get involved with the local Audubon chapter," said Kerry. "I'd also had a long time interest in birding by ear--in particular with people who had different levels of sightedness." So Kerry pitched that we partner with a local non-profit, the Wisconsin Council of the Blind and Visually Impaired, to host a meaningful, enriching class that opens up the birding world to those who might otherwise be unable to fully experience it.

Kerry leads one of the small groups through Pheasant Branch Conservancy to listen for and learn a variety of bird calls. MAS Photo

Kerry leads one of the small groups through Pheasant Branch Conservancy to listen for and learn a variety of bird calls. MAS Photo

The class was part of our new Audubon Naturalists Series, and had both an indoor and outdoor component, and the 20 participants learned a variety of songs, calls, and other identification cues -- as well as the importance of knowing when and where you are to help hone in on which potential species you can hear. Kerry took the lead on creating all class materials and pulling together a variety of resources for participants, with support from Madison Audubon and great partners at the Council.

We're so grateful to Kerry for being such a champion for birders of all varieties and an advocate for increasing accessibility to birding. We look forward to working with Kerry and the Council for another Birding by Ear class! To learn how you can volunteer with Madison Audubon, visit our volunteer page.

Written by Brenna Marsicek, Director of Communications

May 2018 Keystone Volunteer: Arlene Koziol

Arlene Koziol is the keystone volunteer of May 2018.

Arlene Koziol is the keystone volunteer of May 2018.

If you follow Madison Audubon in any way, you've probably seen Arlene's name and ogled over her photographs. Arlene Koziol is a phenomenal self-taught bird and nature photographer, who generously donates her time, energy, and photographs to Madison Audubon. As you know, birds are beautiful, and access to an incredible library of professional-grade photographs to use in our education and outreach materials is invaluable.

"I became involved in MAS April 2011," says Arlene. "My husband Jeff and I were living in Chicago suburbs and were driving around Columbia County looking for birds to photograph. All the ponds were still frozen and there was not a bird in sight. Suddenly, two sandhill cranes flew in calling to a frozen pond at MAS Goose Pond Sanctuary. The sandhills danced and gave their unison call. The light and the background was perfect. The cranes ignored us. We came away with some of our best ever images of sandhill cranes." 

Sandhill crane pair flying into Goose Pond, 2001. Photo by Arlene Koziol

Sandhill crane pair flying into Goose Pond, 2001. Photo by Arlene Koziol

Sandhill crane landing at an icy Goose Pond, 2001. Photo by Arlene Koziol

Sandhill crane landing at an icy Goose Pond, 2001. Photo by Arlene Koziol

Many of Arlene's bird photographs were taken at Goose Pond Sanctuary, still one of Arlene's favorite sites, especially since moving to the Madison area. And not just for the birds, but also for the people. "Later I met Mark Martin and Sue-Foote Martin, the co-managers at Goose Pond," remembers Arlene. "They were so kind and included me in all the events at Goose Pond. Mark and Sue always took time out of their busy schedules to teach me."

Which worked well for Arlene, as she herself is a natural teacher. Just last week, Arlene taught a group of 10 naturalists the Beginning Bird and Wildlife Action Photography (part of the new Audubon Naturalists Series hosted by Madison Audubon). Her charisma, experience, and openness allowed students to soak up her knowledge about lighting, focus, and preparedness, among other lessons.

As a photographer, she's top notch. Her personality is also one of the best out there, and we are so grateful for all she contributes to Madison Audubon! To learn how you can volunteer with Madison Audubon, visit our volunteer page.

Written by Brenna Marsicek, Director of Communications

March 2018 Keystone Volunteer: Marge Burke Streitferdt

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Some of the most important work organizations do is what the public doesn't see. True to that sentiment is the work of Marge Burke Streitferdt, our Keystone Volunteer this month, who is Madison Audubon's editor extraordinaire. Marge spends uncountable and invaluable hours combing through our quarterly newsletters in search of errors, a talent and hobby that few of us possess and many of us envy. With each newsletter we publish, we count our lucky stars for Marge.

"After retiring as customer communications manager for a large midwestern gas and electric utility, I launched my next career as free-lance writer," says Marge. "Part of my paying job was helping fellow employees with their writing and editing. When Madison Audubon was looking for newsletter help several years ago, I volunteered my assistance."

Within my first month of working at Madison Audubon, I got to see Marge's prowess first-hand when I sent her a draft of our fall 2016 newsletter. It was a both humbling experience but one I could laugh through. Her red pen caught every typo, indentation error, and grammatical mistake with sniper-like accuracy, but her humor and quirky comments made the exercise both educational and fun. Striking that balance takes rare talent, indeed!

"It’s a good outlet for my frequent urges to sneak around town at night with a can of red paint to fix the errors that pop up regularly on billboards and signs (restruant? taco’s? say it isn’t so). I figure volunteering with MAS keeps me out of jail," Marge jokes.

To learn how you can volunteer with Madison Audubon (and stay out of jail too), visit our volunteer page.

Written by Brenna Marsicek, Director of Communications