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Introducing BRAW's 2023 
Recognition Award Recipients

As another year comes to a close, BRAW pauses to recognize the contributions of those who have made special efforts on behalf of bluebirds, the environment and the organization.

 

“I’m always amazed at the dedication exhibited by these individuals to the restoration of the Eastern Bluebird and protection of our environment,” said President Steve Sample.

 RECOGNITION AWARD CATEGORIES

Carol McDaniel Bluebird

Lifetime Achievement 

Educator of the Year

Communicator of the Year

Bluebirders of the Year 

Facilitator of the Year 

Each award recipient received an elegant glass plaque with a blue scuplted base engraved with their name and award category.  To learn more about this year's award winners please read on.

Carol McDaniel Bluebird Award

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Sue Cashman

Sue Cashman, of Darlington, received the 2023 Carol McDaniel Bluebird Award. 

According to BRAW President Steve Sample, “the purpose of the award is to recognize persons who have demonstrated a strong dedication to the restoration of the Eastern Bluebird.”

The retired teacher recalled that when growing up “my mother loved birds.  There also were other folks who shared their interest in birds, especially from a science view.”

Cashman is known for her efforts to help bluebirds through the Lafayette County Bluebird Society and the Bluebird Nest Nature Center store in Darlington.  Carol McDaniel and Cashman shared both a friendship and an interest in bluebirds.

“Carol would visit some of my classes to teach about the Eastern Bluebird,” explained Cashman.  Upon her passing, the McDaniel family donated a sum to BRAW which was used to create the Carol McDaniel Legacy Fund. 

“It is fitting that Sue Cashman is the first recipient of this award to honor Carol McDaniel, who was not only a past president of BRAW, but also of the North American Bluebird Society,” added Sample.

Cashman suggested that folks can carry on McDaniel’s legacy “by seeking support from elected officials for legislation that helps birds.”

Nominations of current BRAW members for this award are open through August 1, 2024.  Check our website www.braw.org for details and an application form.

Lifetime Achievement Award

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Fred & Mary Craig

Fred and Mary Craig, of Holmen, received the 2023 Lifetime Achievement Award.  Fred was also honored with Board of Directors Emeritus status.

They were recognized for their work in designing better bluebird houses, conducting field research to improve box management, doing public education and monitoring trails. 

 

In announcing the award, President Steve Sample noted that their effort was “a together project from day one.” 

        

There was a time when the couple checked more than 100 boxes outside of Holmen, as far north as Merrick and Perrot State Parks, and then south of La Crosse in Timber Coulee country.  It would take two days to monitor the boxes.

“In a typical year, bluebirds using our boxes would produce over 700 fledglings,” said Fred.  “They would also annually average another 60 or so Black-capped Chickadees, Tree Swallows and other cavity nester fledglings,” added Mary.

 

Both were a familiar sight on the Brice Prairie Conservation Area.  “We enjoyed meeting new BPCA members and introducing them to bluebird monitoring,” said Mary. “It is heartwarming to get a smile from property owners when they see their first nest full of eggs.”

As for the future, both agreed that: “We need to encourage more families to get outdoors and connect with the bluebird population.  It definitely is a rewarding hobby.”

Educator of the Year Award

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Paul Noeldner

Paul Noeldner, of Maple Bluff, received the 2023 Educator of the Year Award.

According to BRAW President Steve Sample, “Noeldner has led bird education efforts through Madison FUN Friends of Urban Nature workshops and Bird Buddies programs to establish bluebird box trails.

 

 Interest in birds started at a young age. Noeldner said “as a young farm kid I used my little binoculars to identify different species of birds.  Later on, as a student at UW-Madison, I learned about doing field research and the power of data in understanding our environment.”

        

Now, Noeldner shares his expertise by helping put on “Learn to Make a Bluebird Box” workshops.  “Our Madison FUN partner groups and Bird Buddies team are key to educating the public,” he explained.

 

 According to Noeldner, “The Madison Parks Department, Badgerland Bird Alliance, Friends of Cherokee Marsh, Wild Warner, BRAW and Friends of UW Lakeshore Nature Preserve help support bluebird trails and educational outings.”

 Noeldner feels that humankind can help birds by “connecting with environmental and conservation groups to support ethical actions on birds’ behalf.”

         In accepting his award, Noeldner noted that "he was especially grateful for help from wife Barbara and monitors, plus BRAW members Pat Ready and Stephen Lang." 

Communicator of the Year

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Dan Small

Dan Small, of Westby, received the 2023 Communicator of the Year Award.

 

The long-time host of Outdoor Wisconsin on Milwaukee PBS and PBS Wisconsin, and contributing editor for the Wisconsin Outdoor News, was cited for being an “important and significant environmental spokesperson for Wisconsin.” 

According to BRAW president Steve Sample, Small has “worked to educate the public about the state’s many plant, insect and animal species, including the Eastern Bluebird.”

 In reflecting on his contributions, Small noted: “Throughout my 50-year career, I have encouraged viewers, listeners and readers to learn about the interconnections between birds and other wildlife, and their dependence on a healthy, diverse environment.  We need to consider our role as participants in the natural world and as its stewards.”

Small’s interest in birds began on family camping trips. “Those experiences helped me understand the complexity of our natural world and led me to a career communicating about its wonders and the many activities that can bring us closer to wild things.”

To help birds now and in the future, Small suggests “becoming more aware of the impacts our actions have on nature and preserving natural travel routes used by migrating birds to provide food and safe resting areas.”

Bluebirders of the Year

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Dale and Doris Moody, of De Forest, received the 2023 Bluebirders of the Year Award. 

 

They were cited for their efforts in helping restore the Eastern Bluebird population of Wisconsin by working with individuals and groups.

Together they monitor 89 nest boxes on trails in Iowa and Lafayette counties.  Since 2001 bluebird pairs using those boxes have produced nearly 6,000 fledglings.

During their travels to other countries, they’ve observed that “nowhere else is there so much focus on bird migration, habitat and protection as in the U.S.”

         As far as how humankind can help birds, the Moody’s agreed that: “We need to protect habitat, conduct research into bird viruses, and educate people about the importance of birds in nature’s cycle of life.”

 

Dale & Doris Moody

Lifetime Achievement

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Ralph Konrath, of East Troy, received the 2023 Lifetime Achievement Award.

 

Konrath, age 90, was cited for tirelessly promoting bluebird awareness over the years.  This year he put up and monitored a pair of successful nest boxes in the Oak Grove Cemetery near the entrance to Old World Wisconsin in Eagle Township.

The retired Big Cat House and Bird Building employee of the Milwaukee County Zoo at one time monitored three dozen nest boxes at the Whitnall Park Golf Course, plus another 70 in Adams County.

Konrath’s interest in birds started eight decades ago.  “My grandmother taught me how to monitor bluebird houses,” said Konrath.  “She also showed me how to discourage invasive species like house sparrows and starlings.”

Growing up on a farm eventually led Konrath to become involved with taking care of animals and birds as a profession.  In retirement, he focused on pigeon racing.  His main concern now is “that people take care of the environment for all plants and wildlife.”

 

Ralph Konrath

Facilitator of the Year

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Curt Caslavka, of Middleton, received the 2023 Facilitator of the Year Award. 

 

He was recognized for his work in increasing prairie habitat for birds.  Additionally, President Steve Sample pointed to Caslavka’s efforts at Pope Farm Conservancy and Goose Pond Sanctuary to educate the public about the environment and birds.

Growing up in a rural community with nearby natural areas to explore, Caslavka had an interest in wildlife early in his life that later led to seeking a degree in Biological Sciences.  While on the academic staff of the UW-Madison, he helped create the Biocore Prairie at the Lake Shore Nature Preserve. 

“Preserving existing wildlife sanctuaries and creating new habitat are the keys to helping birds retain their population numbers,” observes Caslavka. 

One thing he believes humankind can do now and in the future is “volunteer time and provide financial support to organizations that protect habitat and the environment for birds.”

Curt Caslavka

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