This morning, despite wind and 13 degree temperatures, an optimistic house finch sang his courtship song. Yesterday, out on the prairie on Woodland Drive, a rough-legged hawk sat perched in an ash tree. Where birds are concerned, it seems that there is something new happening every day, even if it just involves the birds we see at our bird feeders.
A lot of people realize this. A 2016 study by the US Fish and Wildlife Service indicated that 45 million people watch birds in this country, and spend 41 billion dollars on related activities, generating 660,000 jobs. In Wisconsin, there are many local bird clubs, and a Statewide organization, the Wisconsin Society for Ornithology (WSO). In addition to the birdwatching people do on their own, there are many guided field trips around the State, along with programs and other events.
Birdwatchers usually record their observations and participate in bird counts year round. They are, as far as I know, the first and largest groups of citizen-scientists, and their millions of observations contribute to a better understanding of not only birds but biology in general. These kinds of observations have documented some big changes in how birds migrate and where they live, probably influenced by a warming world.
Our Lakeshore is an outstanding place to see birds. Our combination of shoreline, forest, and grassland habitats makes it possible to see hundreds of species over the course of the year. At the lakefront alone, more than 300 species have been seen- as many as you would expect to see in the entire state in a given year. So sooner or later, birdwatchers find their way here to discover what we have had all along. And it’s the mission of Woodland Dunes to not only manage our preserve, but teach about nature, birds included.
Next May, the Wisconsin Society for Ornithology will hold their annual convention here May 14-17. Birdwatchers will come to experience the birds that live or migrate here through a number of programs: hikes, field trips by car, kayak, and bicycle, and more. Awards will be given and a banquet will be held over the course of four days. Concurrently, Woodland Dunes will hold it’s annual Migration Celebration and Bird Breakfast, which will include bird walks and activities for people of all ages and is open to the public.
If you are interested in learning more about birds from some of the most knowledgeable people in the State and the upcoming convention, you can find more information at wsobirds.org <http://wsobirds.org>
We look forward to being a part of the WSO convention, and sharing our wonderful birds with birdwatchers from throughout the region.
Photo: Birdwatchers at Woodland Dunes by Nancy Nabak