Bird Breakfast and Grosbeaks Galore

Rose Breasted Grosbeak photographed by Thomas Shultz

Ah, Spring.  There is nothing more satisfying to me than planting- flowers, vegetables, trees, shrubs- anything. Not that I have any great skill at it, and I know I don’t have the artistic eye of a landscape designer by any means.  My plantings tend to look like a happy mess, as do many natural places.  And my goal is usually not a tidy space as much as a lively one, inhabited by lots of fellow creatures. Especially birds- they add more color and interest than my feeble attempts at landscaping ever do.  If birds use my plants I feel I’ve succeded.  But trips to garden centers can leave me disappointed in that there are sometimes very few offerings of plants that are even close to native and which benefit birds.  
Our Lake Michigan shore is a critical highway for birds during their dangerous migrations.  Tiny, precious little songbirds expend every ounce of energy (sometimes literally) that they have trying to make it to and from suitable nesting areas.  Imagine small warblers of all colors flying straight and non-stop across the Gulf of Mexico on their way north.  They are often exhausted when they reach our Gulf shores.  Do you think the habitat there is important?  If they can’t then eat and rest for a few days, they don’t stand a chance of completing the journey of hundreds or thousands of miles yet to come while dodging buildings and cars and cats and all the other man- made hazards.  To maintain our songbird populations, they need safe places all along their route, which for many goes literally through our back yards.
Wisconsin, for so many years a leader in natural resource conservation, has a program called the Wisconsin Stopover Initiative.  It is a true collaboration of government and private organizations which band together to help migratory birds (  On Saturday, May 9th, Woodland Dunes will hold our annual Bird Breakfast and Migration Celebration in the morning from 8-11am, but concurrently we will also be partnering with the Wisconsin Stopover Initiative on a workshop titled “Grosbeaks Galore”, which focuses on what you can do to make your property more friendly for birds.  There will be walks and talks to highlight the different kinds of birds found in our area, tours of habitat restoration projects, suggestions on planting to both beautify your property and benefit wildlife, invasive species, Wisconsin insects, and more.  Rob Zimmer, the Yard MD, will be the keynote speaker, and will share his insights on both wildlife and landscaping with native plants.  If you are interested in wildlife on your property, there will be something offered during the workshop that will help you better understand what you can do to make things even better.
Although our public lands seem large, there is far more land in private ownership in our area, and that land is so important for the welfare of wildlife.  I think we have a responsibility to the living things around us to make the world not just pretty, but better for all. And doing so not only makes the world better, but it makes us better people at the same time.  We all need to work together, and I hope you can join us on May 9th.

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