As I write, there are many people out looking for birds in our country during this peak of spring migration. Finally, birds that have wintered in the tropics are moving north to nest in places that have plenty of room and food to support one or two nestfuls of hungry offspring. Because they intend to attract a mate and breed now, the birds wear their finest colors and sing the loudest and are thus easier to find. And luckily for us here in east-central Wisconsin, the trees are not fully leafed-out yet, so birds are easier to see. Birders by the millions turn out to get what is often a once-a-year glimpse of birds unseen during other months.
We celebrate the return of the migrants with programs and festivals corresponding to the birds’ movements, often done in conjunction with International Migratory Bird Day. In the South, they hold festivals in late winter or early spring, in the mid-latitudes, early to mid-May, and in the far north, late spring to early summer. Our birding festival was begun more than 75 years ago, long before there was a Woodland Dunes. Since the mid- 1940’s, people here have gathered in mid-May on a Saturday morning to see how many birds they can find and share breakfast and compare their observations.
The annual Bird Breakfast and Migration Celebration became a part of Woodland Dunes in the 1970’s, and is happily celebrated yet today, this year on May 20th. The essential elements, guided birdwatching and a pancake breakfast, are supplemented with special activities for children, and demonstrations of the techniques used to study birds through banding. A special addition this year will be a trip to the harbor at Manitowoc. That area, including the containment facility out on the blue rail trail and the area north to the marsh of the Little Manitowoc River, is being recognized as one of the best birdwatching areas in Wisconsin – officially the Manitowoc Lakefront Birding Area. The area is being designated in honor of Dr. Charles Sontag, Emeritus Professor of Biology at UW-Manitowoc whose 50 years of daily observations revealed that more than 300 species of birds have been found at that single location. The area is now being managed and planted to make it even better for those birds, and for people who enjoy strolling the Manitowoc Lakefront. In fact, several classes of students from Madison Elementary school recently helped plant 100 trees and shrubs in the area on a beautiful sunny morning.
More information on Bird Breakfast can be found at http://www.woodlanddunes.org/bird-breakfast/.
Whether you join us or not, take time to appreciate this special part of the year, and the wonderful place in which we live. Birds certainly do.