morgan bongard | wild green bay | may 2017
In order to see birds it is necessary to become part of the silence
~ Robert Lynd, Irish writer, urbane literary essayist.
Birdwatching. Here in Northeastern Wisconsin, birders are in a heaven all their own. At all times of the year and with dozens of different species of birds at any given time, it's a hobby that is affordable regardless of where you are. Just stepping outdoors with a pair of binoculars is all that's needed to enjoy this interesting, and often, challenging past time. As we pay attention to the natural rise and fall of different species, it's an opportunity to forget about ourselves for a while and focus on one of the things that nature does best.
While some birds will be visiting us until they make their fall trek southward, others species will only be here a short while before moving northward. Some of the species that have already arrived include ruby-crowned and golden-crowned kinglets, red-winged blackbirds, northern shovelers, ruddy ducks, pied-billed grebes, mergansers and cormorants. You might also locate and hear killdeer, hermit thrushes, brown creepers, yellow-bellied sapsuckers, northern flickers, brewer's blackbirds, fox sparrows, white-throated sparrows, as well as yellow-rumped warblers. A recent visit to the sanctuary showed an abundance of tree swallows flitting about or perching atop many of the birdhouses, staking claims for their summer nesting residences.
Sanctuary naturalist Jody Sperduto tells us more.
“Green Bay, to be honest, is one of the biggest communities in the nation that bird watch. A lot of people in the state, as a whole, are really into it as a hobby. Some watchers are so enthusiastic, they'll even watch nighttime radar."
The sanctuary has long been designated as a birding hot spot. Many birds time their migrations with the availability of food and certain insects, and many of those birds have yet to arrive in Green Bay. There are many more birds to follow, but the ones that watchers get most excited about are the multiple species of flycatchers, various species of vireos and colorful warblers, as well as wrens, catbirds, indigo buntings, blue-grey gnatcatchers, orioles and scarlet tanagers.
Sperduto explains that the natural wooded habitat of the sanctuary makes the sanctuary birding hot spot.
“There's a lot of cover here, even without the canopy of leaves, as birds generally prefer to hide while feeding," says Sperduto.
Visitors can get up close and personal with various bird exhibits at the Nature Center that include birds of prey including eagles, hawks, merlins and kestrels and owls. The Observation Building has an indoor viewing area comprised of floor-to-ceiling glass windows where dozens of birds congregate around the many feeders.
For those who enjoy the birds that visit their yards, you can increase the number of birds in a number of ways. The use of bird feeders is a great start, but keep in mind that migratory birds are not necessarily attracted to the feeders, as many of them eat bugs as their main food source. Another great way to attract birds is with natural landscaping in your yard using a variety of wildflowers that bloom and go to seed at different times of the year, attracting insects.
Birdhouses are great for attracting birds to your space, however, use caution when placing bird feeders in wide-open spaces.
“Areas where there is natural concealment, like shrubbery, cedars and evergreens will help birds feel safer if they're able to fly between the feeder and shelter, thereby maintaining a safe distance between themselves and birds of prey," Sperduto suggests.
Birding is a wonderful activity that the entire family can appreciate while getting some fresh air and outdoor exercise. With plenty of viewing areas and many different species to observe and study, the sanctuary is the perfect place to enjoy Green Bay's bird city.
“Having a sanctuary with these animals to enjoy that is free and open every single day of year really is a gift," says Sperduto. We provide so much more than just the animals."
A Note on Spring Bat Removal:
In the July 2016 issue of Frankly Green Bay, we covered several species of cave-dwelling bats that were placed on Wisconsin's endangered species list. Due to White Nose Syndrome, the state's bat population will see a 90 percent death rate this year. If you discover a bat population on your property that you wish to remove do not injure or kill the population. Instead, please call one of these departments for handling and removal. In Green Bay: Mallory Meves of Animal Control with the Green Bay Police Department at (920) 448-3201. For Howard, Suamico, Bellevue or Allouez: Monica Hoff of Howard Animal Control at (920) 819-6709.
Morgan Bongard is a freelance writer with special interest in the art, history and the humanities. She is currently putting the finishing details on her memoir 'BananaSeatTenSpeed,' and runs a blog by the same name. Read more at www.BananaSeatTenSpeed.com.