To the average person, the mention of a downtown metropolitan area doesn’t readily conjure up thoughts of bird diversity. But Milwaukee is fortunate to be in the middle of a major migration route with a Great Lake and some great parks at its doorstep, both of which are magnets for a wide variety of birds year-round. For February’s hotspot county, Milwaukee, Mike Wanger will take us on a tour of one of Wisconsin’s most popular birding destinations located on the Lake Michigan Flyway. This article will focus on sixteen birding hotspots occurring along a seven-mile stretch of Lake Michigan shoreline in the downtown Milwaukee area. We’ll focus first on Lake Michigan, then move up the northern bluff to Lake Park. This article is designed for any birder who would like to bird this whole area systematically in a day or pick and choose the spots they deem most appealing.
With the 17th annual Great Backyard Bird Count right around the corner, the Wisconsin eBird team has been fielding many questions on bird identification of confusing species. Thanks to team members Sean Fitzgerald and Aaron Boone for putting together this great guide to separating many of the difficult pairs and groups.
Winter is not typically a season that we associate with bird migration. However, plenty of movement occurs during these cold, dark months, in particular irruptive and facultative movements. Although few irruptive species moved south this year (almost none, other than Snowy Owls), the winter of 2013-2014 has seen a parade of arctic systems move across North America, bringing cold temperatures well outside of recent averages. These have triggered facultative movements as species are literally frozen out of the north and eBirders are contributing greatly to our understanding of the species and patterns involved. In mid-January 2014, it became apparent that White-winged Scoter and Red-necked Grebe were on the move, popping up at lakes, rivers, and ponds in most of the eastern U.S. Some coastal areas also have seen a noticeable increase and it seems clear that the movements of these birds are directly connected to the higher-than-normal ice cover on the Great Lakes. To explore these movements more and better understand the connection to ice cover on the Great Lakes, please visit BirdCast.
For January’s Wisconsin eBird Hotspot of the Month, Eric Howe takes us to Wind Point Lighthouse and Shoop Park in Racine County. Eric is a reviewer for Wisconsin eBird and a member of the board directors for the Racine/Kenosha area Hoy Audubon Society. He has been birding Wind Point for over 15 years. The Wind Point Lighthouse and Shoop Park are located at Wind Point in eastern Racine County along the shore of Lake Michigan. With its topography extending 1.5 miles further out into Lake Michigan than the remainder of Racine County, it tends to funnel migrants and boasts one of the most impressive species and rarities lists in the state.
In 2013, 3,494 birders submitted eBird Checklists in Wisconsin. Their efforts resulted in 1,145,019 observations, 86,542 checklists (about a 17% increase over the 74,126 Checklists in 2012) and 338 species.
More than ever before eBird is being used to monitor irruptions, migrations, and movements of rarities and vagrants on both continental and local scales.
Sawyer County in northwest Wisconsin is the randomly selected Wisconsin eBird Hotspot of the Month for December 2013. While this county boasts a nice variety of habitats including boreal forests and deep lakes, it is sadly quite underbirded. Ted Keyel, one of the few birders in the state serious about his Sawyer county life list chose to profile Pacwawong Flowage for this month’s hotspot.
Few birds spark as much awe and excitement among even the most casual nature enthusiast as the Snowy Owl. Each winter brings a varying number of these arctic visitors to Wisconsin and the lower 48, leaving eager birders to wonder annually what each year will have in store. Well, to many birders’ delight, Snowies are [...]
December 14 will begin the 114th Christmas Bird Count (CBC) season, and the first big weekend of counts will be 15-16 December. The Christmas Count is the largest and longest-running ornithological citizen science project. Its data are a great complement to what we are collecting in eBird, and indeed the CBC has paved the way for eBird in many respects. It is not a problem to enter data in eBird and then submit it for the CBC too, since the two projects are collecting data in similar ways, but at different scales. eBird can be a great way to store your sector-level data and compare it from year to year.
For November, Wisconsin eBird takes us to Taylor County for the Hotspot of the Month. Rory Cameron, a native of Rice Lake who has lived and worked in Chippewa County since 1975, is one of few people who birds Taylor County with some regularity. In addition to birding, he enjoys running, biking, reading, and playing the Highland Bagpipe. He graciously agreed to profile Pershing Wildlife Area, one of the go-to spots for Sharp-tailed Grouse in the state.
There is no better month to find a Little Gull in much of North America than November. This fall has produced one of the stronger showings for this species in recent years with birds appearing from the Front Range of Colorado to southern Illinois and Tennessee. Coastal sightings stretch from Newfoundland to Virginia. Lake Erie and Lake Ontario have also had strong showings for the species this year, including at the species’ North American stronghold along the Niagara River, where dozens of Little Gulls can sometimes be found among the tens of thousands of Bonaparte’s. Three at Chequamegon Bay, Lake Superior, Wisconsin on 25 November were a great count so far west. As we head into a long Thanksgiving weekend, try checking open water near you for Little Gull. Bring your camera!