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.
Number of species eBirded at the hotspot: 122
Checklists in eBird: 26
Featured Species: Pied-billed Grebe, Trumpeter Swan, Osprey, Black Tern, Virginia Rail, Sora, Olive-sided Flycatcher, 22 Warbler species, 16 Duck species
Sawyer County is located in northwestern Wisconsin. Within Sawyer County, there is a nice variety of deep lakes, boreal forest bogs, deciduous hardwoods, and some agricultural fields. Sadly, it is a very underbirded county. There are only two eBird hotspots with more than 100 species recorded, the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest and Pacwawong Flowage. The Chequamegon-Nicolet NF is a great birding spot, but the flowage is not as well known. Pacwawong Flowage (pronounced “pah-quay-wong”) is located approximately thirteen miles north of Hayward along Hwy 63.
There are two main vantage points for viewing the flowage, this first is directly from Hwy 63. First and foremost, be very careful because Hwy 63 can be a very busy road. The main flowage is located on the northwest side of the road. There is a fairly narrow area in which the vegetation is not obstructing the view. Depending on water levels, there can be a smaller flowage south of the road. The second vantage point is a boat landing off of Mossbeck Road. Head south on Hwy 63 from the main flowage and turn right on Cook Road. Cook Road will curve twice and turn into Mossbeck Road. The road to the boat landing is the first right (east) after crossing the Namekagon River. There is a small parking area near the boat ramp. Birds can be fairly evenly spread across the flowage, so it is important to have the two viewing locations, though it is wise to pay attention to the light conditions.
Pacwawong Flowage can be a great spot for migrating waterfowl, with 16 species of ducks including Ruddy Duck. Trumpeter Swans nest in the flowage. Loons and a nice variety of grebes also use the flowage during migration, with Red-necked Grebe being a highlight. During the spring of 2013, at least three Great Egrets were present as well. Shorebirds are very challenging to find in Sawyer County, but two-thirds of the species found in the county have been observed here. The flowage has also had decent raptor diversity, with highlights of: Northern Harrier, Great Horned Owl, and Peregrine Falcon. The deciduous forest around the flowage can also be great for migrating warblers. Twenty-two species of warblers have been observed here, with Connecticut Warbler as the major highlight. Just south of the main flowage on Northern Lights Road can be a good location for sparrows, especially Clay-colored and American Tree.
Thanks to the following contributors:
Ted Keyel, author, bird photos
Cynthia Bridge, Fun Facts and editing
Ryan Brady, Pacwawong Flowage photos