WBCI e-News vol. 4, no. 5 (August 5, 2004)

The Wisconsin Bird Conservation Initiative: "A cooperative partnership to deliver the full spectrum of bird conservation emphasizing voluntary stewardship."

The WBCI  (Wisconsin Bird Conservation Initiative) e-News is a periodic e-newsletter to quickly share that is happening in bird conservation across Wisconsin (and occasionally beyond).

We'd like to welcome the most recent WBCI endorsers which brings our number of partners to 136: Wausau Bird Club, Friends of the Bird Sanctuary, Town and Country Resource Conservation & Development, Inc, and Northeastern WI Audubon Society.

Quote: "This flashing, tinkling meteor bursts through the expectant meadow air, leaving a train of tinkling notes behind." --Henry David Thoreau (To find out which bird Thoreau is talking about, see Item I below.)

In this issue:

I.    Grassland Conservation Area Proposed to Help Protect Rare Greater Prairie-Chicken - Public Meetings August 10 & 11
II.   Explore Flight Calls of Migrating Birds at WSO/WBCI Symposium - Fri & Sat, Feb 4-5, 2005 - Wisconsin Rapids
III.  WBCI Committee Meetings Announced
       Wetlands & Shorelines Subcomm., Thurs, Aug 12, 9:30-Noon, DNR Research - Monona
        Outreach, Wed, August 18, 10 a.m. - 1 p.m., DNR Research - Monona
        Prairie,  Savanna & Ag Subcomm,  Mon, Aug 23, 1 p.m.- , NRCS - Madison
        Issues Committee, Tues, Aug 24, 9-Noon. Zoological Society - Milwaukee
        Urban/Suburban Subcomm, Tues, Aug 24, 12:30 p.m, Zoological Society - Milwaukee
        Habitat Assessment & Management Committee (tentative): Thurs, Aug 26, 10 a.m. - noon - if meeting, will be in Madison with exact location to be announced
        Coordinating Council, Thurs, Aug 26, 1-4 p.m. - Madison (watch for separate e-mail for exact location)
VI.    Quad 30 Campaign update

Invitation to contribute news

I.    Grassland Conservation Area Proposed to Help Protect Rare Greater Prairie-Chicken - Public Meetings August 10, 11

[Note: The following is the press release from the July 27, 2004 DNR News. All comments on the Feasibility Plan must be submitted to: Jim Keir, DNR, Box 100, Friendship, WI 53934 by August 27.]

A management and recovery plan for the greater prairie chicken and an associated initiative to maintain critical grassland habitat for the species in Central Wisconsin will be the focus of two public meetings in August.

Wisconsin has one of the few remaining populations of prairie chickens in the Great Lakes States and it is listed as a state threatened species. Minnesota has a small population, Illinois has only a small remnant population, and Michigan is bereft of the birds.

The prairie chicken is celebrated for its annual "booming" display that attracts visitors from all over the country to the Buena Vista Grassland southwest of Plover in Portage County. This display takes its name from the distinctive sound made by male chickens as they square off against each other to stake out territory to attract hens for mating. The loud booming call and ritualistic fighting of the birds as they jump and flutter is punctuated by the sound of their feet beating double time. The performance inspired the species' scientific name,
Tympanuchus cupido pinnatus, or "drummer of love."

The prairie chicken, has been extensively studied and the focus of conservation efforts for many years by organizations and agencies, according to Thomas Meier, a Department of Natural Resources wildlife biologist who has spent much of his career managing lands for grassland species.

Of particular note are the efforts of the Dane County Conservation League and the Society of Tympanuchus Cupido Pinnatus. Both groups championed Fran and Fred Hammerstrom's early call for measures to save the dwindling prairie chicken populations and played critical roles in actively raising funds and protecting land in the 1950s and 1960s. The  Hammerstroms were renowned wildlife biologists who spent years studying prairie chickens in Central Wisconsin. "Without their dedication and perseverance, there would likely be few, if any, prairie chicken populations left to be protected in Wisconsin," Meier notes. "But despite these past efforts, the future of the prairie chicken in Wisconsin remains uncertain.

"Working collaboratively with the farm community, we've been successful at Buena Vista Grassland protecting enough scattered grassland among the farmland that the prairie chicken population is holding its own there. But its range has continued to decline dramatically over the last 10 years, especially in Taylor, Clark and Marathon counties."

Although a combination of factors is likely at work, Meier says biologists believe that the population declines are primarily related to the loss and fragmentation of critical habitat and the conversion of many farm operations away from the grass-based agricultural practices that dominated the area until the 1980s.

In an effort to stem the decline of the prairie chickens and other rare grassland species in Wisconsin, a key recommendation in the Management and Recovery Plan is to protect 15,000 acres of grassland over the next 10 years in the central part of the state.

"This project is designed to meet the critical habitat needs of a wide range of grassland species, including the greater prairie chicken, by protecting scattered grasslands within a larger, farm-based landscape," according to Bob Michelson, DNR West Central Region wildlife supervisor.

The project would be established as the Central Wisconsin Grassland Conservation Area
http://dnr.wi.gov/org/land/wildlife/CWGCA/CWGCA.htm  with two management objectives: to establish more tracts of permanent grassland habitat -- primarily focused on lands within 1 mile of booming grounds -- and to help maintain farming as the area's dominant land use.

One strategy on this front may be to expand the type of farming agreements the DNR currently enters into with local farmers. For example, at Buena Vista Grassland almost 5,000 acres owned by the DNR are part of a rotation that enables local farmers to periodically graze, hay, or crop the lands.

"We intend to work creatively with local farmers and other partners to develop land use agreements and easements that mutually benefit the economic health of farms and the ecological needs of grassland species," Michelson said. Partner groups include the U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Natural Resource Conservation Service, Golden Sands Conservation & Development Council (a non-profit group concerned with improving the
central Wisconsin economy, while conserving its natural resources), county land conservation departments, and other local organizations.

The project will also provide compatible recreational opportunities for people, spaces for people to watch grassland species, and experience a taste of Wisconsin's historic grasslands.

These informal public meetings are being held to provide information and gather public input on both the Wisconsin Greater prairie chicken Management and Recovery Plan and the Central Wisconsin Grasslands Conservation Area feasibility study. Both meetings will be conducted as open houses and will run from 4 to 8 p.m. They will be held:

*       Aug. 10, WI Rapids McMillan Memorial Library, 490 East Grand Ave.
*       Aug. 11, Marshfield Public Library, 211 E. Second St.

The feasibility study and the management plan require eventual approval by the state Natural Resources Board. That would create a project allowing the use of state acquisition dollars. More information about the project can be found on the DNR Web site at http://dnr.wi.gov/org/land/wildlife/CWGCA/CWGCA.htm

While the greater prairie chicken is rare and spectacular, and a primary focus of the conservation area, managing the area to maintain grasslands will benefit a variety of grassland birds, according to Meier.

Consider the bobolink.  The 6- to 8-inch tall black-garbed male bobolink appears to wear a golden neckerchief behind its throat and sports white strips along its wing and tail, a sort of grassland dandy. Its voice, a kind of banjo-picking music that plink-plunks "bobolink" lifts over the grassland. Henry David Thoreau said "This flashing, tinkling meteor bursts through the expectant meadow air, leaving a train of tinkling notes behind."

The bobolink has come a long ways to the grasslands of Wisconsin. It is the longest flying migrant in its bird family, traveling to the grasslands of Argentina, Paraguay and Brazil. They fly at night in large flocks and can cover great distances over open water, perhaps stopping at Cuba before launching themselves to Brazil or Argentina. The bobolink is one of the Neotropical birds that require habitat protection efforts both here and in South America.

In the United States the bobolink probably prospered in the early part of the 20th Century, when most people kept horses and pastures were plentiful. But their numbers have declined in recent years, as have many other grassland species.  "Although the bobolink is not a centerpiece of the Central Wisconsin Grassland Conservation Area. It's likely to be a beneficiary," Meier says.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Robert Michelson, West Central Region Wildlife Expert - (715) 839-3736; Jim Keir, Wildlife Manager, Buena Vista-Leola Wildlife Areas - (608) 339-4819; Thomas Meier, Wildlife Manager, Mead-McMillan Wildlife Areas - (715) 457-6771

II.  Explore Flight Calls of Migrating Birds at WSO/WBCI Symposium - Fri & Sat, Feb 4-5, 2005 - Wisconsin Rapids

It is our pleasure to announce that Bill Evans, pioneering researcher in interpreting the flight calls of migrating birds, will present results and analysis of his research at the WSO/WBCI Symposium in February. The symposium “Neotropical Migrants: In Migration And On Wintering Grounds”, will take place Friday and Saturday, February 4-5, 2005 at the Hotel Mead & Conference Center in Wisconsin Rapids. Bill joins Chandler Robbins, the Friday dinner keynote speaker and author of numerous ornithological papers, reports, and books (including the Golden Birds of North America), as one of the featured speakers at the event.

For Bill, it all began with a large nocturnal passage along the Minnesota/Wisconsin border in late May of 1985. Soon after that night he began studying the phenomenon of flight calls of night migrating birds and has continued, largely in eastern North America, for the last 20 years. He recently co-authored an identification catalogue of the vocalizations that enables researchers for the first time to acquire detailed species information of birds in active night migration. His publications on acoustic monitoring are available online at http://www.oldbird.org/.

Two Full Days of Enthralling Presentations

A number of other enthusiastic speakers will round out the symposium, including Dave Ewert, Bill Karasov, Terry Rich, Vicki Piaskowski, Stan Temple, Paul Baicich, Craig Thompson, Bill Volkert, and representatives from the International Crane Foundation. We have also put together concurrent workshops for Saturday afternoon on bird education in Wisconsin and beyond, conservation south of the border, and more. We hope you will leave the symposium with several concrete ideas of what you and your organizations can do to help reduce stress on birds, which breed in Wisconsin, while they are on migration and on their wintering grounds.

The tentative schedule is to start each day at 8 a.m., with a full day of presentations and an evening dinner with speaker on Friday, and to end by 3 p.m. on Saturday. We have a limited number of rooms blocked at the Hotel Mead & Conference Center, Wisconsin Rapid, for Thursday and Friday nights at special rates ($79 for one person, $89 for two people, plus tax, per night). The hotel will be quite busy that weekend, so we encourage you to reserve your room early. Call 800-843-6323 and mention WSO or WBCI.

About 20 8-foot exhibit tables will be available for $15 each with an additional $10 for electricity. Payment will be due with your individual registration fees.

Registration materials will be available beginning in October.

If you have questions or would like to be involved with planning, please contact one of the Symposium Committee: Bettie Harriman (bettie@vbe.com), Andy Paulios (andy.paulios@dnr.state.wi.us), Craig Thompson (craig.thompson@dnr.state.wi.us), and Christine Reel (dcreel@execpc.com).

--submitted by Christine Reel, WSO Treasurer, dcreel@execpc.com

III.     WBCI Committee Meetings Announced

All WBCI meetings are open to everyone. Please attend if possible and pass along word to anyone who may be interested in attending or joining any WBCI committee. Contact committee chairs for more information and agendas.

Wetlands & Shorelines Subcommittee - Joel Trick, Chair (Joel_Trick@fws.gov)
    Thurs, Aug 12, 9:30 - Noon, DNR Research, 1350 Femrite - Monona
        At this meeting, we will discuss the habitat classification system that Kim Grveles has been working on, and decide on the system we will be using for the WBCI plan.

Outreach - Jamie Nack, Chair (jlnack@wisc.edu)
    Wed, August 18, 10 a.m. - 1 p.m. DNR Research, 1350 Femrite - Monona
        Work will continue on the communication plan and on the audience list.

Prairies, Ag & Savanna Subcommittee - Jim Ruwaldt, Chair (James_Ruwaldt@fws.gov)
    Mon, August 23, 1 p.m.-  NRCS - Madison
        The habitat classification system that Kim Grveles has been working on will be discussed, and we will decide on the system we will be using for the WBCI all-bird plan.

Issues Committee - Bill Mueller, Chair (iltlawas@earthlink.net)
        Tues, August 24, 9 a.m.-Noon, Zoological Society, 1421 N. Water St., Milwaukee

Urban/Suburban Subcommittee - Ricky Lien, Chair (ricky.lien@dnr.state.wi.us)
        Tues, August 24, 12:30 p.m-  Zoological Society, 1421 N. Water St., Milwaukee

Habitat Assessment & Management Committee - Gary Zimmer, Chair (rgszimm@newnorth.net), Jeff Gaska, Vice-chair (jgaska@pheasantsforever.org)
    Tentative:Thursday, August 26, 10 a.m. - noon - if meeting, will be in Madison with exact location to be announced

Coordinating Council  - Karen Etter Hale, Chair (masoffice@mailbag.com)
    Thursday, Aug 22, 1-4 p.m., Madison (watch for separate e-mail for exact location)

VI.    Quad 30 Campaign update

Noel attempted the impossible – trying to conduct 30 North American Breeding Bird Surveys (BBS) in 30 days in 4 states to celebrate his more than 30 years of running BBSs and to raise $30,000 for bird conservation. Noel did this and more! He completed 33 routes in 33 days with no rain/weather days, and he has raised over $38,000 so far!! There is still time to donate if you haven't already done so. All money raised will go to support the Important Bird Areas program. You can still check Noel's Quad 30 Campaign website, http://quad30campaign.org/, to read Noel's summary of each day in the field, each "Bird of the Day", and how to pledge.

--submitted by Karen Etter Hale, Madison Audubon Society, masoffice@mailbag.com

Invitation to contribute news. Please submit items for the WBCI e-News to this e-mail address. These could be anything that you and your group or agency wish to share about what is being done, where, and by whom: projects that are in the works, whether large or small, local or state-wide; activities, programs, and workshops; what the average birder might do to help out; what the problems are; or what help you might need on specific projects.

No attachments will be allowed. Instead, try to include web links whenever possible for more detail. Or if the information is lengthy, and only an attachment would be efficient, provide an e-mail contact so that those interested can ask for the attachment. The source of the item posted will be included at the end of each message.

Back issues of the WBCI e-News can be found on the WBCI website http://www.wisconsinbirds.org/


Karen Etter Hale, WBCI Chair and WBCI e-News Coordinator

Executive Secretary
Madison Audubon Society
222 S Hamilton St, Suite 1
Madison, WI  53703-3201
608/255-BIRD (2473)
608/255-2489 fax

--Making Time for Birds