WBCI E-News vol. 2, no. 7 (13 September 2002)

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 endorser which brings the number of partners to 107: Chiwaukee Prairie Preservation Fund, Inc.

Quote: "Welcome to the Great Wisconsin Birding & Nature Trail project! Wisconsin is now part of a project that will link it to trails that will go to all 50 states! Please join us in this important project by nominating a site (or sites) today by visiting http://www.greatamericantrails.com/wis/" --Susan Foote-Martin, Great WI Birding & Nature Trail Coordinator. For more information, see item IV below.

In this issue:

I. WBCI Statewide Meeting Announced - Tuesday-Thursday, Feb. 4-6, 2003

II. WBCI Committee Meetings Announced

Prairie, Savanna & Agricultural Subcom. - Tues, Oct 22 at 9 a.m. TNC - Madison

Ad Hoc Funding - Wed, Oct 30 from 9-11 a.m. DNR (GEF II) - Madison

Urban/Suburban Subcommittee - Thurs, Oct 31 from 9:30-11 a.m. Wauwautosa

Outreach Committee - Wed, Nov 20 from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. DNR Research - Monona

Habitat & Assessment Committee - Thurs, Dec 12 at 10 a.m. location TBA

Coordinating Council - Thurs, Dec 12 at 1 p.m. location TBA (To Be Announced)

Wetlands & Shorelines Subcommittee - Wed, Dec 18 at 10 a.m. - NRCS - Madison

III. WBCI Website changed to: www.wisconsinbirds.org

IV. Great Wisconsin Birding & Nature Trail - Nominate a Site!

V. West Nile Virus - reporting/testing of birds and more

VI. "West Nile Virus Poses Continuing Threat To Iowa Wildlife."

VII. Rivers & Bluffs Fall Birding Festival, Friday-Sunday, November 15-17, 2002

Invitation to contribute news

I. WBCI Statewide Meeting Announced - Tuesday-Thursday, Feb. 4-6, 2003

We've reserved Tuesday, February 4 through Thursday, February 6 at the Westwood Center in Wausau for a statewide WBCI meeting. The overall theme for this year's meeting is oriented heavily towards Important Bird Areas and generating an all-bird conservation plan for Wisconsin. Please mark your calendars and watch the WBCI e-News for further information.

--submitted by Greg Butcher, Midwest Partners In Flight, WBCI Statewide Meeting chair, 262/797-8463 (gregbutcherwi@hotmail.com)

II. 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.

Prairie, Savanna & Agricultural Subcommittee - Kurt Waterstradt & Tom Thrall, co-chairs.

The next meeting has been set for Tuesday, October 22 at 9 a.m. at The Nature Conservancy, 633 W. Main St, Madison. --Kurt, FWS, 608/221-1206 x 16 (kurt_waterstradt@fws.gov) or Tom, NRCS, 608/276-8732 x 265 (tthrall@wi.nrcs.usda.gov).

Ad Hoc Funding Committee - Jim March, chair.

The first meeting of this committee will be Wednesday, Oct 30 from 9-11 a.m. in the 4th floor DNR Endangered Resources conference room, GEF II, 101 S. Webster St., Madison. We would like to have input from as many different partners as possible. If you can't come, please contact me 608/845-8971 (DRDUK37@aol.com), or Andy Paulios, WBCI Coordinator, 608/264-8528 (andy.paulios@dnr.state.wi.us) with your thoughts and ideas.

Urban/Suburban Subcommittee - Dan Spuhler, chair.

The next meeting will be Thursday, October 31 (Halloween) at 9:30 a.m. at Milwaukee County Parks Administration, 9480 Watertown Plank Rd, Wauwatosa. If you need directions, let me know, or go to mapquest.com and type in the address. --Dan, Land Manager, Milwaukee Co. Dept. Parks, Recreation, and Culture, 414/257-6521 (daniel.spuhler@ces.uwex.edu)

Outreach Committee - Ron Windingstad, chair.

The next meeting will be Wednesday, Nov 20 from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. at DNR Research in Monona. --Ron, Eagle Optics, 608/836-7172 (rmw@eagleoptics.com)

Habitat & Assessment Committee - Gary Zimmer, chair

The next meeting of this committee will be Thursday, Dec 12 at 10 a.m. location to be announced. --Gary, Regional Wildlife Biologist, The Ruffed Grouse Society, 715/674-7505 (rgszimm@newnorth.net).

Coordinating Council - Karen Etter Hale, WBCI chair

The next meeting will be Thursday, Dec 12 at 1 p.m. location to be announced. --Karen, Madison Audubon/Wisconsin Audubon Council, 608/255-2473 (masoffice@mailbag.com).

Wetlands & Shorelines Subcommittee - Joel Trick & Jim Ruwaldt, co-chairs.

The next meeting will be Wednesday, December 18 at 10 a.m. in the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) conference room, 6515 Watts Rd. on the southwest side of Madison. --Joel, FWS, 920/465-7416 (Joel_Trick@fws.gov) or Jim, FWS, 608/221-1206 x 14 (James_Ruwaldt@fws.gov).

III. WBCI Website changed to: www.wisconsinbirds.org

The WBCI website has officially changed!! Please go to www.wisconsinbirds.org and check up on what's happening with bird conservation in the state. The site is a little thin yet, but we'll be updating and adding to it as fast as we can. Suggestions are welcome. --submitted by Andy Paulios, WBCI Coordinator, 608/264-8528 (andy.paulios@dnr.state.wi.us)

IV. Great Wisconsin Birding & Nature Trail - Nominate a Site!

Welcome to the Great Wisconsin Birding & Nature Trail project! Wisconsin is now part of a project that will link it to trails that will go to all 50 states! Please join us in this important project, by nominating a site (or sites) today by visiting http://www.greatamericantrails.com/wis/.

We have been very busy over the past months working on Wisconsin's version of a Great Trail" system with the help of WBCI and our independent contractor, Ted Eubanks of Fermata, Inc. We have expanded our horizons (notice that we have changed the name to include "Nature") in order to facilitate everything that we want to include in our travel tours, but birding still drives this trail. We are now ready, willing and able to take your "personal favorite" sites statewide for inclusion on the GWB&NT system.

A timeline for the trail will take us to 2005. We start in northern Wisconsin with the North Woods Birding Trail. This trail includes Lake Superior and includes 18 counties. Others trails to follow will be Lake Michigan, Mississippi River, Central Sand Prairies, and Southern Savanna. We expect the first GWB&NT ribbon cutting to be held at Crex Meadows Visitor Center in October 2003. After that, we will have another trail completed about every six months.

This ambitious schedule is possible for a number of reasons. First, the trail is web-based. When you visit the site, you can go to the "Nominate a site," fill in the information, and submit it. We get everything right on the web first, and then go to press with our map. Second, we are counting on volunteers (you) to help us identify the best places in our state to see birds and nature.

All nominations received will be ranked using a Site Assessment Protocol. Trained site assessors will visit the sites and those that rise to the highest level will become waypoints" on our maps. Please help today by nominating a site!

--submitted by Susan Foote-Martin, Great WI Birding & Nature Trail Coordinator, Endangered Resource Program, DNR, 608/266-0545 (susan.foote-martin@dnr.state.wi.us)

V. West Nile Virus - reporting/testing of birds and more

Here is a summary of information on West Nile Virus for Wisconsin from Kerry Beheler, DNR animal health specialist, that was forwarded to us in September.

1. We have sampled enough birds in the following counties to know that West Nile Virus disease is prevalent there, so we will no longer routinely test corvid species for WNV from these counties:

Brown, Grant, Green, Jefferson, Kenosha, Marathon, city of Madison, Milwaukee, Outagamie, Racine, Rock, Taylor, Walworth, Washington, Waukesha, Winnebago, Wood

We still want calls about dead/ill corvids, however (reports of sick and dead crows, blue jays, and ravens) even though we will no longer be routinely testing these species from the above counties. We would also like reports and/or specimens for testing of species other than corvids, but only IF there are many reports within a short time frame, or reports of unusual species being found ill/dead (i.e. herons, egrets, raptors). Calls can be made to local health departments, DNR offices, or animal control officers.

2. Thanks to Dr. Linda Glaser, WNV Surveillance Coordinator, Wisconsin Department of Health and Family Services, Division of Public Health, for the Wisconsin distribution map and the updated Wisconsin avian summary (http://www.dhfs.state.wi.us/dph_bcd/WestNileVirus/). This is a useful document for you to check what is happening in your area and elsewhere in terms of bird submission/positive cases.

3. Another excellent source for the latest WNV information is the USGS National Wildlife Health Center, Madison, WI: http://www.nwhc.usgs.gov/

4. Thanks to our Iowan colleagues and the National Wildlife Health Center, Madison WI for important information for bird hunters and others "West Nile Virus Poses Continuing Threat To Iowa Wildlife." See the following WBCI item VI.

--submitted by Gene Tiser, Education Coordinator, DNR NE Region Headquarters, Green Bay, 920/492-5836 (Gene.Tiser@dnr.state.wi.us)

VI. "West Nile Virus Poses Continuing Threat To Iowa Wildlife."

"West Nile Virus Poses Continuing Threat To Iowa Wildlife." (or see http://www.state.ia.us/government/dnr/awaug02.htm#WEST NILE VIRUS POSES CONTINUING THREAT TO IOWA WILDLIFE ) By Lowell Washburn, Iowa DNR, August 29, 2002, 641/425-1023 DES MOINES--

Because of the West Nile virus' link to wild birds, the National Wildlife Health Center, Madison, WI has played a crucial role in mapping the spread of the disease. So far, the numbers and species of infected birds continue to escalate. West Nile virus has been documented in more than 80 bird species in more than 20 states. [over 120 bird species in 42 states as of Oct 7 -WBCI editor's note]

Susceptibility may vary widely among species. In American crows and blue jays, mortality from West Nile virus appears high. Certain raptors such as eagles, kestrels, and red-tailed hawks also exhibit high vulnerability. In Ohio, more than 125 owls were collected during a seven-day period. In Iowa, DNR conservation officers are currently fielding an abnormally large number of reports regarding dead or dying raptors. Most calls involve kestrels, red-tailed hawks, and owls.In extreme northern Iowa, there have been reports of more limited die-offs involving giant Canada geese and mallard ducks. Unfortunately, no viable samples of dead waterfowl have been obtained for testing. However, in northwest Iowa's Dickinson County, 6 wild geese from a captive collection succumbed to West Nile virus earlier this month. In other states, ruffed grouse, wild turkeys, ring-necked pheasants, and swans have tested positive for the virus.

"Right now, the public interest in West Nile virus is simply overwhelming," said Dr. Kathryn Converse, spokesperson for the National Wildlife Health Center. "Two of the basic concerns are -- is it safe for hunters to eat wild game birds, and how is West Nile virus going to affect populations of wild birds. Unfortunately, we don't have the definitive answer to either of those questions.

"What we do know is that things like heat and light destroy virus. As far as hunters are concerned, it's certainly O.K. to eat cooked wild game. However, I do suggest that hunters wear [rubber] gloves when cleaning that game. Preventing bone punctures or protecting open cuts is just good common sense. We still don't know how a lot of bird species are reacting to this virus. Until we do, we are being 'overly cautious' when it comes to handling birds.

"In reality, the probability of a hunter bagging an infected bird is extremely low. Sick birds tend to isolate themselves and are usually not seen. Bagged birds generally represent the healthy segment of a population. The greatest health risk to humans is the mosquito. Hunters should be far less concerned about handling bagged birds than with having good mosquito protection," said Converse.

One of the fundamental problems, says Converse, is that the spread of West Nile virus is occurring so rapidly that health workers are having trouble "just keeping their heads above water." Last week, the National Health Center received over 1,000 dead birds for testing. Some doctors fielded up to 200 West Nile telephone calls per day.

At this point, wild birds are mainly being viewed by health agencies as "sentinels for human risk." And although WNV is currently regarded as a significant wildlife health risk, it may be years before those risks are seriously assessed. "Right now, the emphasis is being placed on humans and horses," said Converse. "When you have outbreaks or people dealing with human cases, it's pretty hard to generate interest for things like wild turkeys or geese. There is some concern for endangered species such as whooping cranes, and I think research will eventually come but it's going to be a while. Right now, for every question we can answer concerning West Nile virus, three more seem to pop up.

While most of the high number of human infections are coming from the southern U.S., Illinois, has documented 26 human cases so far this year. In Iowa, there has been one documented human case, and around two dozen cases of infected horses.

Although no one can say how the spread of West Nile virus will effect future bird populations, some scientists speculate that Midwestern states are currently experiencing the 'Big Wave' and that future outbreaks will have reduced impacts. "What we're all really hoping is that this thing will burn itself out, and that we'll be dealing with a very different set of circumstances in the future," said Converse. "Right now we are dealing with a virus that is in a new country and is infecting a whole new set of bird species. Dramatic outbreaks are what we would expect to be happening. I think the good news is that we aren't seeing any clustering or massive die-offs in one spot. Although a lot of birds are dying, they seem to be random -- one here and one there. In the future, we're hoping the outbreaks become more regional or will occur in isolated pockets. For now, we'll just have to wait and see," said Converse.

"Of course, in the meantime, hunters still want to know if it's 'safe' to be out there, and birders ask if they should stop feeding birds," she added. "At this point, I don't see a reason to discontinue either of those activities."


West Nile Virus Facts

Wild bird populations serve as a natural virus reservoir for WNV. Infected mosquitoes bite birds; then birds become carriers. Additional mosquitoes become infected as they draw blood from active carriers. The virus multiplies inside the new mosquitoes which, in turn, bite and infect more birds. If the bird is able to survive the virus for a period of 14 days, it will have developed immunity and is no longer a carrier.

West Nile virus has been known in Africa since 1937. In 1998, a severe outbreak of the virus occurred in Israel where the disease affected migratory birds and threatened the country's economically important domestic goose industry.

In the U.S., the virus was first discovered in New York during 1999. The original North American source is unknown, and the lingering question remains. Which came first -- the mosquito or the bird?

Although West Nile virus has dangerous potential in humans, only about one in every 200 people infected actually get sick. Most people experience no symptoms at all. Others may think they have a mild case of the flu or are suffering from allergies.

Horses and dogs have tested positive for West Nile virus. Although the virus is dangerous to horses, no dog is known to have been affected by the disease. [One dog in IL tested positive in September -WBCI editor's note]

In the U.S., West Nile virus has been found in more than 80 bird species [120+ bird species -WBCI editor's note]. Crows, jays, and raptors appear to exhibit the highest rates of mortality. The virus has also been detected in waterfowl and upland game birds. However, no large die-off of these species is known. In Louisiana, large numbers of domestic chickens have tested positive for WNV. The chickens appear to be unaffected by the disease, and biologists hope wild populations of pheasants, quail, and turkeys will show the same resistance.

So far, the virus has not spread south of the U.S. border. But as millions of wild birds fly south this autumn, biologists and health officials fear the migrants will carry the disease to Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean where it will present new health risks to humans, horses, and indigenous populations of wildlife. --submitted by Gary Zimmer, Regional Wildlife Biologist, The Ruffed Grouse Society, 715/674-7505 (rgszimm@newnorth.net).

VII. Rivers & Bluffs Fall Birding Festival, Friday-Sunday, November 15-17, 2002

The first-ever "Rivers & Bluffs Fall Birding Festival" will be Friday-Sunday, November 15-17, 2002 in Northeast Iowa. It will be headquartered in Lansing at a time when birdlife is extremely plentiful here. Please register in advance by contacting Ric Zarwell (see below).

This is the peak of the season for great viewing and photo opportunities of thousands of Tundra Swans, and tens of thousands of colorful ducks and geese, plus numerous Bald Eagles, various hawks and other species. Major highlights include: Friday night program with live Trumpeter Swans close enough for photos; introduction to waterfowl found on the Mississippi River; introduction to enjoying the birds around us and how to become a birder; 2 half-day field trips with knowledgeable and helpful guides; Saturday evening live music; and a grande finale program where you can have your photo taken with a live Bald Eagle.

For those who need accommodations in or near Lansing, see www.lansingiowa.com or www.allamakeecounty.com We hope to see each of you on this special weekend. If you have any questions or comments, or would like a brochure with a full agenda and a registration form, please contact me via email. Thank you for your help in spreading the word about this excellent opportunity to identify, enjoy and understand all birds around us.

--submitted by Ric Zarwell, P.O. Box 299, Lansing, Iowa 52151, 563-538-4991, (zarxzar@salamander.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 "new" WBCI Website: http://www.wisconsinbirds.org/


Karen Etter Hale, WBCI ad hoc committee chair
and WBCI e-news coordinator

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