The next few weeks should bring considerable volumes of birds through our area, creating a multitude of sights and sounds. According to the Nature Conservancy, the three must-see migrations for Wisconsin are Waterfowl, Waders, and Songbirds. So, where is the best place to view the migration? Even though you can likely find a number of good observation areas close to home, but you may want to check out these locations for prime viewing.
Wisconsin's Green Bay is one of the world's largest freshwater estuaries and critical habitat for many waterfowl species including many diving ducks like Scaups and Redheads. And, the coastline from the city of Green Bay to Oconto contains a number of State Wildlife Areas, State Natural Areas, and Waterfowl Preserves for you to enjoy some bird watching. If you venture a little farther up the Door County peninsula, the Mink River Estuary and Rowley's Bay offer excellent habitat for a wide variety of waterfowl that can be viewed from land or canoe. For those in western Wisconsin, your great resource is the Mississippi River. The backwaters of the countries greatest river near La Crosse provide habitat for 75,000 to 100,000, or nearly one-third, of North America's Canvasback population during the spring months.
If its wading birds that you are looking for, you can venture away from the major water bodies and closer to the marshlands of interior Wisconsin. The Necedah Wildlife Refuge is home to main wading species, but most notably, the Whooping Crane. They were reintroduced here in 2001 as part of a national effort to increase their critically low populations, and the birds now return here every year in April and May. The Horicon Marsh area in Dodge and Fond du Lac counties is the largest cattail marsh in the United States and is home to more than 300 bird species throughout the year. And, for those in my neighborhood, the George Mead Wildlife Area is second only to the Horicon Marsh in quantity of bird species.
And finally, the birds that often get the most attention in our backyards and feeders, the songbird. These bird's appearances often correspond to the increase in insect population. This often occurs later in spring, but some species like the eastern meadowlark can be found earlier in grasslands of Southwestern Wisconsin. If you are looking for one particular area to view the songbird migration, try Wyalusing State Park in may, at the confluence of the Wisconsin and Mississippi Rivers or any other area near a larger river that is densely forested.
As we begin to warm up and the ice starts to break up, I hope you take some time to enjoy the sights and sounds of our feathered friends this spring.
"Be as a bird perched on a frail branch that she feels bending beneath her, still she sings away all the same, knowing she has wings." - Victor Hugo.
* Checkout the Nature Conservancy at Nature.Org for more information on bird migration and many other related topics.