Western Great Lakes Bird & Bat Observatory

Headquarters at Forest Beach Migratory Preserve

Director Updates


by William Mueller

*** Waterbird Technician Calvin Brennan has staffed the Watch again this spring since March 1st.  New funding proposals are in process.

*** Work progresses on our 2018 comparative Waterbird Watch scientific paper, with planning and coordination with Bryan Lenz and Jesse Peterson.

*** A lengthy list of various Midwest Migration Network (MMN) meetings, plus organizational, and MMN Communications Subcommittee meetings, activities, website planning and setup have taken place in the past 6 weeks, with many more to come throughout 2018. 

*** The Peregrine Fund and WGLBBO organized and conducted the first Wisconsin statewide American Kestrel Partnership meeting in Arlington WI on March 19th, with partners from 12 different WI groups participating. Our role in this regional network has expanded, and also shifted, as data management for the Partnership has developed new protocols and new standards. Mike and I manage the project meeting follow-up with these statewide partners and will continue to do so.  

*** The Wisconsin Stopover Initiative subcommittee on habitat had a recent group project, involving a stopover site search via mapping, and data gathering for shorebird locations around the western Great Lakes.

*** The Southern Wisconsin “Cats and Birds Working Group” met recently, and we at WGLBBO continue our involvement in discussions, the excellent ongoing work on Bryan’s draft ordinance, and ongoing literature search and correspondence.

*** Outreach, via the WGLBBO website and Facebook updates, posting and coordination continues. Recent additions on the website include a kestrel webcam from the Peregrine Fund.

  • Recent Facebook outreach included a “Purple Martin Emergency” post which reached more than 62,000 people in three day - and was shared more than 900 times across multiple platforms in many Midwestern states.

*** Our Midwest Aerial Insectivore Discussion Group continues to host and share an array of insectivore information  in multiple states - it has grown to 107 members.

April report 1

*** The WGLBBO office at FBMP re-opened for spring hours during the second week of March.

*** The WBBAII (the 2nd Wisconsin Breeding Bird Atlas) training is underway for spring 2018, with several workshops and training events having taken place, others yet to come, plus both nocturnal and diurnal field trips planned in several atlas blocks

Eastern Region Atlas 2018 Kickoff Workshop: Help us get the 2018 Atlas season off to a dynamic start by joining us at one of our FREE Atlas Regional Kickoff workshops. These events are for everyone, whether you’re a newer member of the Atlas team, a seasoned veteran, or just want to learn more about how to join us in 2018.

Learn more and register by visiting our Atlas Regional Kickoff webpage.

Regional Kickoff Workshop Locations & Dates

  • Eastern Region - April 21, 12–4:30 p.m.: Sturgeon Bay Library, Sturgeon Bay, WI
  • Western Region - May 5, 10 a.m.–2:00 p.m.: National Eagle Center, Wabasha, MN*

Each workshop will include: Atlas results to date, focus areas and goals for 2018, introduction and basic training for new atlasers, advanced training for returning atlasers, data-entry instruction, tips from your region’s top atlasers, the chance to meet county coordinators, Atlas planners, and other atlasers from your area, and field trips to local hotspot.

*Rescheduled from April 14 due to a major storm.

  • Right now, our biggest need is for people to bird in atlas blocks that are not otherwise covered by someone. We really need YOU to take on a block, and bird that block until it nears the completion criteria.

 To help clarify where these blocks are, here’s a map showing 2 types of blocks:

      1. The red blocks have little to no atlas effort, and need someone to take them on as a principal atlaser

     2. The yellow blocks are already half done, and they just need someone to take them on and finish them off.

April report 2

April report 3

*** With our board member Dr. Glen Fredlund, and SARUP’s Dr. Filip Tejchman (both at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee), we continue our involvement with the SE WI Bird Collisions working group. This will continue to be a major focus for Dr. Bryan Lenz in his new position with the American Bird Conservancy.

*** Motus project coordination and communication: a letter to partners is being sent, seeking cooperation on this ongoing project (itself a part of the MMN).

*** Work is already underway by WGLBBO staff, Executive Committee members, and the Science Committee on this year’s Southeastern Wisconsin CONSERVATION SUMMIT, including proposals for grant funding. More will be forthcoming on this WGLBBO signature event.

  • Attendance at the 2017 Southeastern Conservation Summit demonstrated the level of interest from presenters, other regional scientists, agency and conservation organization staff, nature center staff, consultants, academic faculty, students, and the general public:
  • 47 regional scientists and conservation organization staff provided oral presentations.
  • 31 regional scientists and conservation organization staff provided poster presentations.
  • 183 total attendees included 20 undergraduate students included 8 from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, 6 from Carroll University, 3 from UW-Whitewater, 2 from UW Madison, and 1 from Marquette University.
  • 177 people were from Wisconsin, 4 were from Illinois, and 2 were from Michigan.
  • Of the total of 183 attendees, 149 had pre-registered, and 34 were walk-in registrations on the days of the conference.

Our goals for the 2108 conference include:

  • Additional undergraduate student and agency participation at the presenter and attendee level.
  • Additional attendance overall.
  • Enriching/improving content areas and organization of presentations/posters.
  • Promotion enhancements (local news outlets, Chamber of Commerce notification, Facebook, Instagram, other social media and website messaging.

*** Bryan and I and the Observatory have a 2018 Urban Birds grant from USFWS. This has several moving parts, two of which h are:

  • Native Plants in the City Workshop at Milwaukee’s Urban Ecology Center.
  • Aerial insectivore urban monitoring project: including survey planning for Chimney Swifts & Common Nighthawks.

*** Related to the last item mentioned above, we have multiple roles in the Wisconsin Bird Conservation Initiative Annual Meeting, this year focused on aerial insectivores: http://www.wisconsinbirds.org/

WGLBBO Director’s Report March 1, 2018

WGLBBO Director’s Report

March 1, 2018 

W. Mueller, WGLBBO Director

AERIAL INSECTIVORE NEWS: Our “Urban Birds” Project (with its urban aerial insectivore monitoring at the core) grant from USFWS gets underway this spring, with meetings now taking place, workshops in the planning stages, and Bryan Lenz working on the GIS aspects this month.

In other aerial insectivore news, the Midwest Aerial Insectivore Discussion Group that I manage continues to gain new members (now at 93 members region-wide): https://www.facebook.com/groups/1581381955435390/

JOINT VENTURE NEWS: Bryan and I participated in the recent Joint Venture meetings. Bryan gave a presentation on the Midwest Migration Network. What is the JV? The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service definition for a joint venture is “a self-directed partnership of agencies, organizations, corporations, tribes, or individuals that has formally accepted the responsibility of implementing national or international bird conservation plans within a specific geographic area or for a specific taxonomic group, and has received general acceptance in the bird conservation community for such responsibility”. Working both collectively and independently, JV partners conduct activities in support of bird conservation goals cooperatively developed by the partnership. There are 18 habitat JVs in the nation today, and JVs are recognized as the standard for effective, science-based delivery of bird conservation through partnerships.  

KESTREL PROJECT UPDATE: We will hold our Statewide Kestrel Partnership meeting on March 19th, from 1:00 to 3:00 pm. I coordinated with many state partners to organize this event.

A brief description of the purpose for this meeting: Our colleagues from The Peregrine Fund are coming to Wisconsin to meet with us to improve kestrel nestbox data gathering and project coordination. There are some exciting new developments this year, including a new smartphone app for data.

We are seeking new partner groups to join us, and simultaneously help to improve kestrel numbers while providing data for research.

We are also very interested in sharing all current WI kestrel breeding records with the ongoing Wisconsin Breeding Bird Atlas II, and we'll talk about how to do that if participants in the nestbox effort aren't already doing so. The meeting will be held in Columbia County, at a University of Wisconsin Agricultural Research Station.

I am the new state coordinator for the Kestrel Partnership for WI.


March 10, Birding America Conference in Chicago: Mike Reese and I present on the Atlas.


April 7 (tentative) Nocturnal Field Trip – 2-3 Door County Blocks

Western Regional Kickoff – April 14, 8:30 a.m.–12:30 p.m. National Eagle Center 50 Pembroke Ave, Wabasha, MN 55981.  Tom Prestby, Mike Reese, and I are presenters. Optional afternoon field trip.

Eastern Regional Kickoff - April 21, 12–4:30 p.m. Sturgeon Bay Library 107 S 4th Ave, Sturgeon Bay, WI 54235.  Tom Prestby, Mike Reese, and I are presenters. Optional evening field trip.

OFFSHORE SURVEY NEWS: I participated in, and presented our Great Lakes Commission offshore survey project poster at the "State of Lake Michigan" conference in Green Bay, where I joined a number of great colleagues from UWGB:



WGLBBO Director’s Report – Oct 3. 2017

W. Mueller

Southeast Wisconsin Conservation Summit conference - The Southeast Wisconsin Conservation Summit has been in discussion for ten years, and will finally take place this autumn, hosted by WGLBBO here at Forest Beach Migratory Preserve, on November 3rd and 4th. A total of 47 speakers are on our schedule for Friday and Saturday, each having 15 minutes for their presentation, and three minutes for questions. Our poster session with approximately 31 presenters, starts late Friday afternoon, and lasts until 6:20pm.

Midwest Migration Network – The Steering Committee and Leader Team of MMN (of which Bryan and I are members) are planning a fall meeting for Nov 17-18 here at FBMP.  The Saturday portion of this meeting is open to interested partners.  Bill Mueller and Bryan Lenz are two of the four-member Leadership Team of the MMN, with additional responsibilities this season for planning and hosting the fall MMN Steering Committee and Partner meeting.

Waterbird Watch – Calvin Brennan started his eighth season here on September 1st. He has already counted large numbers of a wide array of species. Among waterfowl and waterbird species seen, the first month was dominated by the full complement of “non-diver” duck species and cormorants. Among the unusual species seen thus far this fall was a Neotropic Cormorant (only the 6th Wisconsin record) and two Parasitic Jaegers.  

A wonderful new development for this fall season is the construction of a permanent blind for the Watch, to be installed soon by Harrington Beach State Park staff. This will save park staff the set-up and disassembly time each year, and brings our operation to yet another milestone.

American Kestrel Nestbox Project – Data from over 100 nestboxes has been received and is being processed by Mike Schlotfeldt for uploading to the Peregrine Fund.

Other Outreach activity – The Observatory is represented as part of the Wisconsin Bird Conservation Initiative.  Director Mueller serves on the WBCI Steering Committee, and is co-chair of the WBCI Issues Committee. WBCI is currently in a Strategic Planning Process. All committee chairs are involved in writing sections of the Strategic Action Plan.  A separate process is underway to determine the future utilization of the WBCI All Bird Plan.

Raptor watches at Forest Beach Migratory Preserve - This past week, we had one of the first good raptor days of the fall, at Forest Beach Migratory Preserve. On the strong NW winds, on September 27th:

  • Swainson's Hawk (1 light morph adult - - #255 for FBMP)
  • Red-tailed Hawk 23
  • Turkey Vulture 15
  • Bald Eagle 4
  • Sharp-shinned Hawk 4
  • Cooper's Hawk 4
  • Northern Harrier 1
  • Merlin 2
  • Peregrine Falcon 1
  • American Kestrel 1

More such raptor watch days will be possible, with the right weather conditions. Notice will be posted.

New bird song course – Director Mueller will be teaching a new eight-week UW-Milwaukee Field Station course, to be offered in February and March of 2018, entitled “An Introduction to Bird Song”.


WGLBBO Director’s and Chief Scientist’s Report – April 2017

W. Mueller and B. Lenz

Many projects are underway as of early April, with continuing progress through late winter:

“Conservation Center” meetings, with M. Tomter, J. Torinus, WGLBBO Board members, OWLT Director and staff, Andrew Struck

Planning and outreach is underway for our fall 2017 “Southeastern Wisconsin Conservation Summit”.

WBBAII – Wi Breeding Bird Atlas II Training/Regional Kickoff workshops in

  • Vernon County, WI at the Kickapoo Reserve
  • Rice Lake, WI, at the Rice Lake Public Library, with a morning field trip
  • Green Bay, WI, at the UWGB Env. Studies Computer Lab, with a nocturnal field trip in Door Co
  • Upcoming on Apr 29, in Kenosha, at Kenosha Pub. Libr., with nocturnal field trip nearby
  • These are funded by two grants: A WI Citizen-based Monitoring Grant, and a Coastal Grant

Wisconsin Bird Conservation Initiative Steering Committee – Strategic Planning is underway, for this largest bird conservation umbrella organization – the largest in the Midwest.

Wisconsin Bird Conservation Initiative Issues Committee “Issues Papers” – more are currently in preparation, with edits/updates to the existing Lead Poisoning and Birds paper

Meetings with Governance, Finance, and Science Committees “re-organization”

Kestrel Nestbox Workshop, in partnership with Ozaukee County Planning and Parks, March 22

Data management for the deployment of new AMKE nestboxes w/ our Madison Audubon partnership

Planning for IMBD 

Calvin Brennan started a new 2017 Spring Season of the Waterbird Watch on March 1. Calvin lived at the UW-Milw Field Station house until April 1. This worked well.

Our banding crew is setting up for an early start to the 2017 spring season.

Meeting with OWLT staff to coordinate breeding bird surveys, and a new migration point count project. We hope to eventually coordinate with Ozaukee Co. Planning & Parks on this also.

Ongoing participation in Great Lakes Commission pelagic bird survey data analysis.

Added a part-time data management consultant, Jesse Peterson, to our staff – Jesse is helping us coordinate and organize data for the next paper on the 2016 Waterbird Watch results, work on the Clausen dataset, and more potential projects to come.

Jean Clausen lived on the banks of the Wisconsin River west of Madison, and lived into her mid-nineties. She kept daily records of her bird observations, 365 days per year, for multiple decades. We are examining these records to consider possible analyses.

Another potential dataset is that of long-term banding records and sight observations from Tom Erdman, Curator of the Richter Museum of Natural History at UW Green Bay. To work with these data would require funding. Seeking funding is under consideration.

Addition of Jill Kunsmann to Board of Directors – welcome Jill!

Social media: WGLBBO Facebook page has weekly additions: https://www.facebook.com/wglbbo

Aerial Insectivore Facebook Discussion Group is increasingly active, with 52 current members from across the Midwest Region; recent posts on swallow decline, Golondrinas Network, Purple Martin research

I participated as reviewer for a PLOS-One journal article on bird collision research, at the request of editor Dr. C. Lepczyk.

I participated as corresponding reviewer for a bird climate change assessment for GLIFWC, the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission: http://www.glifwc.org/

Ongoing good news re: bird collisions work in southeastern WI, and our involvement:

A group of us attended an excellent event at UW-Madison on bird collisions on Fri. moderated by Dr. Stan Temple. I had this news to share from our southeast WI activities/progress:

  1. Dr. Glen Fredlund, Director of the Conservation and Environmental Science Program (https://uwm.edu/conservation-environmental-science/ ) at UW-Milwaukee, started mapping locations of and identifying window-killed birds on the UW-Milwaukee campus several years ago, in an effort to identify the buildings that were the source of the greatest level of mortality. (Glen is at )
  2. As a result of Dr. Fredlund's work, and in conversation with faculty in the School of Architecture and Urban Planning (SARUP: https://uwm.edu/sarup/ ) at UW-Milw., a response has grown on several levels.
  3. There is now an Institute of Ecological Design within SARUP.
  4. Dr. Filip Tejchman, a faculty member in SARUP, is engaged in research described in this presentation: http://www.wisconsinbirds.org/annualmeeting2016/presentations/6_Fri145_CollisionsSolutions_Tejchman.pdf (Filip is at )
  5. A group of us in s.e. WI are working with Dr. Fredlund and Dr. Tejchman. You already know these folks:
  • Shawn Graff - American Bird Conservancy
  • Dr. Bryan Lenz - Bird City Wisconsin and WGLBBO
  • Carl Schwartz - Chair of the Bird City WI Board of Directors, and Chair of the WGLBBO Board

We hope to have much more exciting news to share in the near future on several other related fronts.

Southeastern Wisconsin Conservation Summit banner