Western Great Lakes Bird & Bat Observatory

Headquarters at Forest Beach Migratory Preserve

Director Updates

Western Great Lakes Bird & Bat Observatory Update

Mid-December, 2014

William Mueller, Director, WGLBBO

P1010953 smWaterbird Watch: Calvin Brennan has done an excellent job on the Observatory’s Waterbird Watch at Harrington Beach State Park, with >159,000 individuals of ~174 species tallied between Sept. 1st and November 21st. Highlights included massive flights of Red-breasted Mergansers and Double-crested Cormorants, a total of 37 species of waterfowl; plus 1,261 Common Loons; 1,155 Horned Grebes; 10 Parasitic Jaegers; 11 species of larids; and more than 125 species of landbirds.  Thanks to Calvin for his excellent work. He is currently back home in Michigan, but we expect him to return for another season, starting in early March 2015.

Offshore Waterfowl/Waterbird Surveys (USFWS and GLRI/Great Lakes Commission funding) – UPDATE: For the 9th season (spring 2014), WGLBBO  received funding to conduct offshore Lake Michigan waterfowl/waterbird surveys via aircraft. These surveys are focused on assessing distribution and abundance of waterfowl/waterbirds in the deeper offshore waters, up to ten miles offshore. All data are entered and incorporated in a GIS, with the goal of assisting effective long-term planning for the deployment of offshore wind power installations in Lake Michigan.  Survey data may also be put to use in assessing waterfowl numbers for management and harvest. Dr. Cutright presented early results at the Waterbird Society Annual Meeting in Annapolis, Maryland in fall 2011. I presented results at a Western Great Lakes Waterbird working group meeting in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan in November of 2012, and presented a poster with our results and data at the Waterbird Society Annual Meeting in Wilhelmshaven, Germany in September 2013. The Great Lakes Commission (GLC) held a Stakeholders Workshop in Ann Arbor MI on May 29-30, 2014. I was a presenter and panelist. Data is being organized for Phase 2 of these surveys (fall 2013, spring 2014) for delivery to Point Blue Conservation Science, who will analyze the data for the Great Lakes Commission, and the final report is being prepared. A new proposal is being prepared for additional surveys. This fall, our offshore waterfowl/waterbird aerial survey fieldwork is in hiatus as we prepare mapping (with Dr. Jill Hapner). The GLC Phase 2 portion will be complete as of Jan 31, 2015.

Midwest Migration Monitoring Network Coordinator (USFWS funding) – UPDATE: The Western Great Lakes Bird and Bat Observatory (WGLBBO) are working with Dr. Amber Roth, PhD, of Michigan Technological University as the new Midwest Landbird Migration Monitoring Network Coordinator, effective January 1, 2014. Dr. Roth has a one-year position with WGLBBO, funded via a grant we were awarded by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, to continue development of the Midwest Landbird Migration Monitoring Network, bringing to fruition a vision under development for the past three years. Dr. Roth’s primary charge will be development of a Strategic Action Plan for the Landbird Migration Monitoring Network. The proposed Plan will cover the eight-state Upper Midwest and Great Lakes Region of Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, and Wisconsin. The 16-member Midwest Migration Monitoring Network, a working group within the Midwest Coordinated Bird Monitoring Partnership, was established to increase bird survival throughout the annual cycle by contributing to the understanding of migratory connectivity through a well-coordinated network of observers. UPDATE: Dr. Roth’s primary charge will be development of a Strategic Action Plan (“The Plan”) for the Landbird Migration Monitoring Network. The proposed Plan will cover the eight-state Upper Midwest and Great Lakes Region of Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, and Wisconsin. The 16-member Midwest Migration Monitoring Network, a working group within the Midwest Coordinated Bird Monitoring Partnership, was established to increase bird survival throughout the annual cycle by contributing to the understanding of migratory connectivity through a well-coordinated network of observers. The Plan is in process, and will have multiple chapter authors. Dr. Roth has done a stellar job, and we hope to see her continue the process for 2 more years.

2nd WI Breeding Bird Atlas/WBBA2: Atlas planning has been proceeding very well, with exemplary performance by DNR’s Nich Anich, and very good work by the standing committees, and by the Director of Volunteers, Mike Reese. He and I gave the first Atlas 2 Workshop at Hoy Audubon about 5 weeks ago, which was well-attended and netted many good comments, plus the addition of another County Coordinator during our evening there. Carl and I unearthed documentation of Atlas 1 expenses and grants with WSO Historian Nancy Nabak’s and Tom Erdman’s help, plus information to start our “atlas donor database”, which Mike Scholtfeldt is hard at work on fleshing out. Five committees are now at work. Field work begins in late winter/early spring 2015.

Dedication of “Noel’s Knoll”: On Sunday, October 12th, at Forest Beach Migratory Preserve, we dedicated "Noel's Knoll" - a grove of trees planted by the Ozaukee Washington Land Trust. Help us remember Noel and commemorate his life, dedicated to conservation. As he asked us, let’s continue to work together toward more effective biodiversity conservation.

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Highway 49 Bird/Wildlife Mortality – UPDATE: State Highway 49, where it crosses the northern end of Horicon National Wildlife Refuge, is an area that has experienced a high level of wildlife mortality caused by vehicle collisions. Various groups have worked to address this issue over the years, and a newer effort is currently underway, with a list of agency, private and NGO partners. UPDATE: A paper - the result of a student project from UW-Milwaukee's Conservation and Environmental Science program, in a course involving Dr, Neal O'Reilly, Dr. Glen Fredlund, and their students, is now published on our website. It presents an overview of the road mortality issue at this location, along with a variety of possible solutions. The Western Transportation Institute of Montana State University has been given a contract through USFWS to re-engage stakeholders and seek solutions. We met with one of their team on June 23rd, and are awaiting their report. 

WGLBBO American Kestrel Partnership (with The Peregrine Fund) UPDATE: WGLBBO intern Carol M. did an undergraduate research internship, for credit, at UW-Milwaukee, with supervisor Professor Glen Fredlund, Director of UW-M’s Conservation and Environmental Sciences program, in spring of 2014. Part of her work this spring was assisting with this project. We erected several new kestrel nestboxes with the help of a group of volunteers. In addition, we have data submitted by our partners at Madison Audubon, who manage more than 60 boxes in Columbia and Dane counties, with the direction and coordination of Brand Smith. We now collect data from >130 boxes across 8 counties, which data is provided to The Peregrine Fund, and included in their nation-wide Partnership Project. Our goal is to have data from ~200 boxes in 10 counties by mid-2015.

Wisconsin Chimney Swift Working Group (internal) – UPDATE: WGLBBO organized a new Wisconsin Chimney Swift Working Group to focus surveys, conservation, and educational efforts on this declining species, with a group of more than 25 agency, NGO, bird club, and nature center partners from throughout Wisconsin. Swift watches were held in a variety of locations over the past several years around the state, and educational presentations were given to number of groups. Data from swift monitoring has been added to our database. UPDATE: We continue to move forward, with the next Working Group meeting scheduled for July 7th. BIRD CITY Green Bay especially has done a stellar job of monitoring projects, with over 100 chimneys being monitoring multiple times in the city of Green Bay and adjacent communities. Bill Mueller and Nancy Nabak of Bird City Green Bay presented a poster on this effort at the recent  2014 Midwest Bird Conservation and Monitoring Workshop.

Wisconsin Christmas Bird Count Original Data Project (foundation funding) – UPDATE: The Wisconsin Society for Ornithology has been publishing bird results from the annual Christmas Bird Count since it organized in 1939.  There are now >100 CBCs conducted in the state.  While some of these data have been entered into National Audubon Society’s national electronic database, more than half remain as paper copies.  This project will enable entering of all Wisconsin CBC data into this national database so it is available for study and analysis. UPDATE: This project was completed early in 2014, and all data have been submitted to the National Audubon Society.