Western Great Lakes Bird and Bat Observatory

Headquarters at Forest Beach Migratory Preserve

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See the new Wisconsin Breeding Bird Atlas webpage at: http://wsobirds.org/atlas

Observatory Announces New Science Director

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The Western Great Lakes Bird and Bat Observatory has named Dr. Jennifer Phillips-Vanderberg as its new science director.

Phillips-Vanderberg is a Ph.D. biologist with extensive experience conducting ornithological research. For the last two years, she has worked as a life scientist with the Environmental Protection Agency in Chicago, addressing pollution-control issues in the Great Lakes Region, primarily in eastern and southern Wisconsin.

Phillips-Vanderberg is a graduate of Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon. She received her doctorate in animal behavior in 2016 from the University of California-Davis, where she used a combination of museum and field methods to study the evolutionary relationships among climate, life history, and coloration in 101 species of birds.

She arrives at the Observatory, which has its headquarters at Forest Beach Migratory Preserve just north of Port Washington, with a life-long affection for the Great Lakes region and a deep appreciation for the issues facing the region and its birdlife.

She grew up in Michigan in a town on Lake Huron and worked for years as a naturalist at Michigan DNR’s Saginaw Bay Visitor Center, in Bay City, where she taught ornithology, conservation biology, ecology, wildlife management, and other subjects to students, developed an outreach program that used bird banding as a gateway to biology, and surveyed bird populations.

Phillips-Vanderberg succeeds William Mueller, who will retire on Oct. 15, after nearly a decade of service as the Observatory’s director.

Present at every moment of the Observatory’s young life and the author of many of its proudest accomplishments, Mueller has served as director since 2013. He succeeded the Observatory founder, the late Dr. Noel Cutright, one of the state’s leading ornithologists, who died that year.

Both Mueller and Phillips-Vanderberg are among the 28 researchers and conservationists scheduled to deliver presentations at the Observatory’s upcoming Southeastern Wisconsin Conservation Summit on Friday and Saturday, Nov. 1–2.

Phillips-Vanderberg will give an overview of her past research and work. Mueller will discuss the development of Wisconsin’s growing network of automated Motus wildlife-tracking stations and the Observatory’s ongoing study of waterfowl and waterbirds in western Lake Michigan.

The public is invited to the annual two-day conference, which will take place at Forest Beach Migratory Preserve, in Ozaukee County.

Learn more about the Southeastern Wisconsin Conservation Summit.

Register for the Summit.

Fall Raptor Watch

Raptor Watch

If you would like to join our group, simply email us at  and you will be included on the list of folks who receive regular updates as to optimal weather conditions for watching. 

We follow a protocol established by the Hawk Migration Association of America. Volunteers record the migrating species and number of individuals at one-hour increments, using a datasheet and clipboard that are supplied at the raptor platform. The best days for raptor flights in autumn at the Preserve are when skies are clear or cloudy, with westerly, northwesterly, or southwesterly winds, and days right after the passage of a cold front. 

Migration begins in mid-August with American Kestrels. Peak numbers for Sharp-shinned and Broad-winged Hawks occur in mid-to late September. Raptor migration is strong through the month of October on good weather days with the right wind conditions. It continues into early December -- for those hardy observers willing to brave cold temps -- with the last of the Red-tailed and Rough-legged Hawks, occasional Northern Goshawks, and both eagles. Peak migration at the Preserve occurs from mid-September to late October.

Observatory Director William Mueller Announces Retirement Date

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William Mueller, director of the Western Great Lakes Bird and Bat Observatory, is retiring after nearly a decade of service.

Present at every moment of the Observatory's young life and the author of many of its proudest accomplishments, Mueller plans to retire on Oct. 15, 2019.

Mueller has served as Director since 2010. He succeeded the Observatory founder, the late Dr. Noel Cutright, one of the state's leading ornithologists, who died in 2013.

Under Mueller's leadership, the Observatory has sponsored scientific meetings, a hawk watch, annual celebrations of World Migratory Bird Day, and butterfly workshops at its home at the Ozaukee Washington Land Trust's Forest Beach Migratory Preserve, and grown into a respected independent non-profit research, education, and conservation advocacy organization.

Mueller has coordinated the Observatory's Waterbird Watch at Harrington Beach State Park since 2012 and overseen the growth of the Southeastern Wisconsin Conservation Summit, a popular two-day scientific conference held each year in early November.

He has served on the steering committees of both the Midwest Migration Network, founded in 2014, and the second Wisconsin Breeding Bird Atlas, where since 2015 he has led statewide training efforts that helped recruit more than 1,900 volunteers for five years of field work.

Mueller also has been the driving force behind the creation of a network of Motus migration-monitoring towers in Wisconsin. A Motus station is now up and running at Forest Beach Migratory Preserve, and by summer’s end, additional stations will be in place in Manitowoc, Waukesha, and Grant counties and at the Milwaukee Zoo. Two additional stations will be constructed in Columbia and Iowa counties, and many more are in the planning stage.

All of these important and successful projects and others will continue after Mueller's retirement, said Board Chair Charles Hagner. "Just as Bill so ably fulfilled Noel's wishes," Hagner said, "we will find a new science director who will be able to pick up right where Bill lets off."

The Observatory will start searching for a new science director immediately. Details about the position are available on the Observatory website. 

Read a description of the Science Director position.

For more information, please write to the Observatory at .

Meet Our New Development Specialist, Nancy Hintz



It is a pleasure to introduce myself and an honor to share with you some of the reasons why I am so very excited to be a part of the Western Great Lakes Bird and Bat Observatory. I believe that, together, we can – and we must — do more than we ever imagined.

In April of this year, I retired from Ripon College, where I had the good fortune of being involved in many aspects of fundraising, including annual giving, major gifts, planned giving, as well as an endowment and a capital campaign. I am excited to take this experience and combine it with the extraordinary talents of the Observatory's staff and volunteers, who demonstrate their dedication to its critically important work every day.

Like you, I have always been passionate about the environment. Nature has been my life-long friend and is at the center of the reflective and recreational activities that my family and I most enjoy. As an undergraduate, I was immensely fortunate to be a student of Dr. William S. (Bill) Brooks, ornithologist and ecologist. If he were still with us, I know that Bill would jump at the opportunity to be a part of the mission-critical work of the Observatory.

Why the Western Great Lakes Bird and Bat Observatory? Why now?

  • Many of our bird and all of our bat populations are declining: Science matters. The Observatory has over a dozen projects underway that are providing critical scientific research and monitoring of our bird and bat populations in the region and beyond. We have contractual agreements with a variety of partners, including federal agencies. The data we collect and the research we conduct stands alone on its merits and is also regularly and frequently cited in other scientific publications.
  • Extensive cuts to the Wisconsin DNR, as well as cuts in many federal environmental protection efforts, have created an urgent need for us to do more and to do it NOW. The work of the Observatory is helping to fill this gap, and our efforts must accelerate and expand in (and for) the future: Our birds and bats depend on it.
  • Our Director, William (Bill) Mueller, has spearheaded the Observatory’s extensive involvement in one of the most important bird and other wildlife monitoring projects in North America. The Wisconsin subnetwork of Motus stations is in a phase of rapid development. The Forest Beach Migratory Preserve Motus station is up and operational, and by summer’s end five additional stations will be in place in Manitowoc County, Waukesha County, the Milwaukee Zoo, and Grant County. Two additional stations will be constructed in Columbia and Iowa counties. Many more are in the planning stage. Motus stations serve to monitor birds and other wildlife throughout Wisconsin and the Midwest, in coordination with other American and Canadian institutions, agencies, and independent researchers. Click here for details about Bill’s Motus station projects and information about Motus in North America.
  • The Observatory started the Midwest Migration Network. For those of you who are familiar with the Network, I ask you to imagine where our understanding of bird migration would be without this network. For those wanting to learn about MMN, please click here.
  • Collaboration is a core value of the Observatory. The extensive network of partnerships is, perhaps, the Observatory’s most unique and greatest asset. These “symbiotic” relationships help to ensure that the whole of these diverse efforts is greater than the sum of its parts. In short, it takes an ecosystem of like-minded organizations to save our planet. Click here for a list of partner organizations
  • And, so much more. Please visit our website or contact one of our Board members for more information.

Your gifts help meet the urgent and ever-growing need for the monitoring, research, and education that the Observatory provides. Please give as generously as you can.

Thank you for your time and attention – and, in the words of Dr. Samuel D. Robbins, Jr:

Keep them flitting, feeding, and flying,

Nancy Hintz
Development Specialist