Western Great Lakes Bird and Bat Observatory

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

Join the NHIP Volunteers!

SandySandlin Plant Sale

Are you looking for a way to help birds and pollinators? To beautify your community? To protect Lake Michigan? To learn more about the natural world? To help local scientists understand how to conserve wildlife? The Western Great Lakes Bird and Bat Observatory has multiple opportunities for volunteers to join our new Neighborhood Habitat Improvement Project. The Project aims to improve Port Washington habitats for birds and pollinators through planting native plants and studying how birds and other animals respond.

Training and programming subject to Covid-19 related restrictions. If you are interested but concerned about Covid-19, please sign up, and we can work with you.

If you are interested in any of these opportunities, please sign up HERE or email us at .  

Port Washington Resident Citizen Scientists

Description: If you are a Port Washington-resident interested in learning more about native plants and how they can help water quality, wildlife and lower long-term costs of yard maintenance, we would love to talk to you more. We are looking for Port residents to consider planting native plants in their yards and to host nest boxes for birds. You can plant as few or as many plants as you would like, and we provide you with the information needed for them to thrive.

Commitment: As much or as little as you would like. We ask all participants to fill out a survey to help us understand how residents like you think about native plants, but after that you can choose how much you would like to participate. Options include monitoring nests on your own property, planting native plant beds or even a single plant. It’s up to you!

Port Washington Native Plant Ambassador

Description: Do you have a native garden that you want to share? A passion for native plants or birds? We are looking for Port Washington residents to share their passion with friends and neighbors and encourage more participation in NHIP at whatever level people are comfortable (planting native plants, taking surveys, hosting nest boxes, volunteering, etc.). While you can tailor your outreach to your neighborhood, this can look like sending postcards to neighbors, inviting neighbors to see your garden, having small events at local parks, or a variety of virtual events. We will provide you with some ideas to start with, educational materials, and training.

Commitment: Three 1-hour training sessions, plus a minimum of 10 hours of engagement with residents. Placement of a yard sign about NHIP in your yard.

Garden Consultant Volunteer

Description: The Observatory is looking for knowledgeable gardeners to talk to Port Washington residents about native plants and brainstorm solutions to garden problems. You do not need to be a native plant expert, but you do need to have experience with gardening in general and an interest in learning about native plants and how they can be used effectively in a residential setting. We will provide training and information.

Commitment: Three 1-hour training sessions, plus a minimum of 10 hours of consultations with residents per year during the spring and summer.

Model Native Garden Volunteer

Description:  The Observatory and the City of Port Washington are installing model native gardens in parks of Port Washington. We will need help maintaining those gardens, including watering newly established plants, mulching, weeding and reporting larger maintenance issues to city officials. All training will be provided.

Commitment: Minimum one session every two weeks. Ideally one session per week. Duration of the session depends on site conditions.

Planting Day Volunteer

Description: The Observatory and the City of Port Washington are installing model native gardens in parks of Port Washington. We will need help planting plants in those gardens. Join us for a short (2-4 hour) shift of planting. Staff will be present to direct planting and answer questions.

Commitment: 1 session of up to 4 hours.

Bird House Monitor Volunteer

Description:  During the breeding season (April-July), we need help monitoring nest boxes. This involves checking boxes for evidence of nesting, number of eggs laid, number of chicks hatched and number of chicks that fledge (leave the nest). All training will be provided. If you are a resident of Port Washington, this can be done in your yard, otherwise, monitoring will be conducted in Port Washington Parks.

Commitment: One day per week for the nesting season (April-July). Two 1-hour training sessions will be provided.

Migration Monitor Volunteer

Description:  The Observatory is looking for birdwatchers to help with migration monitoring in Port Washington. Volunteers will follow an established route and record what birds they see. We will provide some training, but volunteers should have experience identifying birds.

Commitment: One day per week during migration seasons (Mar-May, Sep-Nov).

Invasive Species Removal Day Volunteer

Description:  Invasive barberry, honeysuckle, buckthorn, garlic mustard and more are choking out native plants in city parks. We need your help to give native plants a fighting chance! Join us for a session of removing these invasives in the parks of Port. We will provide all training.

Commitment: 1 session of up to 4 hours (flexible).

Trash Pick Up Day Volunteer

Description:  Trash pollutes our streams and is ingested by birds, fish and other wildlife. Join us to help keep Lake Michigan beautiful by picking up trash in stream corridors and along the lakeshore. We will provide gloves and trash/recycle bags for collection.

Commitment: 1 session of up to 4 hours (flexible).

Woodworking Volunteer

Description: The Neighborhood Habitat Improvement Project uses nest boxes to learn more about bird nesting success. We need help cutting wood and assembling nest boxes. We can provide all materials and instructions at a central location in Port Washington, and you would need to have tools (saws, screw drivers, hammers, etc.). Next box assembly is a great activity for scout and student groups too!

Commitment: As little or as much as you would like until materials run out.



Free webinar series continues through summer months of 2021

The Observatory’s free webinars for the Neighborhood Habitat Improvement Project will continue through the summer months of 2021. We hope that these sessions, presented by knowledgeable speakers about environmental topics, will inspire and motivate you to make bird and pollinator-friendly changes in your home and yard, while providing some “how-to’s.” We’re planning to bring you new topics each month (so stay tuned to our website).  Link arms with us and become an important contributor to our community’s best conservation practices starting in your very own yard.

To join our expanding webinar series, please register HERE.

To view previous webinars, please click HERE

Seven Simple Actions to Help Birds
Presenter: Chuck Hagner
May 19, 2021:

In 2019, researchers from seven institutions documented the staggering loss of nearly 3 billion North American breeding birds since 1970. That’s more than one in four of the continent’s birds gone in less than a single lifetime. Habitat loss and degradation are the biggest overall causes of the declines, scientists say. But other human-caused threats also play a role -- predation by free-roaming cats, poisonings, electrocution at powerlines, and collisions with windows, vehicles, communication towers, and wind turbines.

The scope of the losses is sobering, but history has shown how resilient birds are, and science has proved that conservation works. What’s more, the nature of the threats represents a silver lining: Many can be reduced by actions taken by individual homeowners. In this presentation, Chuck Hagner will explain how this fact presents each of us with a great opportunity: By taking seven simple actions, we can dramatically improve the state of our birds.

Hagner is the author of the American Birding Association Field Guide to Birds of Wisconsin and the director of Bird City Wisconsin. From 2001 to 2017, he was the editor-in-chief of nationally distributed BirdWatching magazine. He is board chair of the Western Great Lakes Bird and Bat Observatory.

Our Expanding NHIP Partnerships

NHIP PW City Hall

“Many hands make light work,” is a good reminder to small organizations with big ideas. Observatory Science Director Dr. Jennifer Phillips-Vanderberg has one of those big ideas for the community of Port Washington. With the help of some incredibly generous and dedicated partners, the Observatory’s multi-year Neighborhood Habitat Improvement Project hopes to inspire more local citizens to become proud and active contributors of a conservation-minded community where their actions will result in better water quality, beautiful and healthy yards, and improved habitat for struggling populations of birds, butterflies and pollinators.

We extend our heartfelt thanks for the encouragement and support of the following foundations and organizations that, like the Observatory, believe we can make a better life for all by being faithful stewards of our environment.

These include the We Energies Foundation, Natural Resources Foundation, Brico Foundation, James Dutton Foundation, Dorothy Inbusch Family Foundation, Arthur J. Donald Family Foundation, American Transmission Company, Ozaukee County Planning and Parks, Port Washington Parks and Forestry, the Kettle Moraine YMCA, University of Wisconsin Milwaukee – Conservation and Environmental Science Department, Wild Ones - Menomonee River Area, Port Washington Garden Club, Native Roots Design, ARTservancy, the Wisconsin Monarch Collaborative, Bird City Wisconsin, A Wealth of Nature, Friends of Cedarburg Bog, the Wisconsin Society for Ornithology, the W.J. Niederkorn Library and a growing number of individual volunteers.

Please contact us at if you or your organization would like to become a contributing partner to the Neighborhood Habitat Improvement Project.

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Observatory Praises Retiring Directors

Directors Terrence Knudsen and Glen Fredlund End Long, Productive Tenures

The Board of Directors of the Western Great Lakes Bird and Bat Observatory in Port Washington, WI, has unanimously passed resolutions expressing appreciation for the lengthy volunteer service of directors Terrence K. Knudsen and Dr. Glen Fredlund, who are retiring.

In addition to serving on the Board, both Knudsen and Fredlund were original members of the Steering Committee that preceded it. Formed in 2013, the Steering Committee guided the Observatory as it became an independent non-profit research, education, and advocacy organization, drafted the charters of its subcommittees, and crafted its foundational documents— the mission statement, vision statement, and strategic plan.

“We can’t thank Terry and Glen enough for their many contributions to the Board of Directors, to the Observatory, and to the conservation of birds generally,” said Board Chair Charles Hagner. “That the Observatory is effective today is largely thanks to them.” 

Fredlund taught for twenty-nine years at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee before retiring in August 2019. He was an Associate Professor in the Department of Geography and the Director of the university’s Conservation and Environmental Science Program.

In addition to identifying excellent student interns to work on the Observatory’s waterbird, American Kestrel, and other projects, Fredlund organized volunteers to track and report bird-window collisions on the UWM campus and then worked with students to design a patterned window film that was fabricated and installed on the School of Architecture and Urban Planning in November 2016, thus mitigating one of the most lethal threats to birds on campus. Perhaps Fredlund’s greatest contribution to bird conservation was inspiring countless students and advising many master’s and PhD students who went on to positions of leadership in academia, government, and the non-profit sector. One of them was Director Emeritus William Mueller, who received his master’s degree in May 2002 and served as Director of the Observatory from 2013 to 2019.

Knudsen, a retired partner with the law firm of Godfrey & Kahn, SC, was instrumental to the development of the young Observatory. Not only did he craft the plan that the Observatory followed to achieve independence and tax-exempt status by January 1, 2018, but he also drafted many of its most important documents, including its Articles of Incorporation and Bylaws, and he spearheaded its successful applications for federal and state recognition as a tax-exempt organization. He helped shape the Observatory’s Advocacy Policy, Board Member Expectation Document, Statement of Nondiscrimination, and Conflict of Interest Policy, and he drafted two memorandums of understanding between the Observatory and the Ozaukee Washington Land Trust describing shared responsibility for the operation and maintenance of Forest Beach Migratory Preserve and its structures. Moreover, as a longtime thought leader on the Observatory’s Governance and Development subcommittees, as well as the Board of Directors, Knudsen performed additional valuable services, including advising on employment letters, leases, liability waivers, and other documents, serving on the search committee formed to fill the position of Development Specialist, and helping jump-start the Observatory’s autumn Hawk Watch. Knudsen was also integral to the success of countless Observatory events, helping with set-up and take down, staffing food and registration tables, and serving as parking attendant even when the weather was inclement.