Western Great Lakes Bird and Bat Observatory

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

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.

Observatory Director-Emeritus Earns Lakeshore's Lifetime Achievement Award


Each year, the Lakeshore Natural Resource Partnership holds “Lake Michigan Day” to recognize people, programs, community groups and businesses that go the extra step to protect and restore Wisconsin's Lake Michigan basin and its residents’ quality of life. Each year stakeholders meet to hear presentations on important issues and to honor “Champions of Conservation” for outstanding achievements related to restoring, protecting or promoting the lake.
This year’s Lake Michigan Day, held virtually, marked just the second time in LNRP’s 17 year history that a Lifetime Achievement Award was presented.  And its recipient was Bill Mueller, now director emeritus of the Western Great Lakes Bird and Bat ObservatoryRead More Bill joined the Observatory staff in 2010 and succeeded its founder, the late Dr. Noel Cutright, former president of the Wisconsin Society for Ornithology and one of the state's leading bird conservationists, who died in 2013. Bill retired in 2019.
Under Bill’s leadership, the Observatory sponsored major research projects on Lake Michigan, spring and fall Waterbird Watches at Harrington Beach State Park, a fall hawk watch, annual conservation summits, annual celebrations of World Migratory Bird Day, as well as butterfly workshops at its home at Forest Beach Migratory Preserve north of Port Washington. 
During his tenure, the Observatory grew into a highly respected independent non-profit research, education and conservation advocacy organization.
Due to the virtual nature of this year’s Lake Michigan Day, awards were presented in advance and recorded to be replayed during the Aug. 14 program.  Bill’s friends and family decided to surprise him with the award.  Shawn Graff, Observatory board member and Great Lakes regional vice president for the American Bird Conservancy, worked with Bill’s wife, Leah Klapperich, and daughter Hannah to catch Bill off-guard. 
Hannah, who is in London advancing her theatrical career, made up a story about needing to visit her parents via Zoom to show them a new presentation she was working on.  Shawn arranged to ship the award to Leah in a way that would not arouse suspicion.  Leah and Shawn then began the process of inviting dozens of Bill’s family and friends to the virtual event.  
While all guests were placed in a waiting room, Bill, Leah, Hannah and Hannah’s husband began the meeting.  Hannah explained to her father that a video would be starting soon.  Instead, Shawn interrupted the family meeting, causing Bill to think there was a scheduling problem with Zoom.  At that point Leah and Shawn let Bill in on the surprise and invited the 60+ guests into the call.  
Bill was conservation chair for the Wisconsin Society for Ornithology from 2002 to 2012. He 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 led statewide training efforts that helped recruit more than 1,900 volunteers for five years of field work.
Bill also has been the driving force behind the creation of a network of Motus migration monitoring towers in Wisconsin. Under his leadership and with his collaboration, Motus towers were erected at Forest Beach, Camp Whitcomb Mason, Woodland Dunes Nature Center and Eagle Valley Nature Preserve. In 2020, additional towers were erected at the Milwaukee County Zoo and Madison Audubon’s Goose Pond Sanctuary.
In 2013, he walked 246 miles across the state of Wisconsin to increase awareness about bird conservation and to raise funds for the Bird Protection Fund of the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin. He received a Migratory Bird Treaty Centennial Stopover Award in October 2016.
Bill has led by example, generously sharing his knowledge, passion and determination for bird conservation with anyone who had the good fortune to know him. Ryan Brady, conservation biologist for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, sums this up well: 
“You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone more hard working and passionate about bird conservation than Bill Mueller. His energy transcended his age, his knowledge was cutting edge, and his experience unmatched. Simply put, Bill got things done. And he did them not for himself but for the birds, the health of our environment, and to ensure that future generations might experience the simple yet necessary joys of nature.”

Join the Neighborhood Habitat Improvement Project!

NHIP Vanishing Birds resized

Sign up at  and simply write “JOIN NHIP.” We’ll put you on the contact list, and

you can become part of the community conservation movement that will  

plant more native plants,  

improve habitat,

support birds and pollinators,

and grow engagement in citizen science.

By signing up, you will receive advanced notification of online programs, events, important resources, volunteer opportunities and locations for our native plant sales. 

Learn more HERE. 

United by Birds

Western Great Lakes Bird and Bat Observatory now has shirts! The shirts were designed by our Science Director to represent that we are united by birds, even in this socially-distanced world.  The design features the Great Lakes formed of silhouettes of our Great Lakes bird species, representing every family commonly seen in the region. If you look closely you may be able to see some of your favorite species, like a sandhill crane, a suite of warblers, a red-winged blackbird or a common loon.

Buying a shirt is a way you can support the Observatory, while showing your love for our Great Lakes and the birds that unite us. Most years we celebrate this capacity for birds to unite us at our annual World Migratory Bird Day. To meet health guidelines, we cancelled all of our spring events. This includes our combined World Migratory Bird Day celebration and native plant sale, which was expected to be our major spring fundraising event. Even though we can't be together in person, we still want to bring the message that we are united by birds to all of you.  

We like to think of our friends and supporters as “investors” in conservation science, and we are enormously grateful for the support our investors have shown for the Observatory's work.  Become an investor today by purchasing a shirt; all of the proceeds go to the Observatory’s work to conserve birds. With last year’s major study documenting the loss of 3 billion birds across North America in just the last 50 years, and the dwindling populations of once common Wisconsin birds, the work here that you have helped make possible is more critical than ever.   

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