ASHLAND, WI - Throughout Wisconsin, bald eagles are sprucing up their nests, red-tailed hawks are pairing up, and great horned owls are already sitting on eggs.
For Wisconsin's earliest breeding species, daily sightings are already being documented for the Wisconsin Breeding Bird Atlas II.
"Mild winter weather and the early return of some migrants, like geese, cranes and blackbirds, have many birders anxious for spring and the start of nesting season," says Ryan Brady, DNR wildlife biologist and science coordinator for the atlas survey. "The atlas is a great way to put that eagerness to work for birds and the places they call home."
Organizers of this comprehensive bird survey, now entering its third year, encourage all birders and wildlife watchers to submit observations and attend free regional training workshops in Barron, Brown, Kenosha and Vernon counties in March and April.
"We always need more people to help," said Nick Anich, Department of Natural Resources conservation biologist and lead coordinator of the atlas survey. "From backyard birders, to kayakers observing wetland species during a paddle, to hunters recording observations from their blinds, there are many ways to gather sightings for the atlas and every bit of information is valuable toward understanding distribution and abundance of Wisconsin's breeding birds, which is a primary goal of the Atlas project."
Participants need to survey more than 1,200 blocks of land across the state to replicate the effort from the first atlas (1995-2000) and ensure complete coverage.
Wildlife enthusiasts from Wisconsin, especially those who live in or travel to remote and sparsely populated regions, could add key data vital to completing the project, said Anich.
Anyone interested in learning more about volunteer opportunities or project details is encouraged to attend one of four regional workshops, where they can hear presentations tailored to either new or returning volunteers, attend a field trip to a local birding hotspot, and meet coordinators and expert birders from their region. Workshops are set for the following dates and locations:
* Southwest (Vernon County) - March 25, 12:30 to 6 p.m., Kickapoo Valley Reserve, S3661 WI-131, La Farge.
* Northwest (Barron County) - April 1, 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Rice Lake Public Library, 2 E Marshall St., Rice Lake.
* Northeast (Brown County) - April 8, noon to 5:30 p.m., UW-Green Bay, 2420 Nicolet Dr, Green Bay.
* Southeast (Kenosha County) - April 29, 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Kenosha Public Library Northside, 1500 27th Ave, Kenosha.
Workshops are free of charge, but pre-registration is required. For details and registration, visit wsobirds.org/atlas-2017-regional-kickoff-workshops.
The Wisconsin Breeding Bird Atlas II is led by the Wisconsin Society for Ornithology, the Western Great Lakes Bird and Bat Observatory, the Wisconsin Bird Conservation Initiative and the DNR.
Since the project started in 2015, more than 1,100 participants have submitted observations through eBird on more than 3 million birds and so far documented 11 bird species not recorded nesting in Wisconsin during the first atlas (1995-2000). After the survey is completed in 2019, the data will be published in a hard-copy book and online, and the data set will be available for use by researchers, land managers, and others working to conserve birds and their habitats.
For more information, contact Anich at 715-685-2930, or Brady at 715-685-2933.
SOURCE: Wisconsin DNR