The human factor.
It can be very much out of place in nature.
But not when it comes to birding. That might explain its growing popularity. People can participate in nature and, in some cases, people are needed to participate in efforts to better understand — and ultimately help — our feathered friends.
These days, that’s the case all across the Northland, where natural resources agencies are asking for help monitoring birds and their movement this unusually balm spring.
Because of such weather in Wisconsin, the state is getting earlier-than-usual sightings daily for it’s hugely popular/educational Wisconsin Breeding Bird Atlas II.
“Sandhill cranes and northern cardinals are pairing up, crows and ravens are building nests, and great horned owls and red-tailed hawks are already incubating eggs,” Nick Anich, lead coordinator of the atlas survey and conservation biologist with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, said in a recent release.
In 2015, more than 700 registered volunteers documented more than 1.8 million birds and 229 species in the first year of the five-year survey to document breeding bird distribution and abundance. This year, organizers hope to grow their volunteer base to more than 1,000 participants and increase participation in areas of the state where little to no data was submitted in 2015 and relatively few birders reside.
An atlas season kickoff is scheduled April 1-3 at the Stoney Creek Hotel & Conference Center in Rothschild, Wis. According to the DNR, highlights of the weekend will include field trips, specialized training, tips from the experts, eBird workshops and more. Advance registration is closed, but walk-in registration still is available the day of the event for $35. For a complete list of events and speakers, visit wsobirds.org/season-2-atlas-kickoff. To learn more about how you can support or participate in the survey, visit wsobirds.org/atlas.
As the aforementioned might indicate, the atlas probably targets more serious birders — the material for the atlas comes from this set group. It’s an excellent outlet for those who want to be a part of something more structured and significant.
But for those who just like to watch birds and wildlife and don’t necessarily have the time or desire to be part of anything bigger, the opportunities remain endless. And they can be equally as important, too.
In North Dakota, migrating whooping cranes will be making their way through the state over the next several weeks, and natural resources agencies are asking people to report sightings so the birds can be tracked.
Whooping cranes are quite a sight, and not just because they are becoming more and more rare to see. They stand about five feet tall and have a wingspan of about seven feet. They are bright white with black wing tips, visible only when their wings are spread. In flight, they extend their long necks straight forward, while their long, slender legs extend out behind their tails.
Whooping cranes typically migrate singly, or in groups of two to three, and may be associated with sandhill cranes, according to the North Dakota Game and Fish Department. Other white birds (snow geese, swans and egrets) can be mistaken for whooping cranes, particularly pelicans because their wingspan is similar and they tuck their pouch in flight, leaving a silhouette similar to a whooper when viewed from below, the NDGFD added.
Being careful not to disturb the birds, anyone seeing whoopers is asked to record the date, time, location and bird activity. Observers also should look closely for and report colored bands, which may be present on one or both legs — whooping cranes have been marked with colored leg bands to help determine their identity.
Sightings should be reported to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service office at the Lostwood National Wildlife Refuge near Kenmare, N.D. (701-848-2466) or the Long Lake National Wildlife Refuge near Moffit, N.D. (701-387-4397), the NDGFD in Bismarck (701-328-6300) or to local game wardens across the state. Reports help biologists locate important whooping crane habitat areas, monitor marked birds, determine survival and population numbers and identify times and migration routes.