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Weekly News Published - January 3, 2017 by the Central Office

 

30th annual Bald Eagle Watching Days takes flight January 13-14 in Sauk Prairie

Other events set for Fox River valley, Prairie du Chien, Alma and Ferryville

MADISON - Bald eagle watching events take flight in January in several Wisconsin communities and continue into March, allowing people ample opportunities to watch eagles at their wintering sites and enjoy live raptor shows and other activities showcasing the raptor's recovery from near extinction.

 A bald eagle on the ice at Ferryville, which hosts its Eagle Watching Day March 4, 2017.
A bald eagle on the ice at Ferryville, which hosts its Eagle Watching Day March 4, 2017.
Photo Credit: Patty Sampson

Bald eagles from northern Wisconsin, Canada, northern Michigan and Minnesota move south as the lakes and rivers they live along freeze over during cold winters. Seeking fish, a main food source, the raptors typically congregate along open water areas below dams along the Wisconsin, Mississippi and Fox rivers, where their growing presence has turned the sites into birdwatching destinations and fostered community events.

"Eagle watching events celebrate the successful return of bald eagles to Wisconsin and provide a great variety of activities and settings to see and learn more about this majestic bird," says Sumner Matteson, a Department of Natural Resources avian ecologist who has been involved in the Bald Eagle Watching Days since its inception.

The first event on the calendar, Bald Eagle Watching Days, set for January 13 and 14 in the Sauk Prairie area in Sauk County, is also the longest-running event in Wisconsin. Bald Eagle Watching Days marks its 30th anniversary in 2017 with highlights including eagle viewing at overlooks or on buses with eagle experts on hand to answer questions and live shows with bald eagles and other raptors from the Schlitz Audubon Nature Center in Milwaukee. The planned release of an eagle rehabilitated at the Raptor Education Group, Inc., on January 14 is another highlight.

The planned release of a rehabilitated eagle is one of the highlights of Bald Eagle Watching Days Jan. 13-14 in the Sauk Prairie area.
The planned release of a rehabilitated eagle is one of the highlights of Bald Eagle Watching Days Jan. 13-14 in the Sauk Prairie area.
Photo Credit: Kurt Eakle

Brief descriptions follow of the known eagle watching events in 2017 in Wisconsin. Links to the event websites are found below and on DNR's Bald eagle watching in Wisconsin web page. Go to dnr.wi.gov and search "eagle watching."

DNR conservation and wildlife biologists will be helping answer questions and presenting talks at the events. As well, DNR's Natural Heritage Conservation Program (NHC) will have a booth where people can learn more about Wisconsin's eagle population and the bald eagle license plate that is a fundraiser for NHC work with endangered plants and animals and state natural areas.

Live birds of prey shows are part of Bald Eagle Watching Days Jan. 14 in the Sauk Prairie and at other events this winter.
Live birds of prey shows are part of Bald Eagle Watching Days Jan. 14 in the Sauk Prairie and at other events this winter.
Photo Credit: Kurt Eakle

Eagle Days along the Fox River

Eagle Days Along the Fox River brings a series of events to the Fox River Valley in January. The river is a wintering site for hundreds of bald eagles following habitat improvements and the removal of contaminants within the river, says Cheryl Root, eagle monitoring coordinator for the Northeast Wisconsin Alliance, a community based non-profit organization serving the people and wildlife of Northeast Wisconsin.

"The bald eagle is a symbol of the improved health of the river system and its communities," she says. "Important elements affected by this revival include health of its citizens, tourism, job creation and appreciation of our history. These are reasons to celebrate Eagle Days along the Fox."

Events range from a Mid-Winter Eagle Monitoring at sunrise at various locations and presentation at Atlas Waterfront Café on Jan. 14; various raptor education programs and speakers at the Paper Discovery Center in Appleton and the Neenah Public Library and indoor viewing at Lawrence University on Jan. 21-22; and various live eagle and raptor presentations at 1000 Islands Environmental Center in Kaukauna on Jan. 28.

Alma Eagles on Ice

Wings Over Alma, a non-profit nature and art center, offers a 50-foot viewing deck just below Lock & Dam #4 with free scopes and binoculars for an up close viewing opportunity on January 21. The Eagles on Ice event includes a chili feed and is sponsored by Wings Over Alma Nature & Art Center.

Prairie du Chien Bald Eagle Appreciation Days

Prairie du Chien's Bald Eagle Appreciation Days are set for February 24-25, 2017, at Hoffman Hall, 1600 S. Wacouta Ave., in Prairie Du Chien. The event features live bald eagle and raptor programs, educational programs by birding experts, exhibits, outdoor viewing of Bald Eagles through spotting scopes, a life-sized bald eagle nest, activities for children. Free Friday evening educational programs at local hotels. Saturday programs run 9 a.m.- 3 p.m. and are held at Hoffman Hall, Prairie du Chien. All programs Friday and Saturday are free and open to the public. This is a fun educational event for the whole family. The event is co-sponsored by Effigy Mounds National Monument and the Prairie du Chien Tourism Council.

Ferryville Eagle Watching Day

Ferryville Eagle Watching Day is set for March 4 at the Ferryville Community Center, 170 Pine Street Highway 35 and will feature eagle nest building at 10 a.m., an activity in which kids can help build a nest and learn more about eagles and preserving habitat; live eagle and raptor programs by the University of Minnesota Raptor Center at 10:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. There also will be kids activities, presentations on the waterfowl of the Upper Mississippi Wildlife Refuge, a hooting contest, and displays of middle schoolers' eagle art and habitat projects. The event is sponsored by the Ferryville Tourism Council and the Friends of Pool 9.

Tips for viewing wherever and whenever you go

With 2016 nest surveys showing the bald eagle population has soared to a new high - 1,504 occupied nests translating into more than 3,000 adult birds plus their offspring - there should be plenty of opportunity to see the birds at the events and on your own, Matteson says.

"Continued cold weather will mean more birds coming down to open water along the Wisconsin, Mississippi and Fox rivers where the events are centered," he says. "Warmer weather may mean the birds are more scattered across the countryside, but some are almost always found at open water areas because those area provide an easy source of food."

The greatest number of eagles can usually be seen at open-water areas in the mornings as they fly back and forth, searching for their first meal of the day. Late afternoon can be good as well as they are moving back to their roosting areas.

Matteson cautions eagle watchers, whether participating in organized events or on their own, to take care not to disturb eagles. Winter is a stressful time of the year for the birds and they need to conserve energy to make it through the long winter. Please stay in your car their car unless they are at a staffed viewing site.

Marge Gibson of the Raptor Education Group, Inc., (REGI) gets ready to release a rehabilitated eagle at the 2016 eagle days event in the Sauk Prairie area.
Marge Gibson of the Raptor Education Group, Inc., (REGI) gets ready to release a rehabilitated eagle at the 2016 eagle days event in the Sauk Prairie area.
Photo Credit: Kurt Eakle

Bald eagles have recovered from near extinction in the 1970s in Wisconsin, when there were only 108 breeding pairs, and elsewhere in the nation as a result of the banning of the pesticide DDT nationally in 1972 (and in Wisconsin in 1969), prohibition of killing of eagles, improved water quality in lakes and rivers, and nest protection and reintroduction of eagles in some areas. Bald eagles were removed from Wisconsin's endangered species list in 1997 and the federal list a decade later. The number of eagle pairs in Wisconsin has grown from 108 pairs in the 1970s to ten times that number today.

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UW-Stevens Point selected as location for 2017 Federal Duck Stamp Art Competition

Taylor Finger, DNR assistant migratory game bird ecologist, 608-261-6458

MADISON - The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has selected the University of Wisconsin - Stevens Point to host the 2017 Federal Duck Stamp Art Competition.

This competition, which attracts many of the top wildlife artists from across the country each year, will be held Sept. 15-16, 2017 on the University of Wisconsin - Stevens Point campus in partnership with the Department of Natural Resources and other key stakeholders.

2016 Federal Duck Stamp by James Hautman
2016 Federal Duck Stamp contest
winning entry by James Hautman
Photo Credit: USFWS

Final judging for the stamp contest will take place over this two-day period and will be open to the public. The winning artwork will be featured as the 2018 Federal Duck Stamp, available for purchase July 1, 2018 through June 30, 2019. In addition to the stamp contest, other events include a decoy carving contest and exhibition, hosted by Wisconsin Waterfowl Association, and a Learn to Hunt program.

Wisconsin is one of the top five states in the country in number of duck hunters, with roughly 80,000 waterfowl hunters per year, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recognized that Wisconsin represents considerable contributions to the federal duck stamp program.

The Federal Duck Stamp, formally known as the Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp, is required for waterfowl hunters ages 16 or older. This stamp is the longest running, single themed U.S. postal stamp. The stamp represents a badge of honor each year for waterfowl hunters and is often purchased as a collector item.

Funding from duck stamp sales has contributed to the purchase of thousands of acres of federal public land in Wisconsin within nine national wildlife refuges, and numerous Waterfowl Production Areas within the Leopold and St. Croix Wetland Management Districts. A recent federal duck stamp price increase ($15 to $25) has bolstered land purchases across the country, with a new focus to purchase conservation easements to conserve waterfowl production habitat.

Visit the federal duck stamp program [EXIT DNR] website for additional information.

For more information regarding waterfowl hunting in Wisconsin, visit dnr.wi.gov and search keyword "waterfowl."

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New Year, new chance to win! Free lottery helps landowners learn about their property

MADISON - Would you like to know more about the plants and animals that call your property home?

Wisconsin landowners can again enter a lottery to win a free customized report from Department of Natural Resources Natural Heritage Conservation program to discover what unique plants and animals may live on their land. The report is based on a DNR review of state records and winners also have the option of receiving a site visit from a DNR ecologist.

"More than 1,000 landowners from nearly every county entered last year, so we are happy to make this program available again to meet the growing demand," says Drew Feldkirchner, who directs the DNR Natural Heritage Conservation program.

"The overwhelming interest in this lottery really speaks to the passion Wisconsin residents have for conserving native species on their property. We hope to continue the rich history of private land conservation in Wisconsin by again providing customized reports that help landowners know what may be on their land and how to maintain or improve natural habitat."

The lottery runs from Jan. 3, 2017, until Jan. 31, 2017; 100 landowners who voluntarily enter their name will be randomly selected to receive the customized report, known as a Landowner Conservation Report. To learn more about Landowner Conservation Reports and enter the lottery, visit the DNR website, dnr.wi.gov, and search the keyword "lottery."

Entrants who did not win previously get preference points this year

Again this year, landowners who entered previous lotteries but did not win will get preference points to improve their chance of winning in 2017. Previous applicants will receive one point for each year they have entered a landowner lottery but were not selected. Each point will earn an additional entry into the 2017 lottery. Previous winners can register again for different properties but will not receive preference points.

Wenthe says the site visit and the recommendations provided are completely voluntary. Information collected during the review process will not affect what landowners can subsequently do with their property. "We are trying to provide landowners with the best information possible and let them make the decisions that are right for their property. We hope they will think of Wisconsin's rare and native species when managing their land."

To create the reports, Wenthe reviews various DNR and federal databases containing information about the rare plants and animals documented through field surveys of public lands or lands owned by nongovernmental organizations. Normally, Wisconsin law requires DNR to charge for such searches, but a private donation to the Natural Heritage Conservation program is covering the cost of the searches for the 100 Landowner Conservation Reports.

"These reports provide landowners with information about the rare species found in their area, which is the foundation for successful management" says Wenthe. The report also contains general information about the natural communities, soils, and geology in the area; as well as specific recommendations on improving habitat and controlling invasive species, information on where landowners can get technical and financial help for habitat work, and a list of private contractors who can help landowners develop and implement detailed conservation plans.

Wenthe says it's been gratifying to have landowners use the report information and enroll in other DNR or governmental programs that can provide technical and financial help to further habitat work. "We are excited to continue to support these landowners as they conserve their land for future generations."

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Read more: Previous Weekly News

Last Revised: Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Contact information

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James Dick
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608-267-2773