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ARCHIVED Weekly News Published August 28, 2012

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Fall migration takes wing as experts keep an eye out for drought impacts

Great birding opportunities abound

MADISON - The avian parade continues with hummingbirds, warblers and vireos the next species to begin their migration south, providing Wisconsin birders some great viewing opportunities and experts more insight into how the early spring and drought has affected Wisconsin's winged travelers.

Hummingbirds are among the next wave of winged migrants to head south.
Ryan Brady Photo

"The next three weeks will be the peak of fall migration for land birds that migrate to central and south America," says Andy Paulios, a Department of Natural Resources biologist. "We're past peak for orioles, but birders should expect to see good numbers of hummingbirds, warblers, vireos, thrushes and other migrants in their local migration hotspots or even in their backyard if they have good natural cover."

Paulios says that birders should also watch the skies over the next few days as they could expect to see migrating common nighthawks and chimney swifts in the evening.

What exactly will turn up and when on the landscape and at birdfeeders, however, is uncharted territory given the warm, early spring, record heat and the drought experienced in much of the state, says Kim Grveles, an avian biologist with DNR's Endangered Resources Bureau.

"It's hard to know exactly what we'll see with migrations this fall," Grveles says. "Warm weather definitely brought the short-distance (overwinter in southern U.S.) migrants up north earlier than usual and some long-distance migrants as well. But they do not seem to be leaving for wintering grounds sooner."

Paulios suspects that migration through drought-stricken areas of Wisconsin will be more stressful this year. "My guess is that there will be less food for insect eaters in dry years as many insects have moisture-dependent abundances...but birds are very adaptable and may be able to move or adjust along their routes."

"Homeowners can always help by providing a water source and by providing native trees, shrubs and herbaceous plants that produce lots of bugs and fruit for birds to eat and shelter during migration," he says.

Gveles says that the hummingbirds she's seen in the Madison area are struggling to find food because the blossoms just aren't there because of the drought. "So the feeders become really important," she says. "There is less seed available because of things not flowering due to the drought for gold finches and even for migratory birds that depend on seeds, like towhees, finches and grosbeaks.

"Flyover land" a vital stopover in fall and birding mecca

Every spring and fall, tens of millions of migrating birds sweep through Wisconsin and other Great Lakes states and stop at a variety of sites on their way to breeding grounds as far north as Greenland and the Arctic Ocean and wintering grounds as far south as Argentina's Tierra del Fuego. These stopover sites provide birds with critical food and shelter en route, a function described in "Respites for Migratory Birds," in the August 2011 Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine.

They also provide bird watchers a unique opportunity.

"The beauty of migration is you don't have to go to the world's best birding place to see these beautiful birds," Paulios says. "On some days, these things will be in your backyard. So explore your local parks and natural areas."

Paulios says the general rule of thumb for finding fall migrants is to look for shrubby, woody edges with morning sun. These places tend to have the right mix of fruit and bugs, especially if they get morning sun. Native bushes and trees with fruit like black cherry trees, viburnum or dogwoods are a draw for many bird species.

Baltimore orioles have already peaked, and it's past peak for shorebirds as well but they are still around. Late September and early October, the sparrows and ducks will be stopping over, he says.

Paulios advises checking sites like Wisconsin ebird (exit DNR) to see what species are showing up where. Also, birders can check their local areas for sites listed on the Great Wisconsin Birding and Nature Trail (exit DNR).

Nationally and in Wisconsin, birdwatching is big and growing. Earlier this month, federal officials released national results of their recreation survey (exit DNR) and showed that 46.7 million Americans 16 and older watched birds in 2011; 33 million adults fished and 13.7 million hunted in 2011.

State statistics from the survey are to be released later, but the most recently available state statistics (which date to 2006) rank Wisconsin in the top three states in percentage of birdwatchers: 41 percent of adults 16 and older reported watching or photographing birds.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Kim Grveles (608) 264-8594; Andy Paulios (608) 264-6137



'Virtual Beach' for real-water safe fun

DNR scientists team with federal, local managers to make

beach advisories predictable, accurate - and timely

MADISON -- A Wisconsin research scientist is working to inject some real-time information into easily-accessible updates about the condition of your favorite Great Lakes beach.

When and why a Great Lakes beach gets posted for a swim advisory or closure in 2013 may be the product of a new virtual beach system that saves money and gets current, accurate water quality updates to the public.

"On many occasions, the local beach manager will post an advisory or close the beach when it is not necessary," says Adam Mednick, a research scientist with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. "And that same manager will not post an advisory or closing when, in actuality, the concentrations of E.coli would show a heightened health risk."

This isn't a case of an incompetent beach manager. This is a case of an inadequate and ineffective method to determine when elevated levels of certain bacteria - including the fecal indicator E. coli and Enterococcus - pose threats to humans.

"The problem rests in the current routine water monitoring procedure. By the time health officials collect samples and culture for these bacteria, it can take 18 to 24 hours," Mednick says. "The beach managers use those results as the basis for posting the swim advisories or the beach closings."

And, a lot can happen in 18 to 24 hours. What happened yesterday may not be the case today, meaning the rock-solid analysis done through the routine analysis likely has lost its punch by the next day.

An answer for a timing problem

Mednick says the issue is that time lag between when the water samples are taken and the time it takes to run the lab analysis. Mednick says the lag can bring a results are "frequently inaccurate -- not that the lab results are inaccurate," he says, "but that they are a day-old and those conditions may not exist anymore."

An analysis of the data used in Wisconsin from 2003 to 2009 for beach closings or advisories shows more than 60 percent of those closings were not needed. And, more than 10 percent of water samples collected on days when there was neither a swim advisory nor a closure indicated there should have been one.

Not only do beach restrictions make it harder to find cool relief on hot days, local tourism businesses that rely upon active beachfronts also take a hit.

Wisconsin has 124 beaches along the Great Lakes which are monitored by local health agencies under the federal BEACH Act. DNR is the state coordinator of this federal program that calls for swim advisories and beach closings when E. coli levels exceed certain levels.

Three years ago, Mednick started working with his counterparts at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Geological Survey on a way to pick up the pace to help local beach managers more effectively determine the need for advisories or all-out closings.

It's called Nowcasting.

Nowcasting: A cost-effective way to improve safety

Mednick calls Nowcasting an early warning system.

"It is a real-time estimate of water quality conditions. We can do this using statistical models," he says. "We can predict water quality and specifically E. coli concentrations and also the probability of exceeding water quality guidelines."

Using a free EPA software system called Virtual Beach, which he has been instrumental in helping EPA to make more user-friendly and operational, Mednick has worked with local partners to create customized models for individual beaches. Local managers can operate the models to predict - or Nowcast - when conditions may be ripe for problems.

The system was first used in Wisconsin in 2009 in Ozaukee County at Port Washington.

DNR worked with the county's public health department to put in a Nowcast system based upon the Virtual Beach software. Local officials say the system has worked well and requires less than five minutes of department staff time each day to use. It has become part of their routine monitoring and public notification activities. This is not only good news for beach lovers, but for the taxpayers as well who support the public beaches.

And the results are solid. So impressive are these early tests of the program by local beach managers, Nowcasting also is set to get the State Program Innovations Award from the Environmental Council of the States at its national meeting on August 27 in Colorado Springs, Colo.

In 2011, operating at two pilot beaches, water-quality Nowcasts reduced the number of missed advisories by 20 percent and incorrectly-posted advisories by 50 percent. This summer, Nowcasts are being used at seven high-priority beaches on Lake Michigan and have been developed and tested for an additional 20 beaches on Lake Michigan and Lake Superior by DNR and USGS in preparation for expanded implementation next summer.

"This is a genuine step forward in water quality monitoring that directly affects beach-goers and the local economy," Mednick says.

Wonder how your Great Lakes beach is doing today?

The DNR maintains a user-friendly page that shows the current conditions at the Great Lakes beaches (exit DNR).

Looking for a beach?

The DNR offers a guide for you to use when planning a trip to any of the Great Lakes beaches in the state.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Adam Mednick, 608-261-6416, or Joanne M. Haas, public affairs manager for science services, 608-267-0798



Lake events, economic studies show investments in clean water pay off

BELLEVILLE, Wis. - Thirty years in the making, Lake Belle View is living up to its name and residents of this small community in southern Dane County are throwing a party to celebrate [] (exit DNR).

On Sept. 2, canoe and boat rides, fishing and a fish aquarium, historic displays, and other activities will show off the 92-acre lake and river complex and surrounding park and its history, transformed from a shallow carp-infested millpond into a spring-fed lake offering fishing, boating and wildlife-watching opportunities with more bike trails and other recreation nearby.

"The village is very, very proud of it," says Mayor Howard Ward, referring to the restoration project that physically separated the shallow millpond from the Sugar River with a berm to cut the flow of sediment and nutrients into it, and created island wetlands and other wildlife habitat.

"It's really created a great opportunity for lake recreation and economically, it's a good thing. People from Madison who want to come down and be by the water will have a nice little lake to enjoy and it will make Belleville a place people want to live because they have recreational opportunities."

The lake, restored through a partnership by local and state government, citizens groups and consultants, is just one in a wave of headlines this summer documenting the value to communities and Wisconsin of efforts to protect and restore Wisconsin lakes and waters, says DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp.

"Studies and stories like these document what we know intuitively: clean lakes and rivers play a huge role in our quality of life in Wisconsin and in our state and local economies," she says. "We love our lakes and rivers. Investing in their protection and restoration is a key to a healthy and prosperous Wisconsin."

Earlier this month, a University of Wisconsin-Madison study commissioned by DNR to meet a legislative requirement was completed and showed that there is a net economic benefit to Wisconsin of statewide shoreland zoning requirements, aimed at reducing polluted runoff entering lakes and rivers and protecting fish and wildlife habitat.

"A Day at the Beach: How the Cleanup of a Beach Revitalized Racine," in the current issue of Corporate Report Wisconsin details why North Beach is now garnering a spot on national and regional best beach lists, draws in 200,000 visitors a year and brings in an estimated $5 million annually and boosts local waterfront property values.

Wisconsin DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp and Wisconsin Tourism Secretary Stephanie Klett, appearing on the TV fishing show Waters & Woods to promote fishing, reel in bass after bass on Lake Delavan, 20 years after a major restoration project killed the carp in the lake, restocked it with game fish, and enlisted local and state government and property owners and organizations to keep pollutants on the land and out of the lake, as detailed in, "Delavan Lake restoration efforts deliver," in the April 2012 issue of Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency earlier this summer highlighted the 2012 removal of Eagle and Joos Valley creeks (exit DNR) in northwestern Wisconsin from the state's impaired waters list after partners worked to install best management practices to limit soil erosion and nutrients entering the stream while stabilizing stream banks and waterways to restore fisheries habitat.

Lake Tomah's fishery is back, a few years after a state and local project to treat the lake to rid it of carp, restore water quality and habitat, and restock the lake with game fish; and local anglers are reporting good catches of eating size panfish, pike up to 20 inches and largemouth bass. A series of videos on this DNR video playlist (exit to DNR YouTube) tells the story.

"These are great stories and represent a lot of hard work by a lot of people," Stepp says. "We're proud to be a partner in these efforts and investments to benefit these communities now and in the future, and for all Wisconsinites to enjoy them."

DNR efforts on these projects run the gamut, from providing technical advice and funding, to raising and stocking fish to replenish restored waters, to developing and enforcing the regulatory permits and other measures to control pollution and protect habitat. The technical report, Wisconsin Water Quality Report to Congress 2012 [PDF], details these efforts and DNR programs.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Jeff Bode (608) 266-0502; Carroll Schaal (608) 261-6423



Register for Grosbeaks Galore workshop

PORT WASHINGTON, Wis. - A "Grosbeaks Galore -Birds on Your Landscape" workshop is now accepting registrations for the Oct. 13 session in Port Washington.

The day-long workshop offers a unique opportunity to learn more about attracting migratory birds to your property and enjoy exhibits, activities and door prizes, says Kim Grveles, workshop coordinator and a Department of Natural Resources avian biologist.

"Here's just a sample of the fun and exciting educational activities we've got planned," she says:


Afternoon Field Tours at Forest Beach Migratory Preserve

Also, participants will find exhibits on Bird City Wisconsin, invasive plant species, native plants species, including how to plant and care for them, bird feeders -- what to feed, types of feeders, deterring unwanted species, migratory birds and stopover habitats, Riveredge Nature Preserve, Madison Audubon Society, Wisconsin Society for Ornithology, Western Great Lakes Bird and Bat Observatory, Ozaukee Washington Land Trust, ecological landscape consultants, and much, much more!

To register, contact Kim Grveles by email at or by phone at 608-264-8594.

Grosbeaks Galore is set for Saturday, Oct. 13, in Port Washington and is sponsored by the Wisconsin Stopover Initiative, a partnership among state, federal and local agencies, organizations, businesses and individuals to protect, conserve and enhance habitat for migratory birds.

Learn more about why stopover habitat is important for migratory birds

The morning session and lunch will take place at the Country Inn and Suites, 350E Seven Hills Road, Port Washington. Afternoon field tours will be held at Forest Beach Migratory Preserve just north of Port Washington, in Ozaukee County.

"This is a great opportunity to learn how to help migratory birds and bring more of them and other wildlife to your own backyard," Grveles says.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Kim Grveles (608) 264-8594



Wolf regulations now available online and soon in hardcopy

MADISON - The 2012 Wolf Hunting and Trapping Regulations [PDF] are now available on the Department of Natural Resources website [] search the keyword "wolf." Hard copies are going to print and will be mailed to successful applicants along with notification that they have drawn a permit.

As of Tuesday morning August 28, 15,708 hunters and trappers have submitted applications for Wisconsin's first modern wolf hunting season, putting their names into the lottery for what is expected to be roughly 1,100 harvest permits. The permit application period closes Aug 31. Even if a hunter or trapper doesn't draw a permit this year, applying will give them a preference point, and a better chance, in future drawings.

A permit application costs $10 and may be purchased through the DNR Online Licensing Center, at all authorized license agents, at DNR Service Centers (Hours for service centers vary; check the DNR website for service center days and hours of operation; DNR Service Centers are not open on Saturdays), or by calling toll-free 1-877-LICENSE (1-877-945-4236).

Those selected for a harvest permit this year will receive notification by mail in early September following the drawing. Everyone else will receive a preference point toward next season's drawing.

Hunters and trappers may also wish to check out the department's wolf webpage, which offers identification tips, maps, reports and pack territory information.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Kurt Thiede 608-266-5833



Online chat August 29 with Keith Warnke, DNR hunting and shooting sports coordinator

Dine al fresco with a new hunter recruited by you!

MADISON -- Department of Natural Resources Hunting and Shooting Sports Coordinator Keith Warnke will discuss with you why the state's hunting heritage is important to the state's economy and natural resources during a Wednesday, August 29 live online chat.

Warnke also will discuss teaching his first-ever course at Madison College which is all about hunting as a sustainable activity to get local, healthier foods while introducing the outdoor fun to friends and family - think of it as al fresco dining.

The chat will start at noon. Visit the DNR home page, [], and look for the online chat link. You will be able to see the questions and answers as they happen.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Keith Warnke - 608-576-5243



Sturgeon registration station information now online

MADISON - The locations and hours for sturgeon registration stations [PDF] open during the 2012 hook-and-line sturgeon season, which opens Sept. 1 on select major rivers in Wisconsin, have been updated and are now available online.

Among the changes: new locations have been added to register fish harvested from the Wisconsin River below the Wisconsin Dells dam and hours have changed for some registration stations for fish taken from the Lower Chippewa River, state fish biologists say.

Anglers who want to practice catch and release need only to have their valid Wisconsin fishing license on them while fishing. Anglers who plan to harvest a legal sturgeon - there's a minimum 60-inch length limit and a bag of 1 fish per season -- must have a harvest tag in their possession before fishing. Anglers who harvest a legal-size fish must immediately attach the harvest tag to the fish. All harvested sturgeon must be registered at a registration station by 6 p.m. the next day.

The harvest tag is available throughout the season and costs $20 for residents and $50 for nonresidents. Harvest tags can be purchased through the DNR Online Licensing Center, at all authorized license agents, at DNR Service Centers (Hours for service centers vary; check the DNR website for service center days and hours of operation; DNR Service Centers are not open on Saturdays), or by calling toll-free 1-877-LICENSE (1-877-945-4236).

State fisheries biologists who manage the lake sturgeon fisheries said sturgeon populations are strong and improving and there are exciting opportunities to catch the fish of a lifetime and some opportunities for harvest.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Karl Scheidegger, (608) 267-9426; Heath Benike, (715) 839-2877; Mike Donofrio, (715) 582-5050; Nate Nye (608) 635-8122


Read more: Previous Weekly News

Last Revised: Tuesday, August 28, 2012

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