Fun flies if you’ve got the time.
Local birders braved a cold, rainy May Friday to scope out as many bird species as they could see throughout the area.
The six-hour field trip, a fundraiser held to support the Great Wisconsin Birdathon, was led by Mike Mossman of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. The event was put on by the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin with a goal of raising $40,000 to support the state’s birds through the Bird Protection Fund and other initiatives.
The group met at Fairfield Marsh at 6 a.m. As chilly drizzle fell, Mossman and the other birders used their ears as much as their binoculars. They recorded sightings and calls of pied-billed grebes, blue-winged teals, ducks, geese and sandhill cranes.
Local landscape painter Todd Persche said the marsh represents an important habitat as many area wetland complexes have been turned into farmland.
“I suppose this is our natural heritage,” Persche said, as bird songs filled the air. “This is our community we’re all part of. So for us, education is big. Once people get caught up in this, they really seem to love it, but we just don’t get enough people interested in it.”
Persche helped the group identify birds by their calls, a skill local birder Ursula Muehllehner said she hopes to improve.
“It’s like learning Chinese,” she said with a laugh.
Muehllehner said she enjoys the birds and thinks people should be more aware of the roles they play in nature.
The small group also traveled to Steinke Basin, Roznos Meadow, the shores of Devil’s Lake and other sites in and around the state park before ending the day at Baxter’s Hollow, a site of The Nature Conservancy.
Jennell and Mark Ballering of Madison and Steve Meyer of Prairie du Sac also attended Friday’s trip.
They saw ospreys catch fish in the lake, observed great blue herons at their rookery near the Civilian Conservation Corps trail and identified a multitude of woodland birds by sight and song.
Mossman said he hoped the participants would take away a renewed appreciation for the diversity of birds and the important roles the feathered creatures play in the varied habitats throughout the area.
Persche said he got into birding by spending a lot of time in nature as a child.
“The world is different when you’re a young kid. It’s all new, wild and fun,” he said. “ … A lot of these birds we see out here, we’ve known them for so long, it’s like seeing a member of your family or something.”
For more information about Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin field trips, visit http://www.wisconservation.org/.
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