Bird City - Stevens Point - Year 4 - High Flyer

To achieve annual certification as a "Bird City," communities need to demonstrate in a written application that they have met at least seven of 22 criteria, including three from Category 1 and one from each of the other four categories:

Approved Application
Highlights of Stevens Point's Bird Conservation Efforts

Some 35 people attended the May 4, 2013, IMBD observance for Stevens Point sponsored by the Aldo Leopold Audubon Society and recorded a total of 59 species. Kent Hall, a member of the statewide Bird City Wisconsin steering committee, explained what Bird day is all about; the group searched the trees for an Ovenbird. The bird of the day was a Common Gallinule, first located by Rob Pendergast.

Category 1: Creation and Protection of Habitat

1A.  The Stevens Point Smart Growth Plan was adopted in 2005 and Amended in 2006 is still currently in effect.

1B.  For over 22 years, data has been collected on bird observations on a 19.5-acre site along the shores of McDill Flowage in Stevens Point.  In 2003, the Aldo Leopold Audubon Society (ALAS) published documentation of the significance of this site as birding habitat. This bird list first was updated in 2010, increasing from 135 to 171 species in seven years.

Birds continue to be monitored at Kozcizkowski Park and the Erickson Natural Area.  For the 2012 season, a total of 70 songbirds fledged from the 15 nest boxes monitored on these properties.  These boxes were monitored from mid-April to mid-August by students & teachers at McKinley Elementary School.

1C.  ALAS  (http://www.aldoleopoldaudubon.org ) also was instrumental in preserving from development a 5.5-acre site adjacent to the 14-acre Kozcizkowski Park, owned by the City of Stevens Point. In less than one year, Audubon members raised $308,000 for purchase of what is now the Godfrey & Maybelle Erickson Natural Area. Audubon members and friends raised nearly $32,000, the Erickson’s contributed $60,000, the City of Stevens Point contributed $75,710, and the Wisconsin DNR contributed $140,500 through its Urban Greenspace Program.

Kozcizkowski Park and the Erickson Natural Area continue to be used for nest box monitoring by McKinley Elementary School (70 songbirds produced in 2012 season), visitation by local citizens and tourists and special Audubon field trips (Stevens Point CBC and spring bird counts).  This area continues to be used by large numbers of migrating birds and as a nesting site for 33 species of birds (including a pair of ospreys).  In 2011 they added two Leopold benches to the site and were involved in removal of black locust and tartarian honeysuckle.   The Whiting Dam that produces the McDill Pond had major leakage problems.  Repair of the McDill Pond Dam was completed in October, 2012, and McDill Pond will be filled in April, 2013.  This is a very important stop-over site for neo-tropical migrants and the 2013 year of renewal should bring it back to its original luster as an avian stop-over site in the spring of 2014.

ALAS enhanced the property with an educational kiosk, two boardwalks, an entryway sign, and the removal of invasive, Black Locust and exotic Tartarian Honeysuckle over a period of 6 years.  More than 100 people helped with this effort.

Over the past years, ALAS has held the following activities at the Kozcizkowski Park/Erickson Natural Area site: 1) Bird walks, including two International Migratory Bird Day celebrations; 2) two years of nest box inspections by McKinley Center Elementary School; 3)Cavity Nesting Songbird Workshops for central Wisconsin in 2009 and for the Natural Resources Foundation in 2010. 

1G.  Portage County is part of the Central Sands Prairie Region of the Great Wisconsin Birding and Nature Trail.  Stevens Point has two locations on this trail (No. 53, Iverson Park, # and No. 55, Schmeeckle Reserve).

1H.  In December of 2012, the Stevens Point Area Convention and Visitor’s Bureau put the BCW Videotape prepared  by Northland Adventures,  on their website: www.StevensPointArea.com .  This video is also on the Aldo Leopold Audubon Society website (www.aldoleopoldaudubon.org/SpecialAnnouncement/NorthlandAdventures ).

1I.  In a previous years, the City featured the Moses Creek restoration project, a 17 acre riparian wetland meadow and       tall shrub community which naturalized 4,300 feet along Moses Creek, part of the Green Circle trail in Schmeeckle       Reserve.  This project is now maturing and birds are starting to breed along it (Song Sparrows, Yellow Warblers &       Common Yellowthroats, among others).

The collaborative effort that resulted in this restoration has earned a 2013 Federal Highway Administration Environmental Excellence Award.  This Award recognizes collaboration and partnership among city, state and federal officials, the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point (UW-SP) and consultants in the Highway 10 wetland mitigation project.

Category 2: Promoting Effective Community Forest Management

2A.  Stevens Point has received “Tree City USA” documentation for 32 consecutive years and the Growth Award for 13 years. 

Like so many cities across Wisconsin, budgets are in difficult shape.  The City Department of Recreation and Forestry has been cut substantially.  To compensate for that cut and to help replace storm damaged trees, the Aldo Leopold Audubon Society (ALAS) donated $1,500 (ca. 17 trees) to the City and last spring held a raffle which netted another $3,455 (ca. 39 Trees).  ALAS members helped plant the trees in spring and also helped water them in the fall (because of the drought conditions), after the part-time staff members had left for the season.   Todd Ernster, City Forester, is using the “Audubon example” to approach other organizations in the community to encourage the purchase of much-needed trees.  

Category 3: Limiting or Removing Hazards to Birds

3A.  The ALAS web-site has a link to the American Bird Conservancy (ABC) web site and its Keep Cats Indoors program. ALAS has cooperated with four local veterinary clinics and the Portage County Humane Society to distribute the ABC brochure, “Cats, Birds and You.”  Six hundred of these brochures are now in the hands of these facilities and more will be provided by ALAS as needed. Finally, an article was printed in the May 2010 issue of the ALAS newsletter, “the almanac,” with helpful hints on how to convert cats from outdoor to indoor behaviors.

In 2013, the community continues to provide free brochures, “Cats, Birds & You” (from the American Bird Conservancy) to Stevens Point Animal Hospital and the Community Animal Hospital in the City of Stevens Point.  In addition, the American Bird Conservancy Website is on both the Aldo Leopold Audubon Society and the Stevens Point websites.  The Stevens Point website is a new addition (Government/Awards & Recognitions/Bird City Wisconsin).

3B.  In 2010, they added the Window Alert website to both the Aldo Leopold Audubon Society and the Stevens Point websites.

3C.  In 2011, the City of Stevens Point added both the Aldo Leopold Audubon Society and Bird City Wisconsin websites to its website and in 2012 put the “Bird City Wisconsin” video (by Northland Adventures) on the website (StevensPoint.com/Awards & Recognition/Bird City Wisconsin/Northland Adventures) as well (Document #4).   The Northland Adventures video for Bird City Wisconsin, was “shot” in Stevens Point and featured two persons involved with ALAS, John Munson and Larry Graham.

Category 4: Public Education

Great Blue Heron at Schmeekle Reserve
4D. The ALAS has held a Christmas Bird Count for more than 50 years, observing a total of 119 species.  The center of the count circle is at the Old Main Building on the UW-Stevens Point campus.  A total of 25-35 persons participate in this community-wide conservation project each year. The species record for a single count is 53 and was set in 2005.

On December 14th, 2013, Stevens Point held its 54nd Annual Christmas Bird Count.  They advertised the event in the papers prior to holding it and after its completion.  Its center is the “Old Main” building at UW-Stevens Point and includes all of the City of Stevens Point.  In 2013, 49 species and 7,983 individuals (2nd highest in 54 years) were counted.  New high counts were recorded for these species: Cedar Waxwing, Horned Lark and Mourning Dove.  There were no new species for the 54th count year but rare species observed included two Tufted Titmice and single individuals of Chipping Sparrow, Song Sparrow, White-throated Sparrow, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Northern Goshawk, Red-shouldered Hawk (not seen since 1976), American Kestrel, Brown Creeper and Golden-crowned Kinglet.  Thirty-three people participated in the 2013 count. .

In addition, ALAS has sponsored three cavity nesting songbird workshops that have been well-attended. Since mid-March of 2010, ALAS has published short articles (with photographs) on resident and migrating birds in the weekly “Outdoor Recreation Guide” of the Stevens Point Journal.  These articles have proven to be quite popular and have elicited dozens of phone calls.

The ALAS website (www.aldoleopoldaudubon.org ), has developed a web page devoted to Bird City Wisconsin.  It provides links to: 1) www.birdcitywisconsin.org ; 2) www.abcbirds.org/cats/; 3) Kozcizkowski Park/Erickson Natural Area; 4) Audubon Bluebird Trail;  5) Great Wisconsin Birding & Nature Trail/Central Sand Prairie Region; and 6) International Migratory Bird Day activities.

4G.   1)  Assistance to the Central Wisconsin Children’s Museum, Stevens Point: 

       The mission of the Central Wisconsin Children’s Museum (CWCM) is to provide a family-based discovery place        where  children and adults can play and explore together to strengthen confidence, capabilities and creativity        through  hands-on investigation (15,600 served in 2012).

In 2013 they have developed the following initiatives with the CWCM

A)     Bird wing display (children hold arms up and compare to wingspread of Eagle, Hawk, Owl, etc.): Status: $200 ALAS Funding; artist identified; spring completion

B)      Cavity nesting songbird display (nests and eggs of Eastern Bluebird, Black-capped Chickadee, House Wren and Tree Swallow are to be displayed in viewable Plexiglas containers: Status: $150 approved by ALAS Board; USFWS has granted permission for display; spring completion anticipated.

C)      Bird books for children.  Status: List of books identified and 21 purchased; names and donors put on books; individuals donated $250 towards purchase.

Category 5: Community Celebration of International Migratory Bird Day

For the fourth year in a row, the Mayor and City Council of the City of Stevens Point have approved a Resolution declaring a date for International Migratory Bird Day.  In 2014, this date is May 3, with tours led by birding experts in Iverson Park (part of the Central Sands Region of the GWBNT) and at an outstanding mitigated wetlands just east of Stevens Point (Lost Creek Wetlands).   As has been done in the past, the IMBD event is held in conjunction with the Village of Plover.

High Flyer Achievements

7 Criteria Accomplished

Category 1: Creation and Protection of Habitat

1A.  The community has restored at least two acres of woodlands, wetlands or prairie.  The Green Circle Trail is thought to be unique for hiking/biking trails in the United States as it circles three metropolitan areas: Stevens Point, Plover and Whiting.  The original trail was 22 miles long and opened in 1996.  Since then, it has expanded to 26 miles and the major “spurs” it attaches to have increased the trail length to 36 miles.  The green circle has won three prestigious awards: the 1993 Land and Water Conservation Fund Partnership Award, the 2003 Great Lakes Region Partnership Award and the 2008 Scenic Beauty Award from Citizens for a Scenic Wisconsin.

This trail has a myriad of purposes.  It encourages people to stay fit by hiking and biking (one or more segments are within 10 minutes of all urban residents) and allows them to traverse an exceptional number of habitats, all of which have migratory and nesting birds.

There are 12 different trail segments on the Green Circle Trail.  One of these segments is the Moses Creek Trail.  This              segment is 2.3 miles long and is named for Moses Creek which runs along much of this segment.  For 70 years a portion of Moses Creek was a drainage ditch through the eastern part of Schmeeckle Reserve.  In 2010 and 2011, The WI DOT transformed 17 acres of this stream into a mitigated wetland.  It had been the source of flooding for the City of Stevens Point.  The wetlands now allow the stream to back up and spread out over a major area and release the water slowly, largely eliminating flooding.  The project cost about $1.3 million and created 3,800 feet of meandering stream instead of a straight line drainage ditch.  In addition, ˝ mile of board walk was built for hikers & bikers.  This 17 acre wetland habitat will be a magnet for migrating and breeding birds.

The Moses Creek segment was completed in 2012, but it is now maturing as a habitat for breeding birds.  At this point, no thorough breeding bird survey has been done on the property, but one is planned for the spring/early summer of  2014.  At this point, they know Song Sparrows, Yellow Warblers and Common Yellowthroats are nesting, but they will add many more to the list this year.

1E.  Implement a program to preserve Chimney Swift roosting sites and/or to construct alternative Chimney Swift Towers.  On September 21st, 2011, Ron Windingstad, Conservation Director for Minnesota Audubon, made a presentation on Chimney Swifts at a general meeting of the Aldo Leopold Audubon Society (ALAS).  As a result of this talk, ALAS decided to move ahead with construction on two Chimney Swift towers in the Stevens Point Sculpture Park, which is parallel to the Brickyard Trail Segment of the Green Circle Trail.  Solicitation for tower designs was advertised in the artistic community and several designs were submitted.  From them, three finalists were selected.  Two of these were constructed in the spring of 2012 (vessel with wooden Strips and Zoltak Wing).  ALAS donated $4,000 for these two towers.  Monies have been received for building two more towers in the sculpture park as well. 

Due to time constraints in 2013, the City has been unable to locate chimneys and subsequently monitor Swift usage.  In 2014, they plan on continuing efforts to attract Swifts and conduct “Swift Sits” along with advertising them in the local papers.   In addition, the Wisconsin Audubon Council has provided funding for the construction of another Chimney Swift tower.

1G.  The community facilitates Scouting and conservation groups.  For the past 11 years, ALAS has developed and monitored an Eastern Bluebird nest box trail (ABT).  In that time, the trail has grown from 89 to 1,270 boxes and from 1 to 75 monitors.  For the last four years it has been the largest and most productive trail in Wisconsin and is now thought to be the largest Bluebird trail in the U.S.  For the 2013 nesting season, this trail produced 5,938 songbirds, including 4,230 Bluebirds.  In the 12 years of its existence, ALAS has produced approximately 52,252 songbirds, including 40,614 Bluebirds.

For the 2013 season, a total of 93 nest boxes were monitored by 7 monitors (Cassidy Crunkilton, Sue Hall, Diana Mrozinski, Bill & Jan Seybold and David & Pauline Pray).  A total of 353 Bluebirds and another 138 songbirds (Wrens, Chickadees & Tree Swallows) were produced from these boxes. 

A key to the success of the ABT is its weekly monitoring program.  Monitors check all boxes and turn the data in for a

weekly report prepared by Kent D. Hall.  This approach yields several dividends including: 1) a comparison of what is happening throughout the trail which then provides a chance to educate all monitors 2) a chance to address problems throughout the trail and 3) maintenance of high motivation and morale for the monitors.  The ABT has been the focal point of great publicity in the ALAS publication, The Almanac, and in the local papers—Portage County Gazette (weekly) and the Stevens Point Journal (daily) and has helped develop a conservation conscience for dozens of people.  In 2008, the ABT was given an award by the North American Bluebird Society as the “Outstanding Bluebird Trail in North America.”

The turnover of monitors is continuous.  New ones are needed each year.  Kent Hall always takes out prospective monitors to show them the procedures involved in monitoring.  The summer of 2013 was exceptional as they were able to recruit 16 new monitors for the ABT.  The current total is 75 monitors on 33 routes.

1I.  The community maintains a birding trail or “hot spot” location with educational signage and/or literature.   Since its opening in 1996, the Green Circle Trail has been an informal source of birding information.  A total of 36 miles of trail (including spurs) traverse all of the ecological systems within the tension zone of the Central Sands Prairie Ecological Landscape.     These include, but are not limited to: pine and deciduous forests, tall and short grass prairies, bogs & wetlands and two major riverine systems: the Plover and Wisconsin Rivers.

In 2010, members of the ALAS started working with Jim Buchholtz, graphic designer for the Schmeeckle Reserve.  The outcome was the design of a “Green Circle Birding Trail” within the Green Circle Trail (logo is a Black-capped Chickadee).  The design of the trail allows for 10 major trailhead signs.    ALAS is a sponsor of this trail and has donated the first $9,000 for the Moses Creek sign.   In 2012, the 2nd kiosk was built in Bukolt Park.  It interprets the Riverfront and Stagecoach Trails of the Green Circle Trail.  ALAS paid for half of this kiosk and is negotiating to help with payment for kiosks on the remaining 8 trail segments.

In 2013, Marshfield Clinic made the largest donation in the history of the Green Circle Trail ($50,000).  The Marshfield Clinic donation will help complete 7 trailhead signs and widening of boardwalks throughout the trail.  At this time, the Iverson Park Trail Kiosk is being completed.  The final kiosk will look like the Bukolt Park Trail Kiosk.

In addition to paying for the first & second signs, Auduboners have helped with two other major phases of this project:

1)      Write- ups for the birdlife that can be found along the trail which are posted on both the www.GreenCircleTrail.org  website and on the trailhead sign.  Each trailhead sign features a breeding bird that can be observed along that segment of the birding trail (Scarlet Tanager for the Moses Creek Birding Trail sign).

2)      Development of a birding checklist for the Green Circle Birding Trail.  A total of 244 birds, including 106 breeding, have been identified along the Green Circle Birding Trail. 

1J.  Other: The community constructs nest boxes.  Over a 9 year period (2001-2010), the Aldo Leopold Audubon Society constructed 3,900 nest boxes.  These were constructed at the Wood Laboratory on the UW-SP campus and transported to a storage area.  About 1,300 of these boxes were used by the Aldo Leopold Audubon Society Trail (some involving elementary students, but the majority (2,600) were distributed to other Bluebird trails in the state (Hoy Audubon in Racine County).  Payment for most of these additional boxes was made by the Bluebird Restoration Association of WI, but ALAS helped with distribution of boxes statewide and installation of numerous bluebird trails. Subsequently, the construction of nest boxes was done in Stevens Point but has had a major effect on Bluebird conservation statewide.

In February of 2013, the Department reached 75% self-sufficiency from burning methane gas from its waste- water intake to power its generator.  After receiving an $114,000 grant from the state agency, Focus on Energy, that efficiency had reached a remarkable 95% in 2013.  Mr. Lemke thinks that the department might reach a point where it can actually generate power and sell it back to the power grid.  This effort is remarkable because release of methane contributes 23X the effect for global warming that CO2 does.  Global warming is a significant factor in the extinction of birds.  Anything that can be done to decrease greenhouse gases is noteworthy.  Administrators in the City of Stevens Point deserve credit for their efforts.         

Category 3: Limiting or Removing Hazards to Birds

3C.  The community regulates construction and siting of communication towers to mitigate their risk to migrating birds.  In 1999, ALAS members approached the Portage County Planning and Zoning Department for consideration of the development of a Communication Tower Ordinance.  With the strong backing of then Stevens Point Mayor Gary Wescott, this ordinance (Wireless Telecommunication Facility Ordinance) was passed on May 18th, 1999.  This ordinance was revised on January 1st, 2007, and again on June 17th, 2008.

This ordinance was the first ordinance in the state to address concerns about migratory birds (7.3.1 PURPOSE: F; 7.3.7 DISTRICT REQUIREMENTS: BAreas prohibiting telecommunications facility location: Floodplains, Wetlands, Shorelands, Conservancy-zoned districts.

This ordinance is quite sensitive to and supportive of healthy bird populations.  Although this became a county-wide ordinance, the original motivation for it came from residents in the City of Stevens Point.

Category 4: Public Education

4A.  The community is active in raising awareness of its bird assets.

1)      Bulletin Board: A bulletin board is displayed at the Portage County Library and 8 different ALAS meetings each year.  It includes information about habitat preservation, control of invasive plants, IMBD combined with Arbor Day, BCW, educational efforts with McKinley and Roosevelt Elementary Schools and The Mead Wildlife Area (Grandparent’s Day), Stevens Point CBC and Bird Feed Sale.  It is viewed each year by 650-700 people.

2)      Special field trips:  In 2013, Kent Hall led two field trips entitled: Nest Box Gems.  32 people attended these two field trips.  Each person was able to observe nest boxes with Tree Swallows and Eastern Bluebirds.  Others were able to observe House Wrens and Black-capped Chickadees.  Observations were made on the three dozen nest boxes that are spread throughout the Portage County Business Park where traffic is light.  Participants were able to observe eggs and chicks of Swallows and Bluebirds.

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