Great Lakes at Great Risk

A view of Lake Superior from Madeline Island, Wisconsin

A view of Lake Superior from Madeline Island, Wisconsin

As Wisconsinites, the Great Lakes hold a special place in our lives. We're fortunate to live in a state which borders two of them, with a third within a few hours' drive. As a result, we are attuned to the importance, power, and fragility of the system. And the value of the Lakes for birds - resident and migratory both - is indescribable!

Like many times in the past, the Great Lakes system is again at risk, this time from severe budget cuts to one of the leading initiatives that fosters protection and restoration of the lakes. The federal administration has proposed to cut the Environmental Protection Agency 's funding by 40% and within those cuts, a 97% cut to the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

Learn more about the situation and what you can do by clicking here.

DNR public hearings: Crane hunting season, milkweeds, and more

Sandhill crane colt, photo by Arlene Kozio

Sandhill crane colt, photo by Arlene Kozio

What do you think about opening a hunting season for sandhill cranes in Wisconsin? How about statewide encouragement of planting milkweeds to support monarch butterflies? Or maintaining funding for the Stewardship Fund, which provides grants for land acquisition and conservation?

You have a chance to tell the DNR just how you feel!

On April 10, the Wisconsin DNR and Wisconsin Conservation Congress are hosting public hearings in every county in Wisconsin to get your feedback on these and 85 other topics relating to natural resources conservation in the state.

This is an important opportunity for us as Wisconsin citizens and the DNR’s primary stakeholders, to weigh in on the agency’s actions and priorities – particularly now, when the DNR faces many organizational changes and the future of our state’s environment is uncertain.

This document contains all 88 topics on the DNR’s questionnaire, but three topics directly related to Madison Audubon’s work are listed below. If you care about these and/or other issues listed in the questionnaire, plan to attend your local meeting on April 10, 7:00 pm.

> DNR’s webpage describing the meetings, includes links to questionnaire and locations


From the questionnaire:

Monarch caterpillar munching on a commonmilkweed leaf, MAS photo

Monarch caterpillar munching on a commonmilkweed leaf, MAS photo

QUESTION 64: Support increased planting/maintenance of milkweed (540116)

Monarch butterflies are important pollinators in Wisconsin. Population levels have declined in the U.S. by 90% over the last 20 years. The U.S. Dept. of the Interior is considering placing the monarch butterfly on the Endangered Species List, and the Wisconsin DNR is actively encouraging efforts to preserve this species. Milkweed plays a critical role in the habitat needs of the monarch (female monarchs only lay their eggs in/on milkweed plants), and it is believed that much of the population decline is due to the disappearance of milkweed. Several city, towns, and villages in Wisconsin identify milkweed as a noxious weed by ordinance and take aggressive actions to remove or prevent the planting of it within their communities.

64. Do you support having the DNR encourage local governments to remove milkweed from local noxious weed ordinances and encourage the planting and maintenance of quality milkweed plots? 64. YES____ NO_____

From MAS: Wisconsin is home to at least 10 native milkweed species (Common – Asclepias syriaca, Butterflyweed – A. tuberosa, Swamp – A. incarnata, Purple – A. purpurascens, Showy – A. speciosa, and Whorled – A. verticillata, Tall Green – A. hirtella, Prairie – A. sullivantii, Sidecluster or Wooly – A. lanuginosa, Oval-leaf – A. ovalifolia)(1,2), all of which support caterpillars of monarch butterflies by providing the one and only plant material the monarch caterpillars will eat: milkweed leaves! In addition, the flowers provide nectar for a myriad of pollinators, including but not limited to monarch adults. These plants have evolved to live in Wisconsin and are a historical piece of the biotic community here.

As part of our outreach efforts, Madison Audubon provides common milkweed seeds to community members to increase the planting and awareness of the importance of this species, particularly as a way to support monarch butterfly populations.


Prairie landscape at Faville Grove Sanctuary, photo by Roger Packard

Prairie landscape at Faville Grove Sanctuary, photo by Roger Packard

QUESTION 78: Maintain Stewardship Fund (450316)

In 1989, funding for the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program was funded at $25 million per year and in 2010 reached a high of $86 million. Currently the Stewardship Fund is budgeted at $33.2 million dollars per year. Stewardship funds are used to purchase and develop lands for hunting, fishing, trapping and recreating, lake and stream access and easements, partnerships with local governments, and protection of unique parcels of land. Other benefits include timber harvest, tourism, many different kinds of outdoor recreation and increased water quality.

78. Do you support the Legislature continuing to fund the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Fund at adequate levels with wise use of the funds by the NRB and the DNR? 78. YES____ NO_____

From MAS: The Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program is an extremely important tool for organizations like Madison Audubon to achieve their mission-work around land acquisition, restoration, and protection. As described in an earlier post, we encourage individuals to write to the program manager to request reconsideration of changes to the program that would reduce its efficacy. Funding for this program is fundamental for its continuation and success.


Sandhill crane landing on April ice, photo by Arlene Koziol

Sandhill crane landing on April ice, photo by Arlene Koziol

QUESTION 80: Sandhill crane hunting season (540616) (requires legislation)

There are 700,000 sandhill cranes in North America and 17 states have hunting season including two states in our flyway: Kentucky and Tennessee. A management plan approved by 31 states and Canadian provinces in eastern North America established that the Eastern Population of sandhill cranes was large enough to be hunted and established a process for a state to apply for a limited quota based hunting season. In Wisconsin, the state legislature must approve a quota-based hunting season on sandhill cranes before the DNR can develop a season.

80. Do you support legislation which would give the DNR authority to begin the process to develop a hunting season for sandhill cranes? 80. YES____ NO_____

From MAS: Along with the Wisconsin Society of Ornithology (read their position post here) and other organizations, Madison Audubon is firmly against opening a crane hunting season. This is largely because of the decimation the species experienced in the early 1900’s, and their slow but steady recovery as a result of strong conservation efforts. An open hunt has potential to impact local populations by reducing overall numbers and dividing breeding pairs, as well as regional populations by reducing the potential for the species to expand from Wisconsin into other locations in its native regional range (Michigan, Illinois, Ohio, Indiana, etc.). In addition, there is very strong evidence that sandhill crane hunting results in accidental take of the much more endangered whooping crane due to their similarities in appearance. The impact on these species can be significant.


Please make your opinions known at the April 10 meetings!


Good News: DOT Shuts Down Interstate Options Through Goose Pond!

Monarch on goldenrod; Photo by Arlene Koziol

Monarch on goldenrod; Photo by Arlene Koziol

Good news from the Wisconsin Department of Transportation today: The study looking into how the DOT might expand Interstate-39/90/94 outside of Madison has ended, with the elimination of the "East Reliever" interstate options. That means Goose Pond will remain unaffected and safe from this threat!

Thank you for all of our members who voiced your concerns to the DOT and made our priorities known!


Read more about what the threat was here.

MAS on Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program changes

Jill's Prairie at Madison Audubon's Goose Pond Sanctuary

Jill's Prairie at Madison Audubon's Goose Pond Sanctuary

>> Read the MAS letter to Stewardship Program coordinator <<

In 1989, the Wisconsin Legislature created the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program, to be administered by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. The program facilitates the preservation of valuable natural areas and wildlife habitat, protection of water quality and fisheries, and expansion of opportunities for outdoor recreation. To do this, they provide grants for land acquisition and property development.

If you have been to either of our sanctuaries, you'll see the Stewardship Program at work. Madison Audubon Society received the first ever Stewardship grant for a nonprofit conservation organization for a land purchase at Goose Pond Sanctuary. Since then, the Stewardship program has been vital to completing many other acquisition projects that have contributed to the size, diversity, and beauty of our sanctuaries and now provide habitat for wildlife, recreation opportunities for citizens, and educational resources for local kids.

The Program is at risk now, due to proposed changes that severely limit the types of land proposed for Stewardship Program funding - and severely limiting Madison Audubon's ability to acquire land that will ultimately benefit Wisconsin's birds. Madison Audubon has submitted a formal letter to the Stewardship Program coordinator urging reconsideration of the proposed changes.


>> Read the MAS letter to Stewardship Program coordinator <<


Get Involved!

You can help prevent damaging changes to the Stewardship Program from happening too. The DNR is now soliciting public input on revisions to ranking/scoring criteria for nonprofit Stewardship grant proposals. Draft revisions, explanations of the goals of the revisions, and how to submit your comments are on the DNR's program guidance web page. You can also send thoughts on the proposed changes to members of the DNR Natural Resource's Board. Addresses for the members are available in our letter or online here.

Comments are being accepted through March 3. Make your voice heard!

2017 MAS Field Trips Calendar is here!


Free, fun, outdoors, and family-friendly?! How does it get any better?

We're proud to share 2017 Madison Audubon Society Field Trips calendar, complete with 26 different trips around the area to look for birds, butterflies, wildflowers, and more. All of these field trips are free and open to all, and lead by local bird expert volunteers.

To access the schedule and learn more about each, visit our Field Trips page, or download the Field Trips Calendar here!

Tell DOT: No Interstate Through Goose Pond Sanctuary

>> Read Madison Audubon's letter to Robert Knorr, DOT project manager <<

Scroll down to learn how you can help!

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation is currently studying ways to relieve congestion in the I-39/90/94 corridor east and north of Madison. Three of the five options under
consideration would severely affect Goose Pond Sanctuary.

A shooting star at Goose Pond Sanctuary

A shooting star at Goose Pond Sanctuary

The most destructive options involve construction of a new section of interstate highway running east of DeForest and Arlington, through Goose Pond Sanctuary at Ankenbrandt Prairie, and rejoining the existing interstate corridor near the Wisconsin River. In addition to destroying and fragmenting prairie habitat, including habitat for the endangered silphium borer moth and other threatened grassland species, the new highway would bring noise, light,  air, and water pollution to the sanctuary, and would severely detract from public enjoyment of one of our area’s premier birding hotspots.

While construction won’t begin until 2025 or later, a decision on a preferred option is expected by this summer. We are hopeful, for a variety of economic, social, and environmental reasons,  that DOT will elect to confine any capacity expansion to the existing interstate corridor rather than create a new roadway.  Nonetheless, to assure this outcome, it is crucial that everyone who loves Goose Pond let DOT know that any new route through or near Goose Pond Sanctuary will pass through a minefield of public opposition.


UPDATE (Feb. 28, 2017): Good news! The Department of Transportation has eliminated the "East Reliever" interstate options, thereby removing the threat to Goose Pond Sanctuary! Thank you for your great help in making these concerns heard!

Christmas Bird Count - MAS Chapter Results

Christmas Bird Count 2016 - MAS Chapter Results

Pardeeville Christmas Bird Counters Jane Considine (left) and Maddie Dumas (right) bundle up during their 2016 count.

Pardeeville Christmas Bird Counters Jane Considine (left) and Maddie Dumas (right) bundle up during their 2016 count.

For 117 years, birders have banded together to brave the cold, escape from the holiday madness, and count as many birds as possible in a day. Christmas Bird Count is a wrap for 2016, with 12 groups and 411 birders within Madison Audubon’s chapter lines reporting data on nearly 100,000 individual birds in a two-week time frame! Congratulations CBC coordinators and volunteers, for a great year!

CBC 2016 Results

Baraboo (coordinated by Scott Swengel) – Dec. 27 – 63 counters – 8,976 birds – 60 species. Rare finds: Wood duck, hooded merganser, golden eagle, eastern phoebe, Townsend’s solitaires, field sparrow. Download data here.

Clyde (coord: Steven Greb) – Dec. 28 – 14 counters – 4,268 birds – 54 species. Rare finds: Goldeneye, grackle, goshawk. Download data here.

Horicon Marsh (coord: Jeff Bahls) – Dec. 19 – 13 counters – 3,699 birds – 35 species.

Madison (coord: Aaron Stutz) – Dec. 17 – 120 counters – 26,000+ birds – 89 species. Rare finds: Pine warblers, summer tanager. Noteable misses: Ring-necked pheasant. Download data here.

Mount Horeb (coord: Kerry Beheler) – Jan. 1 – 55 counters – 8,019 birds – 54 species. Rare finds: sharp-shinned hawk, northern saw-whet owl, long-eared owl, fox sparrow, chipping sparrow. Noteable misses: Red-headed woodpeckers. Download data here.

Pardeeville (coord: Paul and Glenna Schwalbe) – Dec. 15 – 27 counters – 9,953 birds – 56 species. Rare finds: Gadwall, long-eared owl, white-crowned sparrow, ruffed grouse, ravens.

A pair of bald eagles spotted on the Poynette Christmas Bird Count. Photo by Maddie Dumas

A pair of bald eagles spotted on the Poynette Christmas Bird Count. Photo by Maddie Dumas

Poynette (coord: Mark Martin and Sue Foote-Martin) – Dec. 31 – 47 counters – 8.743 birds – 59 species. Rare finds: peregrine falcon, northern pintails, great blue heron, sharp-shinned hawk, belted kingfisher. Download summary here.

Randolph (coord: Jeff Bahls) – Dec. 21 – 9 counters -- 11,023 birds -- 31 species. Rare species: Brown thrasher, Eurasian collared dove. Download data here.

Richland Center (coord: Robert Hirschy) – Dec. 18 – 30 counters – 7,209 birds – 34 species. Rare finds: American pipit, Carolina wren, white-crowned sparrow, Lapland longspurs. Download data here.

Waterloo (coord: Karen Etter Hale) – Dec. 19 – 33 counters – 8,878 birds – 49 species. Rare finds: Wood duck, short-eared owl. Download summary here.


Columbus and Sauk City data not available

Apply for a Restoration Ecology Internship with Madison Audubon!

We are hiring for two teams of Restoration Ecology interns for next summer! Want to get your hands dirty, learn about local prairies and wildlife, and see some of the most beautiful (and endangered) landscapes around -- all while making an income and building your resume?

Check out the job announcement here. Applications are due Monday, February 6, 2017.

The Restoration Ecology Interns spend much of their time on our two sanctuaries, Faville Grove (top right) and Goose Pond (bottom right), as well as other locations. Michigan lilies (left; photo by Roger Packard) are just one of the many beautiful species interns will work with during the internship.

The Restoration Ecology Interns spend much of their time on our two sanctuaries, Faville Grove (top right) and Goose Pond (bottom right), as well as other locations. Michigan lilies (left; photo by Roger Packard) are just one of the many beautiful species interns will work with during the internship.

Coordinated by Madison Audubon Society, in partnership with Friends of Lakeshore Nature Preserve, The Friends of Pheasant Branch Conservancy, Natural Heritage Land Trust, Friends of Pope Farm Conservancy, and the UW Arboretum

Prairies of Southern Wisconsin to feature Goose Pond Sanctuary in Photography Exhibit.

Photography by Rich Armstrong, featuring Goose Pond

Photography by Rich Armstrong, featuring Goose Pond

What: Photography Exhibit

Where: Fitchburg Library, 5530 Lacy Road, Fitchburg, WI

When: November 28-December 28, 2016  

"Land extreemly fertile;  consisting of a happy mixture of praries and groves, exhibiting one of the most beautifull and picteresk seens that I ever beheld."    Meriwether Lewis

Prairies have meant different things to different peoples throughout their existence.  To the native peoples of the plains, prairies were the wellspring of their way of life,  following the immense herds of bison that were at the center of that existence - both brought to near extinction by the advent of a new wave of immigrants.  To these new immigrants the prairies were either a scourge to travel towards lands further west , or a plague to plow in order to reach the incredibly black and rich soil lying beneath.  Soil, that after much abuse, was then simply blown towards the Atlantic Ocean during the Dust Bowl.  Most of what was once prairie has now become a monoculture of corn and soy, grown mostly for the immense livestock industry that feeds a growing world population.  Less than 5% of the original tall-grass prairie still exists, and in Wisconsin, it is less than 1% that has survived the plow.

So, is the prairie doomed?  Thankfully, there has been a relatively recent resurgence of interest in the preservation and restoration of former prairie lands through the efforts of private, public, governmental, and environmental groups.  The sight that Meriwether Lewis and all the previous inhabitants saw is something none of us will ever see again.  But through the efforts of all the people involved in its preservation and restorations, perhaps we can get a glimpse of the majesty that once existed.  And for that we should all be grateful and give thanks to all those involved.  And even though these fragments are small in comparison, we can still see far if we only look close.

The photographers of this exhibit all share a passion for the natural world.  It is our hope that the photographs in this exhibit convey the same sense of wonder to you as we felt when composing them.  We also hope that these photographs will inspire you to visit a prairie, either natural or restored.  And, equally important, to inspire within you a commitment towards their preservation.  We hope that you enjoy this exhibit and we thank you for your time in viewing it.

The Photographers:  

Rich Armstrong-

Bob Jaeger-

Don Julie

Tom Klingele-  

Update: MAS continues to advocate for the appropriate use of the SPRA land

Madison Audubon has been working extensively with the DNR to create a master plan for the appropriate use of the Sauk Prairie Recreation Area (SPRA). The SPRA was founded in deep historic roots. Over the years, the land was cultivated for various activities. Currently, Madison Audubon is working with the DNR to utilize this land for conservation purposes. The idea is to provide a natural habitat for various bird and wildlife species. In order to fullfill this vision, we're trying to reach a mutual agreement on the best practices for the land. Please read our latest report to the DNR: November 28th Report: Advocacy Letter

To view the full revised Master Plan: Sauk Prairie Recreation Area Master Plan and Environmental Impact Statement (draft) 

If you're interested in becoming an advocate, the Natural Resources Board will be meeting at December 14, 2016 in Madison: DNR Board Meeting Info

Photography by DNR

Photography by DNR