Mid-Winter Eagle Survey

Eagles along the Fox River. Photo by Randy McSorley

Winter is an excellent time to get outdoors and survey the abundance of  wildlife that the Fox River Valley has to offer. On Saturday, January 12th, outdoor enthusiasts and those with an eye for eagles will have opportunity to participate in the eagle monitoring and waterfowl survey. Data collected will be compiled by the WDNR for both the state and federal report. Volunteers are needed to help collect this data. This month’s monitoring session takes place from 6:50 to 8:30AM at various Fox River Valley locations.

Locations

  • Neenah: Jefferson and Kimberly Point Park
  • Menasha: Fritse Park / Trestle Trail
  • Appleton: Lutze Park, Peabody Park, Vulcan Park / Paper Discovery, Lawe Street / Newberry Trail
  • Kimberly: Sunset Park
  • Little Chute: Historical Marker
  • Combined Locks: Doyle Park Overlook from Prospect Street
  • Kaukauna: Riverside Park, Thousand Island near Z, Ahlstrom-Munksjo (Formerly Expera) Parking Area
  • Wrightstown: Bridge and Boat Ramp

See map for directions to sites.

Those wishing to help out at a specific site should contact Cheryl at croot@newalliance.org. Others wishing to visit more than one site should feel free to just drop by and meet monitors and help with observations. No experience necessary. Fun for the whole family.

End of Year Reception

A reception is scheduled to take place at Atlas Waterfront Cafe from 10:00 until 11:30. During this time monitors will share their experiences and a WDNR wildlife specialist will give an update on data collected over the past year. The reception is made possible through financial support of Evergreen Credit Union, Appleton, Wisconsin. Visitors are invited.

Common Goldeneyes

Common Goldeneye ducks floating along the Fox River in Appleton Wisconsin’s Lutz Park. Photo by Donna VanBuecken

There are a number of us who participate in the eagle monitoring program hosted by WDNR. We count the eagles we see along the Fox River for 90 minutes during sunrise, once a month during November through March. We often see other wildlife, especially waterfowl. This past Saturday, December 8, 2019, it was 10 degrees at sunrise; fog was rising from the water’s surface. As the sun rose higher in the sky and before I left my monitoring site, the fog was so dense you could hardly see across to the other side of the river.

Common Goldeneye Ducks

The distinct coloring of the male goldeneye is shown beautifully in the photo below. With their white body and black back and their greenish-black head with a white spot on each side of their face, the males stood out even in the fog.

A pair of Common Goldeneyes (Bucephala clangula). Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

In the video below I’ve recorded a flock of Common Goldeneye ducks lifting off the water. If you listen closely, you’ll hear the whistling of their wingbeats. They would fly west down the river and then float back. Ah! The life of a duck!!

“Common Goldeneye (Bucephala clangula) is a Special Concern species in Wisconsin. It is a medium-sized diving duck with a chunky body and a large head. The males are white with a black back. The head is greenish-black with a white spot on each side of the face. The females have a light-brown head. They have a white belly, breast and flanks, interfaced with a gray back, wings and tail. Both sexes have a distinctive bright yellow to pale yellow eyes.

The species is an uncommon breeder in Wisconsin that nests in cavities with most individuals seen here (in Wisconsin) during migration or winter. During the breeding season, it is found near ponds, lakes, and rivers in woodland areas. The clutch size varies from 5 to 16 eggs that are incubated by the female for 28 to 32 days. The species is threatened by the impacts of pesticides, deforestation, as well as decreased water quality. The recommended avoidance period for this species is April 10 – July 10.” (WDNR)

Added note: Common Goldeneyes can reach speeds of 40 mph in flight.

Looking for Occupied Bald Eagle Nests in Southeastern Wisconsin

The following is reprinted from the WDNR Weekly On-line News dated April 10, 2018:

Ecologists ask for public’s help in reporting occupied bald eagle nests in southeastern Wisconsin

MADISON – State ecologists conducting aerial surveys for occupied bald eagle nests this spring are asking for the public’s help in locating nests in southeastern Wisconsin.

Bald eagles are on their nests in southern Wisconsin, including this one along the Lower Wisconsin Riverway in the Spring Green Area, and DNR aerial surveys for occupied nests are underway. Photo credit: Michael Balfanz

Bald eagles are on their nests in southern Wisconsin, including this one along the Lower Wisconsin Riverway in the Spring Green Area, and DNR aerial surveys for occupied nests are underway. Photo credit: Michael Balfanz

The discovery last year of a bald eagle nest in Kenosha County leaves Milwaukee and Walworth counties as the only remaining counties with no confirmed active bald eagle nests, though conservation biologists believe it is only a matter of time before the nation’s symbol sets up housekeeping there too.

“We’ve been able to add a number of ‘new’ bald eagle territories in southeastern Wisconsin over the past couple years, thanks in part to crowd-sourcing information from people calling in their observations as well as the ongoing efforts of the Wisconsin Breeding Bird Atlas,” says Sharon Fandel, southeastern district ecologist for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

Fandel already has completed aerial surveys this spring with DNR pilots to look for occupied bald eagle nests in southeastern Wisconsin and has confirmed seven new nesting locations. About half of them came from citizen reports and the other half resulted from honing in on areas with clusters of reported eagle observations from WBBA and other birding reports.

“Now we’re hoping more people will let us know about possible occupied bald eagle nests to check in southeastern Wisconsin, particularly in Milwaukee and Walworth counties,” says Fandel.

Aerial surveys are underway across the state now to check known eagle nests to see if they are actively being used by breeding adult eagles. Survey data are used both internally and externally to protect these nest sites when various activities are being planned across the state.

If you observe an active bald eagle nest, with adults incubating eggs or exhibiting other breeding behaviors, you are encouraged to report your sightings in one of these ways:

In other good news, the bald eagle pair confirmed in Kenosha County last year is back. They’ve built an alternative nest on an adjacent landowner’s property closer to a couple larger ponds, Fandel says.

Bald eagle populations have gradually recovered in Wisconsin and nationally as a result of the banning of the pesticide DDT nationally in 1972 (and in Wisconsin in 1969), a prohibition on killing of eagles, improved water quality in lakes and rivers, nest protection, and reintroduction of eagles in some areas. Bald eagles were removed from Wisconsin’s endangered species list in 1997 and from the federal list in 2007. In 2017, Wisconsin aerial surveys confirmed a record 1,590 occupied nests.