6/16/2017 7:27:00 AM Avian appeal NLDC Bird Club provides an educational resource for all things birds
Dean Hall/Lakeland Times
The North Lakeland Discovery Center Bird Club frequently takes field trips, like the one pictured last June with DNR wildlife biologist Michele Woodford during a trip to the Powell Marsh Wildlife Area.
Amber Roth, assistant professor of forest wildlife management at the University of Maine gives a presentation on June 5 at the Minocqua Public Library on Golden Winged Warbler Geolocator Research as part of the NLDC Bird Club’s monthly meeting sessions.
The North Lakeland Discovery Center Bird Club has long stood as one of the go-to resources for established and prospective birders in the Northwoods of Wisconsin. Continuing its mission of providing an education outlet, the Bird Club has grown to upwards of 60 members, all with a passion for all things birds.
Two of those members include treasurer Dave Foster and former president John Randolph. Both men thank the Bird Club for taking their interest and knowledge to the next level, but beyond that say the club serves as an entity to raise awareness for conservation issues, such as the impacts of lakeside development.
Foster and his wife retired to the area in 2004, and while visiting Cranberry Fest in Eagle River, he noticed a stand for the North Lakeland Discovery Center with two people sitting at it. He inquired further, asking "is there any sort of bird organization or bird club in the area?"
Sure enough, there was. Zach Wilson and Sarah Johnson, staff members of the Discovery Center and birders themselves, gave Foster all the information he needed to join and begin attending meetings and outings, though the club was still in its infancy at that point and some bylaws needed to be set for the club to continue in a systematic way.
"We wrote a series of bylaws and by 2005 we named our first president in Guy David," Foster said. "At that time, we decided that number one - we wanted to have regularly scheduled outings, once a week, on Thursdays. Number two - we took the initiative to start monthly meetings, which had programs about birds and were open to the public."
These programs range from Department of Natural Resources representatives to scientists to artists who use birds as the primary subject. Most recently on June 5, Amber Roth, assistant professor of forest wildlife management at the University of Maine, gave a presentation on Golden Winged Warbler Geolocator Research at the Minocqua Public Library.
"Our goal was and is - was to allow us to do birding, to become better birders and to keep records of the birds that we saw that we had a more formal knowledge base," Foster said, noting the club now has 12 years of records of identified birds in the area.
Educating others about the role birds play within the environment is a large part of the Bird Club's mission, which ultimately played a key role in the growth of the club.
A few years into the club's formalization, a contract was set up with Department of Natural Resources, which engages the club in doing shoreline surveys to attempt to better understand the impact of lakeshore development on bird populations. The DNR funded this project for years and was sponsored by the NLDC, but the budget for this initiative was cut two years ago.
Perhaps the Bird Club's marquee event is the annual Northwoods Birding Festival, held annually every May for the last 13 years.
"Unfortunately, some of those years it has snowed, so we've played with that date," Foster said.
The 2017 festival held everything from an opening ceremony presentation by Scott Walter, "Beyond the Fence Line: How Landscape Ecology can Inform Habitat Management Decisions" to sunrise warbler walks, field trips and a keynote presentation from Pat Ready, "Attracting Bluebirds to Your Yard or Natural Area."
"That goal to do as much work ourselves, and also engage the public in educational programs, I would say are the two most important goals our club has," Foster said.
One issue Foster said the club needs to address, is engagement of a younger generation in birding.
"We're need to keep working to try and attract younger people, maybe people with children who would want to become active birders, perhaps join the club and join us on our field trips and be part of monthly programs," he said.
For John Randolph, his involvement in the Bird Club did not start much differently from Foster's. He and his wife moved from Kansas to the Northwoods in 2006 for retirement and they brought their birding interest with them. Immediately, they went to a NLDC Bird Club outing in Presque Isle, who incidentally was led by Dave Foster.
"It was a very enjoyable experience, so we joined the bird club right away," Randolph said.
Randolph became a little bit apprehensive when he learned of some of the bird club's outings early start times, but said that subsided quickly as his own interest grew and grew.
"A little side note - our youngest daughter suggested that we pick up a second language to sort of stave off dementia. I was hoping that learning bird songs would qualify," he joked. "I've learned quite a few now, but nothing compared to some of the top birders in our group."
Randolph has noticed a trend in his years with birding that more often than not, birders are more than willing to take less experienced under their wing (how's that for a pun?) and share their gained knowledge.
"To me, that's the absolute number one joy in going out with a group in the morning, is that there are people there who really have a much higher level of skill," he said. "Any activity, whether it's birding, or playing tennis, it's just incredible the zillions of levels of skill. I'm sort of intermediate and I'm learning something new every time I go out."
And that's really what the North Lakeland Discovery Center's Bird Club is all about - learning something new. When it comes to birding, knowledge is certainly power, and the experience gaining through the Bird Club's outings and meetings is second to none. For those interested in joining the Bird Club, or are interested in learning more, visit discoverycenter.net and click the "clubs" tab, or call 877-543-2085.
Evan Verploegh may be reached via email at email@example.com.