City of Lake Geneva

City of Lake Geneva


Habitat Creation, Protection, and Monitoring

A. Comply with Wisconsin's "Smart Growth" law for land use planning and resource management. This criterion is an option only for applications submitted before July 1, 2017.

The City of Lake Geneva adopted the “City of Lake Geneva Comprehensive Plan” on December 14, 2009.

B. Describe organized bird monitoring or data obtained from researchers or volunteers in the local park system. (Exclusions: Programs that receive credit under 4C: Christmas Bird Count, Great Backyard Bird Count, Swift Night Out)

The City of Lake Geneva's Purple Martin Project, begun in 2018 with grant funding, involves volunteers monitoring seven Purple Martin houses, located on City of Lake Geneva parkland. Funding from the City of Lake Geneva allowed the Committee to add a gourd-structure, with six nest boxes, in the spring of 2020. The volunteers check on the houses on a routine basis (approximately every three days during the spring and summer months). Volunteers were trained and equipped to monitor and record activity from nesting to fledging. The colony is growing and thriving.  In 2018 volunteers recorded 23 fledglings and this number grew to 43 in 2021.  In the photo section, please see - Category 1B - 2021 Purple Martin nest monitoring - egg and hatchlings and Category 1B - 2021 Purple Martin nest monitoring - colunteer checking and cleaning.

F. Show that your community offers the public information on how they can control and remove invasive species in order to improve or maintain bird habitat.

The City of Lake Geneva’s website provides a link to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) at City Website Link to WDNR to provide residents with information on the control and removal of invasive species.  In addition, on the City of Lake Geneva's website, there is a link to a brochure on keeping "Stopping Aquatic Hitchhikers" posted under the "Click and Learn" section. This informs boaters of ways to avoid bringing invasive species into Geneva Lake. The water quality of the lake, influences the health of fish, insects, and plants that are critical for the preservation of habitat and food sources for a wide variety of birds - including various species of Duck, Swfits, Lunes, Merganzers, Coots, and Raptors. Citizens can also contact the arborist for help with the identification and removal of invasive plants.  

In addition, a consortium of conservation-minded, non-profit groups banded together in 2021 to purchase and deploy a boat-washing station to help reduce the introduction of invasive species in Geneva Lake.  In the documents section, please see a sample report on the boat washing station - “Category 1F - Boat Washing Station June 2021 Report.”

G. Document that there is a segment of the Great Wisconsin Birding and Nature Trail or a designated Important Bird Area within or adjacent to your community.

Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge is located in Walworth County, Wisconsin and McHenry County, Illinois and serves as a globally important corridor for migratory birds. It provides habitat for 109 species of concern that include federal and state threatened and endangered species. It was officially established in 2012 and the first segment was open to the public in 2019. The Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge boundary employs a cores and corridors concept for wildlife preservation with a focus on migratory and grassland birds.

As the refuge continues to grow, the staff and volunteers are working to connect conserved land in southeast Wisconsin and northeast Illinois, linking lands conserved by local, county, and state agencies and private organizations. The mission is to restore and connect a landscape that includes large blocks of grasslands, wet prairies, and natural stream watercourses.

The White River County Park is Walworth County’s newest and largest park. The 195-acre farm was acquired in 2012. It is located near Lake Geneva and has two miles of frontage on the White River. The county is partnering with the Geneva Lake Conservancy and other local groups to restore this prime acquisition to its native prairie, forest and wetlands.  This park provides critical habitat for resident and migratory birds.  Visitors are encourage to go birding and trail maps, like the one provided in the documents section, Category 1G - White River Birding Trail Map, equip visitors with information on birds they are likley to see in the park.  These include Meadowlarks, Goldfinch, a variety of ducks, Red-winged Blackbirds, and a growing number of Bald Eagles.

H. Show that the local Chamber of Commerce or a similar group (e.g., an Audubon chapter, Wild Ones, etc.) takes an active role in the planning process for protecting and enlarging favorable bird habitat.

The Geneva Lake Conservancy is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization located in Walworth County . Over the last 40 years the Conservancy has protected more than 2,000 acres through conservation easements and land donations. The Conservancy also works with other public and private organizations to acquire and protect land with high conservation value in priority areas. They advocate through educational programs on such topics as birds, and oak tree preservation as well as programs encouraging native plantings for monarch and pollinator species. The Conservancy is dedicated to ecology, the preservation of open space and the history of our natural spaces. The Conservancy directs its efforts toward shaping zoning policies and decisions, public and private land conservation, and environmental education. Gathering Waters, the Wisconsin’s Alliance for Land Trusts, named the Geneva Lake Conservancy the Wisconsin Land Trust of the Year in 2020. 

In 2021 the Geneva Lake Conservancy acquired an additional 61 acres of farmland whose donors had worked to restore some of the cropland to prairie and wetlands, and who, together with the GLC, envision full restoration of the land to native ecosystems. In addition, the GLC worked with a land foundation to protect 60 acres of organic farm land in Walworth County with conservation easements that ensure that this prime agricultural land will be preserved.

The Geneva Lake Conservancy also began a “Conservation@Home” program to help educate and activate landowners to make eco-healthy choices in their home landscape that are critical to the health of resident and migratory birds.  In the photo section, please see Category 1H - 2021 Conservation @ Home - Bird-friendly yard outreach.

On of the areas preserved by the Conservancy is Bromley Woods.  This has been the site of the Conservancy's annual bird walks.  This bird walk was the highlight of the Conservancy's 2021 Bird Festival.  As noted in section 4E, in 2021 the Conservancy partnered with the Lakeland Audubon Society, the City of Lake Geneva Avian Committee, and three area elementary schools on a youth-specific bird walk and educational program. Conservancy partners with the Lakeland Audubon Society to lead a Bird Walk each May.  In 2021 this special educational program was made possible through a grant awarded to the City of Lake Geneva Avian Committee from the Environmental Education Foundation.

Lakeland Audubon Society is a chapter of the National Audubon Society that serves the Geneva Lake area . Their mission is to support the Audubon Society’s programs. They actively advocate for conservation efforts through their electronic newsletter, blog, and Facebook page, and hold a yearly bird seed sale to promote backyard bird watching and provide quality food for our overwintering and migrating species.  In 2021, Lakeland continued to lead bird walks to carry forward their efforts to inspire and educate bird enthusiasts, though for COVID-safety they have had to suspend their indoor monthly meetings. Using the outdoor education programs and their electronic newsletter and Facebook, the Lakeland Chapter equips and educates residents in ways to protect and expand bird habitat.  Please see an example of that educatinal effort in the newletter highlighting the benefit of native plants for bird habitat.  Please see, Category 1H - November 2021 "The Chat" newletter including the article "Fall Bonanza"

The City of Lake Geneva’s Chamber of Commerce - Visit Lake Geneva (VLG) - functions as the tourism promotion agency for the region as well as the Chamber of Commerce for Lake Geneva. VLG is actively engaged with the Avian Committee to promote birding events through their publications, digital advertising, and social and traditional media.The City of Lake Geneva’s Chamber of Commerce - Visit Lake Geneva (VLG) - functions as the tourism promotion agency for the region as well as the Chamber of Commerce for Lake Geneva. VLG is actively engaged with the Avian Committee to promote birding events through their publications, digital advertising, and social and traditional media. In the documents section, please see Category 1H - Birding article in 2021 Visit Lake Geneva Visitors Guide.

As noted throughout this application, these organizations are actively collaborating with the Avian Committee on multiple projects.

L. Show that your community has restored at least two acres of woodlands, wetlands, or prairie.

The City of Lake Geneva’s 40-acre Four Seasons Nature Preserve is on County Highway H, just southeast of Geneva Lake. The city has restored over five acres by cleaning out scrub plants and planting native plants and wild flowers to provide food and shelter for birds and other animals. The restoration was done with community service students under city supervision. Interpretive signs on the trails note the native species and their importance for various bird, animal, and insect populations.

There is a significant avian population throughout the park including bird-houses for Wood-ducks, Purple Martins, and Blue Birds. The prairie, oak openings, and pond provide shelter and food for migrating birds, such as Sandhill Cranes.  Lake Geneva also built - and continues to maintain - a wooden walkway more than 1,000 feet in length.  In the photo section, please see Category 1L - 2021 Sandhill Crane migration over Four Seasons Nature Preserve.

In 2021, as part of the Avian Committee’s World Migratory Bird celebration, fifth-graders from a local school wrote and illustrated a nine-page, storybook aimed at early readers (first and second graders).  Along with the story of a Bluebird family that migrates to the preserve in the spring, the students also included an activity with each page (such as looking for a bird) and a fun fact about a bird or the preserve. With each of the pages installed on wooden trail signs, the Storybook Trail guides visitors on a half mile walk through the preserve.  The grand opening of the Storybook Trail in 2021 was attended by nearly 100 people and the preserve is now attracting many more families and children who are learning about resident and migrating birds.

In the photo section, please see Category 1L - Four Seasons Nature Preserve Wide Shot, Category 1L - Four Seasons Nature Preserve - example of interpretive sign highlighting native plants, Category 1L - Bloodwort - Four Seasons Nature Preserve, and Category 1L - Four Seasons Nature Preserve - 2021 Storybook Trail launch.

M. Demonstrate that your community offers a program for private property owners who are interested in dealing with invasive plants that have significant negative impacts on bird habitat.

The City of Lake Geneva is very concerned about invasive shrubs and plants and their encroachment into wooded areas. To that effect, the City has established several ways for residents to get information on how to control the spread of invasive plants and shrubs. The City provides information on its website under "Prevent the Spread" which links to the WDNR’s excellent resources on invasive species. A resident may call the City Arborist for information and help in dealing with these plants on their property. Residents can contact the County Extension office for information

Since a critical part of the Lake Geneva bird habitat is Geneva Lake, it should also be noted that the Geneva Lake Environmental Agency is also working with the Geneva Lake Association and other area task forces to educate the community and organize efforts to equip boat owners and property owners around the lake in ways to limit the incursion of invasion aquatic species and to take action to rid the lake of these invaders.   Please see this link to Geneva Lake Environmental Agency information on preventing the spread of invasive aquatic plants that threaten the health of the lake, a critical part of resident and migrant bird habitat

P. Demonstrate the implementation of a program to preserve Chimney Swift nesting and roosting sites (preferred) and/or to construct Chimney Swift towers.

The City of Lake Geneva owns several buildings, two of which have large chimneys (40+ feet tall), at the Water Department and the Geneva Lake Museum. One, the chimney at the Geneva Lake Museum attracts thousands of Chimney Swifts on an annual basis. This has been the site of the City's Swift Night Out event for the past decade.  When the City found that the other chimney (Water Department) had been capped, this was uncapped for the swifts. A third chimney, in a local church also serves as a Chimney Swift roost.  In 2020, an additional nesting chimney was identified at a retail shop in downtown Lake Geneva. Please see The City of Lake Geneva owns several buildings, two of which have large chimneys (40+ feet tall), at the Water Department and the Geneva Lake Museum. One, the chimney at the Geneva Lake Museum, attracts thousands of Chimney Swifts on an annual basis. This has been the site of the City's Swift Night Out event for the past decade.  When the City found that the other chimney (Water Department) had been capped, this was uncapped for the swifts. A third chimney in a local church also serves as a Chimney Swift roost.  An additional nesting chimney was identified at a retail shop in downtown Lake Geneva.  In the photo section, please see the following:  Category 1P - Chimney Swifts at Geneva Lake Museum Chimney and Category 1P - Chimney Swifts at Olive Oil Shop Chimney in downtown Lake Geneva.

Q. Document the establishment of a program to promote the conservation of Purple Martins through research, state of the art management techniques, or public education.

The Purple Martin Project was started by the City of Lake Geneva Avian Committee in 2018. The Avian Committee was awarded a WE Energies grant and worked to obtain matching funds from volunteers who solicited donations. This allowed the purchase of state-of-the-art Purple Martin houses. The Committee partnered with researcher Dick Nikolai of the Wisconsin Purple Martin Association, an expert on Purple Martin breeding and behavior and a retired Wisconsin DNR wildlife biologist, to research, buy, and site these houses. A core of volunteers was recruited to monitor the houses and collect data, interact with and educate residents and tourists, and participate in various community education programs. Both Nikolai and Helen Pugh, from the Hoy Audubon Society, educated volunteers in state-of-the-art management techniques for the new colony. Nikolai also worked with the volunteers to band the fledglings.  In 2021, the City of Lake Geneva Avian Committee members and volunteers continue to monitor the colony and to look for birds banded in 2019.  In 2021, the volunteer nest keepers have gained knowledge and experience with this colony and, with the advice of experts, have determined that grouping houses attracts more nesting pairs to the colony. Therefore, several houses were relocated to enhance the colony along the lakeshore path.  The first year the houses were in place, 2018, twenty-three birds fledged from the new colony nests. In 2021, that number had grown to forty-three.  The colony is thriving.  In the photo section, please see Category 1Q - 2021 Purple Martin nesting pair at colony house.

Since large gatherings were not possible in 2021, the Avian Committee could not hold large, formal informational meetings, but volunteers who managed along the lakeshore path - a high foot traffic area - continued to take time to speak with, and educate, residents and visitors about the City’s Purple Martin Colony project. Since volunteers monitor the houses multiple times per week, this provided the opportunity for many interactions with residents and visitors. Outreach to the public continued even when volunteers were not present, through interpretative signage. The City of Lake Geneva Avian Committee, with the support of city leadership and the assistance of the Public Works Department, purchased, sited, and installed one interpretive sign near the Public Library. In 2021 a second sign on the lakeshore path and near three Purple Martin houses. Information on the colony and on Purple Martin conservation was also posted on the Avian Committee's Facebook page.  Please see Category 1T - One of two Purple Martin interpretive signs.

In 2021 public education efforts also expanded to the local Girl Scout and Brownie troops. One example of such outreach was a Purple Martin house tour for Junior Girl Scouts as part of the committee’s work to mentor the young ladies through their Animal Habitat badge. Committee members guided the girls on a bird walk along the shore path to see the Purple Martins fly above the lake to feed and then a tour of the houses and nest boxes. Girl Scouts learned about the history of the relationship between Purple Martins and humans and the current functioning of the colony.  In the Photo section, please see Category 1Q - Girl Scouts learning about the Purple Martin Colony.  

Committee members and volunteers also encouraged private property owners to install Purple Martin houses. During visits, these members and volunteers assisted residents in house management and monitoring.  In the photo section, please see Category 1Q - Private Purple Martin House along the lakeshore.

T. Document that your community maintains a birding trail or hot spot location with educational signage and/or literature. (Note: A birding hotspot alone is not sufficient - your community must actively promote birding and public education at the site itself.)

The City of Lake Geneva Avian Committee has partnered with other city committees and conservation groups to create two birding trails in the city. As noted in Section 1P, one trail is found along the City’s Lakeshore Path. This trail features two interpretive signs and various informal “tours” of the Purple Martin colony lead by volunteer nest-keepers. The second interpretive sign was funded, sited, and installed in 2021 near three active Purple Martin houses as part of the Avian Committee's public education and outreach about this expanding colony. Please see the photo section for Category 1T - One of two Purple Martin interpretive signs.  The Avian Committee, along with the Public Library of Lake Geneva, and funding partners Alliant Energy Foundation and Simple Bakery and Market also provide birding hotspot maps and literature in the Alliant Energy Bird-watching Kits, available for free check-out at the public library. This project is explained in greater depth in Category 4L.  Residents and visitors along the lakeshore path can use the binnoculars and bird identification materials in the kits to spot birds from the Purple Martin Colony, but also a host of birds who flock to the lake as summer residents or as migrants.  In the photo section, please see Category 1T - Purple Martins gathered on the Lake Geneva Pier sign and Category 1T - Bonaparte Gulls gathered at a lakefront pier.

In addition, the Avian committee added educational signage at the Four Seasons Nature Preserve. When this trail was created signage was placed along the trail that informed walkers about the native plants and trees that are found in the preserve, and the animals, insects, and birds that rely on these natives for food and habitat. These signs are geared for adults.
In 2021, with the mentoring of Avian Committee members, fifth-graders at a local school created a story-book trail aimed at young children and families. Each of the nine signs lead the walker around one of the trails. On each sign the students display one page of the story that they wrote about a Bluebird family that migrates to the preserve, along with a fun fact about the birds and the flora at the preserve, and one activity to do at that spot (such as look for a nest or birdhouse).
Also in 2021, as part of the introduction of the Storybook Trail, the committee posted introductory materials in the large, permanent, weather-resistant display signs at the trailhead. These materials include a map to introduce the trail, a poster noting the Bird City designation for the city, and pictorial posters of native Midwestern birds and plants so that visitors can anticipate encountering while walking and visiting the preserve.  In the photo section, please see Category 1T - Dedication and map for the Storybook Trail at Four Seasons Nature Preserve, Category 1T - Signage at the entrance to Four Seasons Nature Preserve, Category 1T - Example of one of the Storybook Trail signs,  and Category 1T - Example showing the content of one of the Storybook pages/Trail signs at Four Seasons Nature Preserve.

Community Forest Management

A. Demonstrate that your community has been awarded Tree City USA status by the National Arbor Day Foundation.

Lake Geneva continues to be recognized as a Tree City USA by the Arbor Day Foundation following its initial award in 1995.  The city continues its commitment to maintaining this important award.

Limiting or Removing Threats to Birds

A. Describe your community’s educational program to control free-roaming cats and/or the manner in which you actively publicize the Cats Indoors! initiative.

The City of Lake Geneva has a web page dedicated to Dog and Cat Owner Responsibility and also displays this information in handouts available in the City Hall Lobby. This information explains the City’s ordinance that requires that all cats be either indoors or safely confined.  Dog and cat leash laws are enforced in a cooperative effort by several city departments. All street department personnel, utility personnel, police personnel, fire personnel and the code enforcement officer are asked to report any loose dogs or cats to the Code Enforcement Officer. The animals are then caught, and either taken to the Walworth County animal rescue shelter or returned to the owner if there is a license tag on the animal and it has had its shots. The first time, the owners are warned and if the animal is caught again, a ticket will be issued

In addition to the City’s information and code enforcement, the City of Lake Geneva Avian Committee has developed educational materials about the need to keep cats indoors for both Brownies and Junior Girl Scouts.  As part of badge requirements, both levels of Girl Scouts researched and developed posters to communicate to their neighbors about the need to keep cats indoors.  Please see the photo in Category 3A – 2021 Brownie Badge Poster:  How to be a bird buddy by keeping birds safe.

B. Demonstrate that your community provides property owners with information on how to protect birds from window strikes (e.g., online links, brochures).

Wisconsin Bird City decals (anti-window-strike devices) are sold at City Hall. Information documents on the prevention of window strikes are available at City Hall. The source of these pamphlets is the American Bird Conservancy.

The City website provides links to the American Bird Conservancy and notes the following,"As part of our strategic conservation framework, we tackle the biggest threats to birds. When it comes to bird collisions, we work with manufacturers to develop bird-safe glass and provide easy solutions for homeowners. We push for wind turbines and associated power lines and towers to be placed in areas that minimize impacts on federally protected birds."  [City of Lake Geneva website link - bird collision information]. 

In 2021, part of the public outreach and educational efforts of the Avian Committee of Lake Geneva was to work with Brownies and Junior Girl Scouts on bird-related badges.  As part of the curriculum created by the committee, both the Brownies and Junior Girl Scouts researched ways to help protect birds and create a means to assist them in communicating this information to others.  A required part of that message was ways that they could equip others to help prevent bird-window strikes.  In the photo section, please see an example of a poster that the Junior Girl Scouts created, Category 3B - Junior Girl Scout poster showing ways to limit bird-window strikes.  Also in the photo section, please see Category 3B – Cords to prevent window strikes - Avian Committee members demonstrating this for Brownies.  This photo shows two committee members, Kelley Happ and Jill Rodriguez, demonstrating how to hang cords on windows to prevent bird strikes.

G. Show how your community regulates communication tower construction, siting, and lighting to mitigate their risk to migrating birds.

Most communication antennas in Lake Geneva are on city-owned water towers. There are few free-standing towers. Lake Geneva’s zoning does permit towers in the industrial park areas as a conditional use. However, the City has never received an application to construct such a tower. While it is illegal to ban communication towers, this conditional-use-process would make it significantly more difficult to construct a tower in Lake Geneva.

Using information provided by Bird City Wisconsin, Brian Lenz, the Committee provided consultation to the Lake Geneva YMCA to inform the planning and design of the building of a new facility.  This was appropriate given that the plans called for extensive glass windows and the building site is adjacent to a natural area.

H. Document that your community operates a significant Lights Out program that dims building lights to reduce collisions during spring and fall migration or that you have an outdoor lighting ordinance that includes Lights Out during bird migration.

Exterior Lighting Zoning Ordinance 98-707 - regulated.....The Geneva Lake Dark Sky Initiative is a local community movement raising awareness of light pollution in our area. Research shows that artificial light at night has negative effects on many species. This year the Geneva Lake Astrophysics and Steam organization (GLAS), affiliated with Yerkes educational outreach, is also working on ways to monitor and measure the amount of light pollution around the lake.  In 2021 GLAS added full time Dark Skies staff to provide leadership, resources and outreach efforts to improve the dark skies status of the Geneva Lake community. More information on the GLAS Dark Skies educational programs can be found at

The City of Lake Geneva has only one tall building. Built in the 1960s, it was one of two planned towers. Following its completion, the Common Council passed an ordinance limiting the height of buildings to a maximum of 45 feet in the downtown area and 35 feet in all other parts of Lake Geneva. The second tower was never built. The initial tower had four very large spotlights on each side of the roof for security reasons. The City asked the tower association to consider turning those lights off permanently to protect the bird population and to cut down on the light that would affect the environment for astronomy. The tower association followed the City’s request and disconnected the lights in 2013. The City of Lake Geneva Ordinance: Section 98-707 Exterior Lighting Standards (Ord. No. 14-12, January 22, 2015) regulates outdoor lighting.

Public Education

A. Demonstrate that schools in your community participate in a nationally-recognized environmental education program (e.g., Flying WILD, Audubon Adventures) or that your community organizes its own substantial education and outreach program for young people. 

In 2021 the Avian Committee's educational programming continued in the classroom, but also expanded to other young groups. New outreach programs were initiated with Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts and will be described in the 4E Narrative. The Learning to Soar curriculum continued to be offered at St. Francis Elementary School (see describtion below).  The lead educator, Jill Lorenzi, and the school were honored by City Council and the mayor for their continued and diligent efforts to implement the curriculum and to contribute to the city's efforts to protect birds.  In the documents section, please see the city council agenda and proclamation from September 13, 2021 noted as Category 4A - 2021 Proclamation honoring Learning to Soar Program.  In 2021 portions of the curriculum needed to be modified to facilitate Covid 19 protocols, including limited indoor mentoring by experts.  Experiential learning exercises, such as the Migratory Game, were modified to allow the teacher alone to run the game.  In the photo section, please see Category 4A - Bird Migratory Game materials - modified to meet Covid 19 protocols.  In addition, a new capstone project was developed for 2021.  The students created a Storybook Trail at the city's Four Seasons Nature Preserve.  Mentors from the Avian Committee, Lakeland Audubon Society, the Public Library, the Geneva Lake Conservancy, and a local artist all assisted by virtually meeting with the students for research and classroom work and then meeting the students outside for site research.  In the photo section, please see Category 4A - Four Seasons site visit to research the Storybook Trail.  Please see the documents section for an overview of the project-based learning requirements for the capstone, Category 4A - Storybook Trail 2021 - Project overview.  Students worked in teams to create an original story about a bird that migrates to the perserve, illustrate that story, and link an activity and a "bird fact" to each page of the story.  This capstone was created to provide a project-based, collaborative learning experience that blended in-class work with outdoor exploration and education.  This progress introduced students, staff, and parents to community and governmental groups focused on conservation.

In 2019 members of the Avian Committee in concert with a local educator, Ms. Jill Lorenzi, created a cross-disciplinary, bird-focused curriculum for fifth graders - Learning to Soar.  The curriculum is designed to equip students with information and skills across multiple disciplines.  Using these tools, these citizen scientists will research and use critical thinking skills to understand the complex relationships between humans and birds, and how humans’ actions impact birds’ ability to thrive.  The program was piloted in that year with eighteen students.  Pre and post-testing indicated significant, positive progress in all learning objectives.

In 2020 learning objectives were mapped for each lesson to cover the following Wisconsin 5th grade standards:  Science, (Life Science, (Cross-cutting Concepts, Science & Engineering Practice & Earth Science), English Language Arts (Reading Information Texts, Speaking and Listening), and Math (Measurement and Data).  Lesson worksheets provide formative assessments on one or two standards and tests provide more comprehensive summative assessments.  In the documents section, please see Category 4A - City of Lake Geneva - Learning to Soar Curriculum Overview.  The lessons cover the following.

Unit 1.  Bird Basics:  How do birds make a living?

This unit has five knowledge and skill-building lessons and two engaged learning lessons (to prepare for an engaged learning exercise).  The mission of these lessons is to build the students’ understanding of the basic biology of birds and the necessary internal processes and external resources that are necessary for birds to survive.  This equips the students with the necessary background to move into the higher order research and reasoning necessary to complete a capstone project.  Engaged Learning Exercises for Unit 1 are integrated into the course plan to coincide with The Great Backyard Bird Count (February) or another bird-watching event.   

Unit 2.  Focus on Migratory Birds

This unit has two lessons focused on migratory birds.  Migratory birds provide a basis for introducing complexity into research and modeling (climate, transnational ecosystems/ agriculture/laws/cultures/economies, physics, and risk models). 

Unit 3. Working as a Citizen Scientist

This unit is designed to build the students’ ability to research and integrate information into a cohesion physical and oral presentation.  The structure of the assignment includes common components that can be mentored in a full-class setting, and employs volunteer coaches (ratio 1 coach to 4 students) who serve as mentors to the students and provide structured feedback to the teacher on progress and problems.  Along with recruiting coaches, the Avian Committee members also recruit judges who are equipped with standard rubrics and provide one of the “grading” components for the project. With the assistance of volunteer coaches and local experts (from entities such as the Lakeland Audubon Society and the Geneva Lake Conservancy), each student prepares a “bird fair” exhibit providing sixteen points of information about their migratory bird. Projects had to include a display board and some other research or artistic or creative display.  

In 2020 work began in class work with one fifth grade and plans were underway to replicate the curriculum as an afterschool program in two middle schools.  The first part of the curriculum was successfully implemented and students learned bird basics and played the migratory bird game.  Valued guest lecturers, such as Kevin Dickey, the President of the Lakeland Audubon Society and Nikki Marsicano, a well-know local artist, volunteered their time to educate students.  Please see the documents section for an example of a lesson presentation, designed for in-person instruction: Category A - 2020 City of Lake Geneva - Learning to Soar - Traditional lesson presentation Also, in the  photo section, please see: Category 4A - Learning to Soar Migratory Bird Game 2020, Category 4A - 2020 Learning to Soar Migration Game - Committee member as the wind, and Category 4A Learning to Soar 2020 - Working with a local artist to learn to draw birds.  However, Lake Geneva Area schools shut down in March and educators and committee members had to make a quick transition to online learning.  Afterschool programming was not possible, but presentations, worksheets, and grading rubrics were swiftly drafted to be distributed, completed, and graded using Google Classroom.  An example of a lesson in electronic format is provided in the documents section under:Category 4A - City of Lake Geneva - Learning to Soar - Virtual Assignment - Whooping Crane Puzzle - Geography - Human Impacts on Migratory Birds.

The capstone project for the class for 2021 - as noted earlier in this section - was the creation of a Storybook Trail at the Four Seasons Nature Preserve.

C. Demonstrate that your community is represented in at least one citizen science bird monitoring program (e.g., the Christmas Bird Count, Great Backyard Bird Count, Swift Night Out).

In 2021 despite the Covid-19 pandemic creating some challenges and limited in-person outreach opportunities to attempt to engage community members in the Backyard Back Count, the Avian Committee of Lake Geneva worked to engage adults and children in a variety of ways.  

Using virtual classroom visits, Avian Committee members taught learning to soar students how to identify birds (as part of the Learning to Soar curriculum) and how to enter birds into ebird during the Backyard Bird Count.  Members dropped off seed packets and bird identification materials to the students to equip them. The students and their families report continuing their bird watching and bird recording even after the official count. In the photo section please see Category 4C - 2021 Backyard Bird Count - seed packets and bird identification materials and in the documents section please see Category 4C - introduction to the 2021 Virtual Lecture on Bird Identification and Category 4C - 2021 - Learning to Soar - Backyard Bird Count homework instructions.

The City of Lake Geneva also worked to engage both adults and children in the Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) through outreach to traditional and social media.  Efforts to publicize the count were very successful.  One example was a feature story on the CBS 58 Sunday Morning program.  The story featured bird identification information at the home of one of the members, information about the importance of the GBBC for research, and equipped viewers to enter that information on eBird.  In the photo section, please see Category 4C - Screen shot from CBS 58 Sunday Morning feature story on the Great Backyard Bird Count 2021, Category 4C - Video crew for CBS 58 working on Great Backyard Bird Count 2021.

The Lakeland Audubon Society has been conducting a Christmas Bird Count that encompasses the city for many years. The count circle is centered about two miles west of the city.  More than 50 different species were tallied. Highlights included Northern Flicker, Brown Creeper and Common Redpoll.  In addition, Lakeland also held eagle walks to monitor the growing Bald Eagle population in our region.  In the documents section please see - Category 4C - Information on the 2021 Christmas Bird Count.

D. Describe your community-sponsored annual bird festival. This must be a multi-day event or a truly exceptional one-day event.

Each year, for the past decade, the City of Lake Geneva Avian Committee, in conjunction with the Geneva Lake Museum presents an annual Swift Night Out Program to help raise awareness and encourage interest in Chimney Swifts. Lake Geneva is fortunate to have large populations of Chimney Swifts that migrate through each fall, as well as several tall chimneys, notably at the Geneva Lake Museum, that serve as overnight stops for large flocks for several weeks in September.  The chimney at the Geneva Lake Museum is a traditional gathering place for thousands of these birds as they migrate.  This event is a one-night event where at dusk, at the conclusion of the indoor informational program, everyone goes outside as thousands of these acrobatic birds descend into the chimney.

In 2021, the Avian committee invited Schlitz Audubon to present their wonderful Raptor program “Eagle and Friends” at the Lake Geneva Swift Night Out. Since the program would occur over dinnertime, food trucks and picnic tables were made available throughout the evening. Milwaukee Television CBS Channel 58 weatherman Michael Schlesinger gave an introductory talk on the Chimney Swifts, stressing the vital importance of preserving these local chimneys for their migration. All audience members were provided with an information sheet on Chimney Swifts.  This introduction was followed by the Schlitz Audubon’s raptor program which thrilled the audience with four live raptors, including a magnificent eagle. At dusk everyone was encouraged to gather outside the museum, safely spaced and masked to view the spectacle of thousands of Swifts gathering and descending into the large Museum chimney. The Chimney Swifts unfortunately decided to roost elsewhere this year but a great deal of interest in swifts was generated as many wondered where they were and why they might have chosen another site. For those interested in seeing the Swift gathering, they were directed to the Lake Geneva Bird City Facebook page to view a previous year’s Swift video. In the photo section, please see Category 4D - 2021 Swift Night Out - Eagle - Schilitz Audubon presentation.

The  public had been invited through flyers, Facebook posts, a radio program, and newspaper articles. Our partner entities- Lake Geneva Museum, Lakeland Audubon, the Public Library of Lake Geneva, Visit Lake Geneva, the City’s Tourism Commission, as well as local businesses helped promote this event through social media, flyers, and yard signs. Despite the challenges posed by the continuing pandemic, the event was very successful, attracting more than 250 people to the museum. The event generated print and electronic news articles, radio coverage, and a story on Milwaukee television news.  In the documents section, please see Category 4D - 2021 Swift Night Out promotional material - two-sided rack cards and Category 4D - Chimney Swift information sheet.

E. Illustrate a program that involves schools, garden clubs, or other organizations in bird conservation activities.

 In 2021, Covid-19 restrictions changed througout the year, presenting challenges to the normal operation of many group efforts and events.  However, in 2021 the strategic partnerhips among local groups and clubs continued to strenghten and expand.  For the first time, the Avian Committee of Lake Geneva partnered with local scouting groups - including Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts.  The local Junior Girl Scout troop worked with volunteers from the Avian Committee to understand threats to resident and migratory birds and suggest and develop projects that the young women believed would interest young people in learning solutions to these problems and to love and protect birds.  Along with creating posters and presentations to inspire others to protect birds and bird habitat, the Girl Scouts learned to identify and record bird sightings and share that information.  In the photo section, please see Category 4E - Junior Girl Scouts on a bird watching walk and Category 4E - Avian Committee volunteer working with Cub Scouts to learn about bird identification and - in the documents section - Category 4E - 2021 Outline of one Junior Girl Scout meeting aimed at building awareness of threats to birds and solutions.

The partnership among the groups - Avian Committee of Lake Geneva,  Lakeland Audubon Society, the Geneva Lake Conservancy and the Public Library of Lake Geneva expanded to include the Environemental Education Foundation.  These groups worked together to support education/outreach programs, such as the Backyard Bird Count, World Migratory Bird Day and a student student Bird Walk engaging 45 students from three schools.  Please see this link to the Lake Geneva Regional News for an article about the groups working together to make the bird walk happy - Lake Geneva News article on the partnership for the bird walk. 2021In the documents section, please see Category 4E - 2021 Grant Report to the Environmental Education Foundation from the Avian Committee of Lake Geneva.

The Geneva Lake Museum has been a valued partner and has joined with the Avian Committee of Lake Geneva in sponsoring public engagement and educational programs (including hosting events such as Swift Night Out and informational presentation by Avian Committee members or organized by the committee).  In 2021, the Museum once again hosts a "Parade of Trees."  This annual event is promoted by the Museum (and participating organizations) on social media and newsletters.  The mission of the event is two-fold, to help non-profit organizations get the message out about their causes and to raise money for local charities.  This year (2021) the Avian Committee has once again joined in this event, decorating a "Bird Tree" to promote avian education in the community.  In the photo section please see Category 4E - 2021 Parade of Trees - Avian Committee "bird tree."

F. Demonstrate that your community understands the critical ecological role of pollinators by documenting your Bee City USA status or by describing another substantial effort to promote pollinator health (for ideas visit the Xerxes Society and the Pollinator Partnership).

In 2021, the Geneva Lake Conservancy (GLC) held outdoor events, including “Monarchs Are Marvelous” - a family event about butterflies and pollination and "Picnic on the Prairie" feauring Doug Tallamy, author of Bringing Nature Home: How You Can Sustain Wildlife With Native Plants.  The GLC's ongoing effort to educate and equip homeowners to convert lawns and gardens to native-plant areas for pollinators and birds, the Geneva Lake Conservancy has been providing residential yard assessments and plans - and promoting the importance of natural planting in the life cycle of the Monarch Butterflies and other pollinators species.  Each year they organize and promote the sale of three species of Milkweed and other important plants that provide food and natural habitats for migratory butterflies and other pollinators.  Please see the link to the Conservation@Home program at Geneva Lake Conservancy - Conservation@Home website page .

J. Document that a municipal building has significant bird-friendly landscaping that features native plants AND signage that explains the importance of native plants and providing diverse habitat for birds (e.g., brush piles, water features).

The Public Library of Lake Geneva has a garden of native, perennial plants. This garden was developed by Northwinds Perennial Farm.  The signage in the garden explains the benefit of native plants. Information includes, "This garden will be visited by large numbers of pollinators, moths, butterflies, bees, and diverse seasonal bird activity, providing food and material for nest building." In the photo section, please see Category 4J - Native Plant Gardens at Lake Geneva Public Library.

L. Show that your community works with traditionally underserved communities to increase their access to natural areas, environmental education, birding resources, and local environmental experts.

With the support of a grant from the Alliant Energy Foundation, the City of Lake Geneva Avian Committee assembled six bird-watching backpacks. These backpacks include binoculars, a bird identification book, a diary for recording observations, and a special city-specific birding hotspot map. The Public Library of Lake Geneva volunteered strong support for the program by housing and lending the backpacks to any resident or visitor. The Lakelake Audubon Society provided technical assistance and advice on the components of the kit. This is a no-cost resource available to any family or individual. Despite some Covid-19 restriction on access to the Public Library, would-be bird watchers could still check out the backpacks online and pick them up at  a spot designated by the library.  To continue to build knowledge about - and use of - this free resource, the Avian Committee also integrated the use of the back-packs into outreach efforts with public and private schools and with on bird walks with groups such as the Girl Scouts.  For a picture of the bird-watching kits in action, please see the photo from Category 4E - Junior Girl Scouts on a bird watching walk.

The popularity of the Bird-Watching Kits and the partnership with the Public Library of Lake Geneva inspired activity to improve the backpacks.  In August of 2020, the Simple Bakery and Market awarded the Avian Committee a spot in their fund-raising project - Cookies for a Cause.  Through the sale of Purple Martin cookies, Simple raised and donated more than $300.  In 2021 the Avian Committee used those funds to help purchase bird books and materials to teach beginning readers (pre-school to second grade) about birds.  These materials, as well as programs using those materials, are a free service of the Public Library of Lake Geneva.  In the photo section, please see Category 4L - Avian Committee members joining public library staff to present bird-related resources and  information to young readers.

World Migratory Bird Day (WMBD)

A. This community's municipal body passed the required World Migratory Bird Day resolution.

B. Document and describe your event that incorporates the annual IMBD theme in some fashion. If the event has not yet occurred, please share your detailed plans. For information on the current year’s theme and event materials, please visit the World Migratory Bird Day website. To see what other Bird City communities have done in the past, please view some other profiles on our website.

Despite the challenges of the 2021 Covid-19 pandemic, the World Migratory Bird Day celebrations in Lake Geneva provided multiple leves of outreach and education to community members.  Among the events were the launch of the Storybook Trail at Four Seasons Nature Preserve and a "bird-walk" with a special student day.

In May 2021, as the capstone project for the Learning to Soar educational program, the fifth-grade students from St. Francis de Sales Elementary School presented their gift to the community - a Storybook Trail at the Four Seasons Nature Preserve.  More than 100 people attended the event. Joining students, parents, and school staff, members of supporting and funding groups attended.The Mayor of Lake Geneva - Charlene Klein - spoke on behalf of city leaders.  Members of the board of the Environmental Education Foundation, the President - Stephanie Klatt - of Visit Lake Geneva and members of her executive team, Park Board Commissioners, Geneva Lake Conservancy Executives, and the director of the Public Library and members of her team joined City of Lake Geneva Avian Committee members to celebrate this new bird-focused resource.  In the photo section please see Category 6B - 2021 World Migratory Bird Day - Storybook Trail Launch - group shot with students and Visit Lake Geneva leaders, Category 6B - 2021 World Migratory Bird Day - Mayor Klein and EEF Board Member reading sign.

Since the trail was designed to get young readers interested in birds, perhaps the most important guests at the lauch were second graders.  The highlight of the event was the "test-drive" by the children.  Groups of fifth-graders toured the younger students around the trail, helping them read the signs, do the activities (like looking for bird nests), and introducing them to the "brillant bird facts" noted on the signs.  In the photo section, please see Category 6B - 2021 Student creators touring younger children around the Storybook Trail and Category 6B - 2021 Helping young readers interpret the Storybook Trail signs. In the photo section please see Category 6B - 2021 Young readers at the Storybook Trail sign for WMBD and Cateogry 6B - 2021 WMBD Storybook Trail tours at the launch event.

The second major event for the World Migratory Bird celebration was a "Bird Walk."  The Geneva Lake Conservancy (GLC) hosts an event each year on a May weekend.  In the past the Avian Committee of Lake Geneva has partnered to promote this event and engage younger people.  In 2021 this effort expanded.  The Avian Committee was awarded a grant by the Environemental Education Committee and partnered with the GLC and the Lakeland Audubon Society to hold a special day for students and school staff from three elementary school.  The walk was held at Bromley Woods.  With the grant monies and other donations, 45 students and their teachers were prepatory materials, maps and information on birds they were likley to see at bird-watching basics; bus transportion; guides and instructors to take them on small-group bird walks; binoculars (including the ones from the Alliant Energy Bird-watching kits; lunch; and a speaker who taught the students about bird calls and songs.  In the photo section please see Category 6B - 2021 Student Bird Walk - WMBD - students and teacher on bird walk.  In the documents section, please see Category 6B - 2021 WMBD celebration Bird Walk pre-read and Category 6B - 2021 WMBD celebration Bird Walk bifold program.

Joined Bird City: 2010

Population: 7,771

Incorporated: 1883

Area: 6.55 mi2

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