Making our communities healthy for birds... and people

Town of Port Wing

Town of Port Wing

Habitat Creation, Protection, and Monitoring

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)

David Broadwell, local retired teacher and Park Board member has worked as a contributor to the Wisconsin Breeding Atlas from the inception. In 2019 he worked approximately 10 hours to summarize and submit his final observations.

C. Provide evidence (e.g., official designation of natural areas, easements, etc.) that existing bird habitat within community limits has legal protection. (Exclusions: Leash laws; prohibitions against disturbing nests and wildlife; areas consisting primarily of mowed grass)

There are no local ordinances existing to protect existing bird habitat. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has managed 233 acres of the Port Wing Boreal Forest as a State Natural Area (SNA) east and west areas since 1979. From the DNR website regarding the boreal forest SNA, “Port Wing Boreal Forest encompasses two areas of northern dry-mesic forest on sand spits inland from the present Lake Superior shoreline. The forest has distinct boreal characteristics. Large white and red pines (to 30” diameter) form a canopy over white spruce, balsam fir, red maple, white birch, mountain maple, yellow birch, and white cedar. The ground layer contains blueberries, twinflower, yellow blue-bead-lily, large-leaved aster, three-leaved gold-thread, and several club-mosses. Resident birds in the forest are very diverse and include Veery, Solitary Vireo, Northern Parula, Blackburnian Warbler, American Redstart, Purple Finch, and White-throated Sparrow.” Trails through this SNA are prohibited, however, there are public roads at their borders that allow hiking. A recent fire in the eastern SNA required the DNR to forge small trails for fire fighting equipment. Documentation at the site now indicates that hikers may use the trails but motorized vehicles are still prohibited. Birders often use Big Peter Road, which borders the SNA, as a bird-watching trail.

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.

Park Board member David Broadwell is an avid hiker and reports on invasives he sees and Leann Hess, application writer and Park Board Chair, contacts Bayfield County Weed Management personnel when needed. In 2019 the issue of cutleaf tessel arose again and removal was managed by Bayfield County. The Park Board Chair also receives regular emails from Ramona Shackleford, Northwoods Cooperative Weed Management Area Coordinator, which discusses current issues regarding invasives.

The Town of Port Wing sent two Park Board members to an Invasive Species Management Workshop in April of 2019 in Solon Springs. Information gathered was shared with the Town of Port Wing Road Maintenance crew and also used throughout the summer while visiting with patrons of the Saturday Market.

The DNR pictorial guide to Wisconsin invasives is offered for sale at the Saturday Market in Port Wing during the summer and fall.

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.

The Town of Port Wing has a site on the Great Wisconsin Birding and Nature Trail: Site 16 Port Wing Boreal Forest SNA East and West.

Port Wing is also listed in the Important Bird Areas program with the South Shore Wetlands site.

I. Document a recent project that created or restored bird habitat in your community. (Exclusions: Bird feeders and small-scale artificial nesting structures)

The Town of Port Wing worked with the Wisconsin DNR on a reclamation grant in 2018-19. The project reclaimed the former sewage lagoons. A new system was installed a few years ago and it was porposed to rebuild the former site. The Park and Recreation Board suggested adding features to encourage bird watching and the DNR grant writer agreed. The DNR rep, Michelle Wheeler, and Town Board finished the work that begin in 2018 in the summer of 2019.  Project Objectives: 

Prevent the spread of invasive plant species, especially reed canary grass into existing sedge meadow communities. Maximize restoration of sedge meadow habitat. Provide some open water to provide access from Bibon Lake for fishery spawning and rearing habitat. Provide small patches for scrub shrub habitat (and use of berm material). Provide access via small boat to Bibon Lake. Provide public access and observation area for bird watching.

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

The Town of Port Wing is working with the Department of Natural Resources to reclaim the town's old sewage lagoons. (This project was delayed in 2018 but was completed 2019) The purpose of the restoration is as follows:

The Town of Port Wing (the Town) previously utilized sewage treatment ponds that were constructed in a slough of the Flag River estuary, and near the Port Wing Boreal Forest State Natural Area. When the ponds were abandoned as part of a facility upgrade, the sewage sludge was removed and pond dikes were breached.  The restoration of hydrological conditions and the reestablishment of native vegetation were beyond the scope of the upgrade project. Funding support was awarded to the Town to develop restoration design plans for the project through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. The Town retained Stantec in fall 2016 to develop those plans.  A Project Team of the Town, WDNR, and Northland College established project goals/objectives that meet local community and natural resource needs for the site as follows:    

Project Goal: Restore wetland habitat that is hydrologically connected to the Flag River wetland complex and Lake Superior. 

This project implemented the preferred restoration approach designed by Stantec at the site. The project included: 1) off-site disposal of the berm material and on-site re-use of the berm material for construction of an observation area and improved public access, 2) re-grading the site to depths that will support sedge meadow communities, and 3) distribution of salvaged organic topsoil to provide a seed bank for revegetation. 


R. Show how your community aids a local youth group (e.g., Boy Scouts of America, Girl Scouts of USA, 4-H Club, etc.) or conservation group in bird conservation projects (e.g., bluebird trail, habitat restoration, Wood Duck nest boxes, etc.).

Volunteers spent part of the last day of the 2018-19 school year with second, third, fourth, and fifth graders building bird houses for the South Shore School nature area. Working in small groups, there were 75 students building 25 houses. The instructor also included discussion on the importance of good habitat for migratory birds. The houses were later installed in the School's recently established Outdoor Learning Center trails.

High school science teacher, Beth Hoagland, and students maintain and monitor 16 bluebird houses and report data to the Wisconsin Bluebird Restoration Project.

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.)

This is an item of continued work for the students and staff of the South Shore Schools. Various grade levels and subject areas will be working on informational signage for the recently recovered sewage lagoons. Students started in the summer of 2018 by collecting drone footage of the work area and then the Webmaster for edited a short video for the Town of Port Wing website.


Community Forest Management

B. Implement a municipal moratorium on the trimming of trees and shrubs and the mowing of ditches, storm water retention basins, and other grasslands from May 15 to July 15 to prevent the destruction of active bird nests. (Exceptions: Invasive species control and public safety)

Port Wing Township reestablished a Park and Recreation Board in December of 2015. The six member board has established a “Tribute Tree” program for residents who wish to donate trees or shrubs as a memorial to family or friends. A list of native species is available and a local source has been identified for purchasing native species through the Bayfield/Ashland County Conservation District. The Park Board is also maintaining a Facebook page and is part of the Town website as a way to educate residents about our parks, invasive plants in our area and planting native species and encouraging ongoing maintenance of new plantings. This list of native species is now published to the the Facebook page and Town website to help local residents easily acquire native plantings.

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 Port Wing Area Business Association (PWABA) has provided a space for bird watching opportunities. Included on this site is information from the American Bird Conservancy brochure on “Cats, Birds, and You”.

During the annual Lake Superior Day, July 20, 2019 there was a table to educate attendees about the local observation of International Migratory Bird Day, cats and birds, and how to prevent window strikes to protect birds. There was volunteer at the table to engage attendees. This will be an annual informational event and will continue in 2020.

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

From the Port Wing website, links to:

Keeping Birds Healthy

Avoiding window collisions:  Cornell Lab of Ornithology

All About Birds: How to avoid window collisions Cornell Lab of Ornithology:

Bird Notes - Making your windows safe for birds 

Earth Easy - 9 Ways to Help Birds Avoid Window Collisions

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. 

South Shore second grade teacher Margaret McKnight is working with the fourth/fifth grade teacher, Erika Suo, on several projects. They have a Wisconsin Green Schools Network (WGSN) coach that is providing project support. Margaret's second graders are working on a project with the 3rd and 4th graders to put in a rain garden on an identified part of our school grounds. They are learning about rain gardens, how they work, native plants, and our larger watershed. Students will be writing a grant to fund this project. They have started planting native plants after preparing a plot in the spring. They have also built an outdoor learning space complete with a storytelling circle/gathering space with a storytelling chair as its centerpiece. They have started to add interpretive trails and other structures, as well as native plants and trees to the site. So far they have used the space for natural play and outdoor ed activities and have decorated it with edible bird seed ornaments to attract birds. They are working with the DNR and Superior Rivers Watershed Association on planting trees in the Lost Creek watershed through a grant they received (with them). 

Beth Hoaglund, high school science teacher has classes working on the analysis of methyl-mercury in dragonfly larvae in the PW slough.  This is in coordination with NERR (National Estuarine Research Reserve) which is funded by NOAA.  They continue to work on pond hydrology restoration documentation & sign creation. As the Port Wing wastewater treatment ponds are being restored, students will document and process and collect water quality data and interpretive signs will be produced for the site with student input.

 As the Port Wing wastewater treatment ponds are going to restored, Ms. Hoagland and students will document and process and collect water quality data.  Also, interpretive signs will be produced for the site with student input.  

In the fall of 2017 Ms. Hoagland's biology classes started collecting water samples from the Flag River, which empties into Lake Superior at the Port Wing harbor, to analyze water quality. The classes will begin more analysis in the spring of 2018.

Ms. Hoagland also has students monitoring bluebird houses that have been install around the school property including the new outdoor learning area.

B. Provide web links or a community newsletter demonstrating that your community educates property owners on methods to create and enhance backyard habitat for birds.

The Port Wing Area Business Association is continuing to develop the Port Wing website, which currently has links to the following articles: 

The Old Farmer’s Almanac - Creating Bird-Friendly Habitat

Birds and Blooms - Create the Ultimate Backyard Wildlife Habitat

Sustainable Baby Steps – Creating Your Own Natural Backyard Bird Habitat

The "Birding in Port Wing" section of Port Wing's website contains the slideshow of birds photographed in and around Port Wing. There are over 80 bird photos taken by Laura Erickson. She gave us permission to use them. Each bird was photographed in Port Wing by Laura. We have also added other bird photos taken in the community.

Drone footage of the new wetland restoration project was added to the website during 2019.

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).

Volunteers from the Port Wing and South Shore communities have participated in the Christmas Bird Count since 1998. For the 2014-15 count there were 10 counters in the field and seven at feeders with 31 species identified. For the 2015-2016 count there were nine counters in the field (includes two area communities) and 11 at feeders with 35 species identified. The Christmas Bird Count is organized by a community member and includes Port Wing Township and a number of counters using their feeders. In 2018 there were three field counters from Port Wing and six feeder counters. 2019 had seven field parties and 12 participants and 12 feeders and 16 participants who documented 24 species. No unusual species were seen this year.

Park Board member David Broadwell is a contributor to the Wisconsin Breeding Bird Atlas II. David has been working on this for three years so far with approximately 20 hours each of the last three years.  He knows of at least nine other people working in the area on the same project.

G. Provide a link to your community’s Bird City Wisconsin webpage, which must be visible from the main page of your municipal website (it may be located at the first level of a drop down menu on the main page but cannot be any less visible) OR demonstrate that your Bird City effort has a significant social media presence.

See photo gallery for picture of the Port Wing website with the Bird City logo that connects to the Wisconsin Bird City page.  and connects to our local birding information.

N. OTHER: Demonstrate in a narrative.

As a part of the annual Lake Superior Day celebration on July 20, 2019, authors and birders spoke to approximately 45 participants. Rick Burkman presented a session on birding around Lake Superior.

Port Wing sits along the shore of Lake Superior but it also encompasses the mouth of the Flag River and the estuary associated with it. This area has also been noted as the most eastern part of the St. Louis River estuary and local educators participate in River2Lakes. This organization’s mission, “Rivers2Lakes utilizes the Lake Superior watershed and the St. Louis River, its largest US tributary, as a foundation for educator and student learning, increased Great Lakes literacy, and engagement in watershed restoration at the Lake Superior National Estuarine Research Reserve.” Local teachers Beth Hoagland and Margaret McKnight have participated in teacher training at the Reserve and are using curriculum materials with elementary and high school students. They continue to use this curriculum.

International Migratory Bird Day (IMBD)

A. This community's municipal body passed the required International 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 International Migratory Bird Day website. To see what other Bird City communities have done in the past, please view some other profiles on our website.

The Town board has proclaimed Saturday July 18, 2020 as International Migratory Bird Day for 2020. The Port Wing Area Business Association (PWABA) has historically organized a one-day celebration to participate, along with other communities surrounding Lake Superior, in honoring our community's connections to Lake Superior. The international organization that has traditionally sponsored this day on the third Saturday of July has lost its funding. The PWABA has decided to continue the tradition on its own. Each year’s activities include presentations by local authors, beach restoration (pulling knapweed), National Fish hatchery exhibit, lectures by bird experts, paddle board demonstration, informational tables for Preventing Window Strikes, Keeping Cats Indoors, and Migratory Bird information and education are attended to by volunteers helping with the day's activities. Each year's events are planned in March or April and birding in the Port Wing area is a major focus.