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)

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 3 field counters from Port Wing and 6 feeder counters. Highlights: Pine Grosbeaks, Red Crossbills, a Northern Cardinal, Common Redpolls, over six Bald Eagles, Red-bellied Woodpecker, a Great-horned Owl in an eagle nest, Wild Turkeys. The number of counters does increase slightlty year to year.

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.

D. Document that current municipal planning seeks to provide additional bird habitat.

The Town of Port Wing is working with the Wisconsin DNR on a reclamation grant. The project will reclaim the former sewage lagoons. A new system was installed a few years ago and now it is time to rebuild the former site. The Park and Recreation Board suggested adding features to encourage bird watching and the grant writer agreed. The DNR rep and Town Board are confident that grant will be given to the Town and work will begin in 2018.  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.

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 Port Wing Area Business Association (PWABA) and the local South Shore High School organize students and community members to help eradicate spotted knapweed that has appeared near the Port Wing pier on Lake Superior since the Army Corp of Engineers replaced the pier into the lake in 2012. Biology teacher Beth Hoagland organizes students to help pull knapweed during a school community service day. The township Board has an annual work day in the May and pulling knapweed is an annual activity. The PWABA sponsors Lake Superior Days in July and has set aside time for volunteers to pull knapweed at the beach area affected. In 2017, community member Teri Power registered Port Wing for the "Adopt a Beach" with Alliance for the Great Lake, (Wisconsin Stewardship Affiliate). This project brings people together to clean community beaches. In Port Wing we cleaned the Harbor Beach and pulled spotted knapweed on September 3, 2017.

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.

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. 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. 

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.

This project will implement the preferred restoration approach designed by Stantec at the site. The project will include: 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. 

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 source identified for purchasing native species. 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. The board will begin a survey noting information and location of ash trees in the parks and town. This is in reaction to emerald ash borer disease being found within 50 miles of Port Wing.

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, and is developing information on the Port Wing website, for bird watching opportunities. Included on this site is information from the American Bird Conservancy brochure on “Cats, Birds, and You”. This brochure is also available at the local post office.

During the annual Lake Superior Days, July 15, 2017 and July 21-22, 2018 there will be a table to educate attendees about International Migratory Bird Day, cats and birds, and how to prevent window strikes to protect birds. There will be a PWABA member at the table to engage attendees. This will be an annual informational event.

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 will be 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 plan 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 we 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 collected dragonfly larvae in the fall, and are waiting for the results to come back from the lab. 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.

Pond hydrology restoration documentation & sign creation. As the PW wastewater treatment ponds (Poop ponds!) are being restored, we'll have students document and process and collect water quality data.  Also, interpretive signs will be produced for the site with student input.  

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 includes birding resources. Our website includes but is not limited to the following links:

National Wildlife Organization - Garden for Wildlife

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 contains the slideshow we have added this year (2018) 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.

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. Species of interest found during this count include Bald Eagles, Northern Shrike, White-winged Crossbill, Bohemian Waxwing, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Eastern Meadowlark, and Ruffed Grouse. For the 2014-15 count there were 10 counters in the field and 7 at feeders with 31 species identified. For the 2015-2016 count there were 9 counters in the field (includes 2 area communities) and 11 at feeders with 35 species identified. 2017 saw 3 counters in Port Wing and 6 Port Wing counters at feeders. Both numbers are an increase from the last two years in Port Wing specifically. This years highlights are pine grosbeaks, red crossbills, northern cardinal, great horned owl, eagles and turkeys.

Park Board member David Broadwell is a contributor to the Wisconsin Breeding Bird Atlas II. David has been working on this for 3 years so far with approximately 20 hours each of the last 3 years. He will continue to observe and report. He knows of at least nine other people working in the area on the same project.

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

On May 10, 2017 local resident and application writer Leann Hess, worked with an after school bird watching group of 5th -7th graders(6) to build blue bird houses. There was also a discussion about migratory birds and habitats in Port Wing, window strikes, and danger to birds from cats. Plans are to present to the South Shore fifth graders (25) in the spring of 2018 and build bluebird houses.

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 15, 2017, author and birder Rick Burkman, presented "Under the Feathers" to approximately 50 participants. Rick and photographer Wayne Rundell then lead a group on a bird watching hike through Port Wing. Tracy Hames from the Wisconsin Wetlands Association presented to the same group on the "Benefits of Wetlands". He then lead a tour of three different wetland habitats in Port Wing and answered questions about wetlands, plants and birds.  Author and bird blogger Laura Erickson is scheduled for Lake Superior Day July 21-22, and will give a program about birds.  We rely heavily on her for educational presentations.

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 beginning to use curriculum materials with elementary and high school students. In May 2017, Beth and Margaret scheduled a program called "Sea Change, Climate Chage on Lake Superior". The program takes place on a large sailboat that travels Lake Superior discussing climate change. Elementary and high school students toured the boat and participated in this program.

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 15, 2017 as International Migratory Bird Day for 2017. The PWABA has historically organized a one or two day celebration to participate, along with other communities surrounding Lake Superior, in Lake Superior Day. 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, lecture by bird experts, paddle board demonstration, informational tables for Preventing Window Strikes, Keeping Cats Indoors, and Migratory Bird information and education. Additionally there will are tours of the local fish smokehouse, Coast Guard boat tour, and the Saturday Market. (See Photos and Documents)

In addition to the resolution, there will be activities conducted as part of the celebration. Port Wing celebrates Lake Superior Day each July. This year, 2018, July 21 will be proclaimed IMBD and there will be a display and information booth in our Lake Superior Day celebration area. The author of this application will man the display and engage attendees with educational materials and prize giveaways, including bluebird houses. The program will also include Laura Erickson speaking on some aspect of bird watching.

Joined Bird City: 2016

Population: 368

Incorporated: 1891

Area: 46.8 mi2

Community Website

Community Bird City Page

Community Map