For bird lovers: tours, talks, exhibits, festivals

Bird lovers have all kinds of events to attend in Wisconsin during the next month. There are exhibits, tours, field trips, workshops, talks by bird experts and just plain great spots to see birds during migration.

Instead of squawking more about it generically, here are the specifics.

For 28 years, there has been a Birds in Art exhibit at the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum, Wausau. The latest installment opens this weekend and is on display until Nov. 9. The winged creatures include both exotic and common species, presented by artists from as far away as Australia and Japan.

About 110 artists and their two- or three-dimensional creations made the jurors’ cut this year, but only one gets the Master Wildlife Artist Award. The legendary Owen Gromme was the first to win this honor, in 1976; this year’s recipient is Elliot Offner of Massachusetts, who has 10 sculptures and three watercolors in Wausau.

From 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sept. 27, OctoBIRDfest at the museum has several activities for children. Throughout fall will be other programs for children and adults; topics range from paper airplanes to whirligigs, plus bird and human flight.

For more, go to or call (715) 845-7010. Admission is free.

This year’s Midwest Birding Symposium will be Sept. 11-14 at the Regency Suites Hotel and KI Convention Center, Green Bay. It is a big deal that involves nationally accomplished writers, TV show hosts, artists, naturalists and scholars.

The agenda includes 17 field trips, plus numerous workshops, vendors and exhibits. Sponsors include the Wisconsin Society for Ornithology, Birder’s World magazine and Eagle Optics.

This will be a place to buy bird feeders, join in the fight to save endangered species, learn more about bird identification and habitat. It is for both the casual hobbyist and the more serious birding student.

Cost per field trip is $5-15, and conference registration also is reasonable (the price depends on whether meals are included). For more, go to or call (800) 533-6644.

Don and Lillian Stokes, who host birding shows on the HGTV (Home and Garden) and DIY (Do It Yourself) TV channels, are among the keynote speakers for the Green Bay symposium. They also will be at Blain’s Farm & Fleet, Watertown (Dodge County) Sept. 19-20; call (920) 261-4910 for details about this visit.

For more about the birders, their advice and their TV shows, go to

Duluth, Minn., becomes a hotbed for migrating birds – especially hawks – during this time of year. A prime gathering spot is Hawk Ridge Nature Reserve, at the western tip of Lake Superior.

“Reluctant to cross a large body of water, migrants funnel down the north shore, along the bluffs that overlook the city,” says naturalist Debbie Waters. “On a good day, bird watchers may see hundreds, thousands and even tens of thousands flying by, some at eye level.”

Around 93,000 hawks are expected to pass through here by mid December. Some come from as far away as the Arctic Circle.

Despite its name, Hawk Ridge is accessible by car. Hiking and climbing are not required to see the birds. There is no admission charge. For more, go to

Hawk Watching Weekends are Sept. 12-14 and Oct. 17-19. Each will have guided field trips and lectures about birding. For details or to register, go to or call (218) 525-1853.

Necedah’s annual Whooping Crane Festival (Juneau County) is Sept. 20 this year. Bus tours of the 44,000-acre Necedah Wildlife Refuge will be 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Culinary treats begin with a pancake breakfast in morning and end with a steak feed during late afternoon.

Speakers will discuss wooden bird carvings, the wintering habits of cranes, the patterns of migratory birds and ways to bring birds into the back yard. There will be wildlife art and photography exhibits.

One of the refuge’s objectives is to protect and restore whooping cranes and the Karner blue butterfly. For more, go to or call (608) 565-2551.

Fall naturalist programs are offered on Saturdays and Sundays in Mayville (Dodge County), which is near the 21,000-acre Horicon National Wildlife Refuge, a great place for hiking and canoeing. The city’s Audubon Days Festival is Oct. 3-5, which usually coincides nicely with the annual visit of thousands of Canada geese to the area.

For more, go to (although the site is outdated) or call (920) 387-5776.

Jim Marrari of North Lake (Waukesha County) is generous with his advice about other ways to watch great flocks of birds pass through Wisconsin. He is a computer consultant who operates Jacamar Birding Tours in his spare time.

Marrari works as a private guide, organizes weekend birding trips in Wisconsin and has organized extended trips as far away as Texas and Costa Rica.

“We look at other aspects of nature, too,” says the former birding instructor at Edgewood and Alverno colleges. “Birding is one part of it.”

He has led outings for the International Crane Foundation, Sierra Club and Madison Audubon Society. To learn more about his work, go to or call (608) 219-4369.

The tundra swan migration from Canada to the Mississippi River in late October is predictable and worth the drive, he says; look for the birds around and north of La Crosse.

One great stop for spectators, he says, is Rieck’s Lake Park, Alma (Buffalo County). Go to or call (608) 248-3499; the birds rest in Alma while on their way to Chesapeake Bay. There is a platform for viewing them near the river banks, and Alma volunteers sometimes arrange group tours of the area.

“The bald eagles come soon after that,” Marrari notes. “It’s a beautiful time of year.”

The options go on and on. In St. Paul, Minn., public trips aboard a birding boat will depart from the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area at 10 a.m. Sept. 17 and 8 a.m. Sept. 24. The ranger-led tours begin at Harriet Island. For more, go to or call (651) 227-1100.