Western Meadowlark, photo by G. Kramer

Birds at Forest Beach Migratory Preserve

One of the first undertakings of the Forest Beach Migratory Preserve (FBMP) Technical Advisory Committee was to document bird species occurring at the property across the seasons.  An increase in bird sightings and number of species that has occurred since the Preserve was established two years ago is probably due primarily to increased survey effort and cannot be specifically attributed to the restoration activities.  Nevertheless, FBMP’s bird checklist is up to an impressive 247 species plus an Ibis species that was spotted flying over recently.  Many common, not-so-common, and even rare birds appear on the list.

Forster’s Tern (lower right) with flock of Caspian Terns, photo by Robert Kuhn

Songbirds of particular note include Northern Mockingbird, Kentucky Warbler, and Western Meadowlark in spring and American Pipit and Lapland Longspur in fall.  Flocks of Ruby-crowned Kinglets and mixed flocks of warblers, thrushes, and flycatchers have been found in spring and in fall.  A memorable event witnessed from the beach one spring entailed thousands of swallows in reverse migration, heading south when a late cold snap had hit Wisconsin. 

Merlin, photo by Thomas SchultzOther bird groups are also well represented at FBMP during the migratory seasons.  Of the shorebirds, Upland Sandpiper, Wilson’s Phalarope, and a Whimbrel have been recorded in addition to many sandpiper species that forage in the mudflats and shallow ponds.  An annual fall hawk watch program has turned up Golden Eagle, Peregrine Falcon, Merlin, and Northern Harrier, while observations from the beach during spring and fall include several species of diving ducks, Red-throated Loon, and Horned Grebe swimming and foraging in Lake Michigan open waters.  All three of Wisconsin’s endangered tern species – Caspian, Common, and Forster’s – have been documented at FBMP.  Additional “waterbird” occurrences include Great Egret, American White Pelican, and Virginia Rail.

No matter the season, bird watching at FBMP is sure to delight seasoned and novice birders alike.  On your next visit, be sure to check out the new Bill Cowart Hawk Watch Platform or the viewing blind near the wetlands.  You could be the next person to find a rare species in migratory stopover habitat at Forest Beach Migratory Preserve – the one and only such preserve in the Great Lakes region!