Landowners Forum

The Grosbeaks Galore workshops have inspired people to act on behalf of migratory birds not only in their own backyards, but also in their communities.  The creativity these folks have employed to improve habitat in their backyards and at local parks and to also educate others is truly amazing and inspiring.  Their extraordinary stories are presented here in their own words and photos.  We hope these testimonials will inspire you to plant some native trees and shrubs, to pull that garlic mustard, to put up a bird bath, to build a brush pile, or to participate in some way to enhance and increase the available habitat in your neighborhood for the benefit of migratory birds and the native insects on which they feed. 

Whether you have attended a Grosbeaks Galore workshop or not, we would love to hear what is happening in your backyard and in your community.  Just send a brief description (1-2 paragraphs) of your migratory bird stopover habitat project to  Be sure to include those photographs!

Backyard Make-Over

Native tree and shrub plantings with bird bath on the Zimmerman property in Big Bend

New water feature installed on the Zimmerman property as part of an ongoing effort to restore habitat for migratory birds“After we attended last year’s work shop we were so inspired that we began our yard restoration immediately.  Phase one:  We met with Johnson’s nursery to get ideas for our project, purchased several books on native plants, and then purchased and planted over 50 bushes, and several trees for our property in Big Bend.  We also removed some invasive bushes and plants.  We also got our yard certified as a wild life habitat, and have been promoting the concept of bringing nature home.  Phase two will begin soon and that includes removing sod and doing native flowers and grasses along with the recent bush plantings.  We have increased the number of feeders, bird houses (even have learned to make them…recently a flicker house), and water to the yard.  The workshop has changed our lives in how we view the environment.  Grosbeak Galore was the best workshop we’ve ever attended.”

2014 Update:  “Last year we completed our backyard transformation and wanted to share a few pictures.  Our final phase was adding a water feature last year.  Our bird count has gone from 12 species to over 72 since we started the transformation.  This year we (will) begin the front yard transformation.” 

Haydee and Michael Zimmerman
Big Bend, Wisconsin


Master Gardener Plans Habitat and Teaches Others

“Thank you so much for a wonderful program.  The speakers were really great, I learned from each one. The hands on 'walk the land' afternoon session had equally great speakers/teachers explaining the many changes taking place. This program changed my life and the acreage I live on.

“I gave a garden talk last month to 30 people at my church about many of the things I learned at the workshop. I'm a Master Gardener in Manitowoc County and I believe you must change things in your environment, if you want what you believe, to match what you say, and what you do in your life. My new garden plans include creating swales, berms, and planting trees, shrubs, and plants that insects, bees, butterflies, and animals will be able to use as food, and shelter. I really can't say enough about how important your workshop was and the knowledge I gained. Thank you very much.”

Kari Alice Lynn
Manitowoc County


Native Plants Replace Day Lillies

“As a result of attending Grosbeaks Galore, I am planting 25 red-twig dogwood, 25 button bush, and an oak sapling this spring to create additional food & habitat for the birds.  I will also bite the bullet and replace a great swath of day lillies with native plants.”

Somers, Wisconsin


Grosbeaks Galore Alumnus Embarks on Landscaping Career

MATC Botany Class looks out from a new wildlife observation deck at Forest Beach Migratory Preserve, while tour guide Amy Wagnitz (foreground) describes the restoration process of a nearby wetland.

“I was lucky enough to grow up in the country just south of Manitowoc. My father taught me to identify birds and we regularly saw herons and ducks in the creek, red-headed woodpeckers in the orchard, and flocks of pheasants and nests of baby killdeer in the field.  Spotting a new bird at the feeders was always an exciting event!  Bird watching continued to be a part of my life as I landscaped my own yard and filled it with bird feeders and bird houses.

“When I first read the mortality statistics of migrating birds (in the Wisconsin Stopover Initiative materials), I was surprised and saddened by the number of songbirds which don’t survive migration due to loss of habitat.  The thought of losing these beautiful creatures permanently is simply inconceivable; we have to do what we can to help these birds survive their journey so that (they) can return to us every year.

“…A big part of my landscape plan is to make other people happy by sharing the beauty of the flowers and plants in my yard. 

“The other part of the plan is to create a habitat that entices the birds and butterflies to visit, so I have flowers that are not only beautiful, but that the hummingbirds and butterflies like, and trees that provide shelter and safety for the birds visiting the feeders.
When I developed my landscape, I did not specifically include native plants.  I did not know how important the natives are in providing insects for the migrating and nesting bird populations.  Now, as I add more native plants to my yard, I not only enjoy the beauty of the flowers, but I also feel a sense of satisfaction as I look at the natives, knowing that these plants are helping the song birds.

“…We own 3 acres of land that I can't wait to turn into a bird haven and a beautiful native landscape.  I'm currently taking landscaping classes at MATC in preparation for this long, fun project. 

“I wanted (my botany) class to see what was possible in a native restoration and how important native plants are for the environment and the birds.  As future landscape professionals, they have the potential to encourage their customers to plant native plants and to educate them on the importance of native plantings.  I believe if people understand the need for native plants, many of them will be willing to landscape with them. 

“Plants, birds, and insects have been, and continue to be, compromised by our development of the land.  We need the flora and fauna to survive both mentally and physically, and we are all responsible to do our part to help them survive and thrive.  People and nature can successfully co-exist if we simply make the effort to do so; we shouldn’t wait until more species are extinct to learn this lesson.”

Lynn Christiansen
Saukville, Wisconsin


Workshop Inspires Actions

“Just so you know that the workshop had an impact on our lives: 

Mary Lee & Lloyd Croatt


Tackling Invasive Species

“I am  working to rid my property of all the invasive plants.   Dmes Rocket is the main plant that I have worked on last year but plan to hit it heavy no!  The plant is beautiful but what a pest.  Red Canary Grass did my small prairie in and I am having a hard time controlling it as (the Interstate) is on the east side of the property were it was planted.
The program you had last year was great.

“Thanks for all the effort you did to make it possible.”

Rosie Bugs


Gerry Clausen with a pile of invasive shrubs he helped remove from his friend’s meadow in Waldo, Wisconsin DNR

Helping Friends

“I'm helping friends with native plantings and shrubs that will help the birds. One with her back and front yards in Sauk City. Another with a prairie (Waldo,WI) and keeping a meadow open for the woodcocks to dance. Putting Bluebird nest boxes in the prairie area. Also started removing buckthorn and honeysuckle on this property this past winter.”

Gerard Clausen
West Bend


Garlic Mustard Attack!

“We are beginning an attack on Garlic mustard. We didn't realize, until the workshop, that we had it! Now we are determined to do our best to get rid of as much as we can. It's a little daunting in the woods.”

Kathy Petersen
Sheboygan County


Inspired by Grosbeaks Galore

Grosbeaks Galore was a very important conference for me and my wife. After the informative sessions and tours of Forest Beach Migratory Preserve, we were clearly able to see the strong relationship between having a healthy environment for birds. It's a "must attend" for everyone. 

Bill Bauer
West Bend


Making a Difference for Birds in Her Backyard, Village Park, and Local School

Sue Kenney’s Sauk City backyard before planting habitat for migratory birds“I bought a house in Sauk City about a year and a half ago.  It has a fairly large backyard and only had one large silver maple tree and lawn and nothing else when I first moved in.  Because of the Grosbeaks Galore workshop I have torn up about 1,300 sq ft of lawn and put in a 100 sq ft rain garden, 3 native prairie gardens and a very large (~800 sq ft native woodland garden under the silver maple tree.  This spring I dug up 30 sq ft of lawn in the front lawn and put in a hummingbird garden with all native plants that are good nectar sources for hummingbirds in addition to three New Jersey Tea bushes which I've heard attract small insects that hummingbirds eat.  In addition in the far back of the backyard I also planted one each of native nanny berry, service berry, thimble berry, American hazelnut and a native honeysuckle bush.  I also planted 3 native American plum trees.  These were all chosen because of their value as food for birds or the insects that they feed on.  This year I also plan on digging up all the lawn in between the bushes in the far back yard and putting in more native plants which are tolerate of a little shade.  That will be about 100 to 150 sq ft.  Next year I'm thinking of putting in a narrow strip of native plants on the north side of the house that are shade tolerant.  I also have a bird bath and in the winter I change it out for a heated bird bath in addition to bird feeders in the front and back yards.  By the time I am finished I hope to have very little lawn left which I know has little to no value to birds or other wildlife.  The Grosbeaks Galore workshop helped me a lot to plan out my back and front yards and to make it as bird friendly as possible. 

Sue Kenney’s newly planted “Woodland Garden” of native understory species“Besides my own property I also am a volunteer steward for 20 acres of Sauk City Village park land that I have adopted along the Wisconsin River.  Besides managing garlic mustard, Dame's rocket, buckthorn and honeysuckle, I also am trying to plant more native trees and shrubs that would be compatible in this village park that contains floodplain forest and black oak savanna.  Even though it is only about 40 acres total there are migratory birds that stop by every spring and fall plus we have made an inventory of both migratory and bird species that stay all year round totaling about 70 species at this time.  A big component of the trees in the park are green ash which I am worried we will lose some day due to the ash borer beetle. 

“In the savanna and open prairie areas I am adding additional native plants to the ones that still exist and have managed to survive.  When I choose a species I have several criteria in mind.

  1. Was it there historically and is it appropriate to that plant community
  2. Will it benefit birds, butterflies and other wildlife
  3. For the enjoyment and education of the community

“I also work with several teachers in the area and involve their students ranging from 1st grade to high school in activities like planting native plants, collecting native seed or putting native seed down.  My partner and I have also established 6 blue bird boxes in the park which we involve high school students in monitoring.  During these school activities I try to explain why we are planting a particular species or why we have blue bird boxes.  For example wild columbine is a good nectar plant for hummingbirds or we put up blue bird boxes because there aren't enough dead trees or snags for cavity nesting birds like blue birds to use.  A lot of this information I learned from the Grosbeaks Galore workshop.

“The Grosbeaks Galore workshop has helped me with all these activities and criteria which means identifying native tree, forb and grass species that will provide a good food source for birds, the insects they depend on and other wildlife plus add species diversity, especially if we lose our green ash.”

Susan Kenney
Environmental Stewards of Sauk Prairie