When it comes to birding in Door County, there is no person better versed and passionate than Peninsula Pulse columnist and author Roy Lukes, who has been teaching, writing about, and photographing birds on the Door Peninsula for 50 years.
Myles Dannhausen Jr. caught up with Roy for a few bits of advice for those looking to discover birding in Door County, which has three designated Bird Cities: Ephraim, Egg Harbor, and Baileys Harbor. (Learn more about what the designation of Bird City means at birdcitywisconsin.org.)
Myles Dannhausen Jr. (MD): Is there a type of bird that people may not realize they can see in Door County?
Roy Lukes (RL): Not many people realize that there are Bald Eagles in Door County – all year – and that they nest here. Fortunately their numbers appear to be increasing nicely from year to year.
MD: What are some of the best places to go in Door County if you want to see a Bald Eagle? How common are they around the peninsula?
RL: Locations in Door County where there are tall pines fairly close to shorelines. For example, Peninsula State Park, many shorelines in southern Door County and the Lake Michigan shorelines are ideal locations to check out. Favorite nesting sites of the Eagles are tall White Pines. These birds are primarily fish eaters.
MD: What mistakes to people make when identifying birds around Door County? For example, are there a lot of instances where people think they saw an Eagle, or a falcon, but really they likely saw something else?
RL: A common identification mistake of many people is mistaking a Turkey Vulture for a large hawk or Bale Eagle.
MD: What’s the best time of year for a bird lover to visit Door County?
RL: It depends on what kinds of birds people want to see. Winter may have some species, such as Pine Siskins, Common Redpolls or Pine Grosbeaks that come into this area only during winter months. Now, during the spring migration, is one of the best times to see many species, some which nest here in summer and others that are simply passing through and stop to feed and rest along the way. Birdsong is the greatest during the spring migration and nesting season. Weborg Point in Peninsula State Park is a wonderful place to see migrating warblers in May.
MD: How can people help to improve bird habitat in Door County? Are there volunteer opportunities, cleanup efforts, or feedings? Or are there chemicals or products that commonly harm birds that people should avoid using?
RL: Too many people retire to Door County, buy some open land, and immediately feel that they must plant hundreds of trees. We need to keep open fallow fields for a number of grassland nesting species.
I suggest people learn about the Open Door Bird Sanctuary and help support this new and important group. Support the Door County Land Trust in the purchase of land which will sustain many species of nesting birds. Our five state parks, all good nesting sites for birds, need volunteer help throughout the year in maintaining their land. Help them.
Also keep record of birds seen throughout the year and share your lists with those who do Seasonal Bird Reporting. Organizations interested in your sightings include the Wisconsin Society for Ornithology, The Nature Conservancy, the Ridges Sanctuary, and the Door County Land Trust.
MD: What are some of your favorite bird-watching experiences?
RL: The Northern Hawk Owl, a rare visitor to Wisconsin, spent a few months in northern Door County during the winter of 2012-13, and again in the winter of 13-14. People came from all over the state and Midwest to see and enjoy the bird. Every few years there is an exciting build-up of Tundra Swans that stop over to rest and feed in flooded fields on their way north to nest.
To see a few hundred of these spectacular and very vocal birds provides many people with an exciting adventure.
This article originally appeared on the Door County Silent Sports Insider blog on the Door County Visitor Bureau’s website: doorcounty.com/category/silent-sports-blog.