City flying high
New London reaches Bird City milestone
By John Faucher
Thanks to the efforts of city officials, area schools, volunteers and Mosquito Hill Nature Center, the city is celebrating its fifth anniversary of being designated a Bird City Wisconsin.
New London recently earned the designation as a High Flyer Community.
Co-coordinators Steve Petznick and Julia Martinson and city officials joined last week to place the new designation stickers on signs around New London.
Petznick is a Naturalist at Mosquito Hill Nature Center and Martinson is a New London Parks and Recreation employee.
“This is an important recognition for all of New London. Starting five years ago, New London was one of the first of only nine cities in the state to be designated a bird city in 2010 .Five years later we are achieving even more by earning the High Flyer status,” said Petznick.
So what does this mean exactly?
Martinson said, “It means the city officials believe in improving our community for bird life as an important part of improving the quality of life in New London. Many people enjoy watching wild birds in their yards. They fill feeders and place nest boxes on their property to help the birds, but there is so much more that individuals, schools and the city as a whole can do.”
Creating bird friendly yards
“When landscaping, select trees, shrubs and ground cover plants native to Wisconsin, that provide both cover and food sources,” said Petznick.
He encourages residents to think outside the box to include vines, canes and native wildflowers.
Citizens can pick up a free booklet at city hall entitled “Beyond the Bird Feeders: Creating a Bird Friendly Yard with Native Wisconsin Plants.”
“Proper placement of feeders and bird baths can really help birds stay safe from predators like free roaming cats,” said Petznick.
Cats prey on unsuspecting birds at all hours of the day and night. Left to roam outside, cats are the major cause of death for songbirds. With a mortality rate over 2.4 billion birds annually, it is more than deaths caused by window collision, guide wire mortality and car hits combined.
“If you are a cat owner, please do your part by keeping your cat indoors and read ‘Cats, Birds and You’ published by the American Bird Conservancy. www.abcbirds.org/cats,” said Petznick.
Martinson reports approximately 70 to 100 seventh grade students from New London Middle School help remove invasive plants each year in Hatten Park.
“Dedicated teachers like Amy Hirst coordinate the effort to provide an educational outing called Tug-a-suckle.
Students work in teams to eradicate this highly aggressive species, which is overtaking the parks and more natural areas. Other species like buckthorn are also removed,” said Martinson.
“If you have a honeysuckle bush that blooms in April and early may with pinkish flowers, that’s probably Taratarian Honeysuckle. Native honeysuckles bloom in late May and June and have yellowish flowers. Help all of New London by removing non-native bush honeysuckles,” said Petznick.
“Barberry is also quickly escaping the confines of the neighborhood yards and is establishing itself in natural areas like Mosquito Hill. The very birds we love disperse seeds, and then this non-native plant spreads uncontrolled,” said Petznick.
“If you enjoy natural areas, keep them natural with native vegetation and not exotics.”
Middle school students also create works of art to learn, and help promote and advertise Feather Fest in the community.
Mrs. Daily coordinated an effort in her classroom of a cross curriculum assignment where students pick a migratory bird, research it and then make a paper Mache likeness of it. The pieces of bird art are displayed at Mosquito Hill Nature Center during the spring migration in May and in some years at local businesses.
Volunteers monitored next boxes at New London’s Dog Park, conducted Christmas bird counts and completed Chimney Swift surveys in the city.
“If you have an older building with a brick or stone chimney, please keep the top open in the warm months,” said Petznick.
Chimney swifts are rapidly declining due to loss of nesting sites, such as old chimneys.
Several buildings in town are excellent sites as volunteers counted over 100 birds diving into a roost site at night during the fall migration, which takes place in early September.
Petznick said swifts eat mosquitoes and other flying insects so they are a benefit to the community.
“If you have an old chimney, help the birds out. Keep the chimneys open with no fires until mid- September,” he added.
Special events planned yearly
Feather Fest is New London’s celebration of International Migratory Bird Day (IMBD).
Each year Feather Fest provides educational programs, public bird hikes, guest presenters and activities for all ages.
Watch for it on the New London web site, local cable channel and newspapers, banners, local radio promotions and at area businesses that support Feather Fest as a sponsor.
Residents can also visit Mosquito Hill and ask about literature pertaining to bird conservation and habitat improvement.
“It’s a great opportunity to think globally, and act locally,” said Petznick.
How to get involved
While New London is proud of this year’s achievements, the growing committee of city staff, teachers, business owners and naturalists are already working on Feather Fest 2016.
“We’re looking ahead as a community to continue this tradition of improving New London as a place for birds and people to enjoy raising their families,” said Martinson.
If you are interested in becoming involved in New London’s growing Bird City efforts contact Julia Martinson at [email protected]