Mitch Mode / WXPR News

As the days get longer many migratory birds are returning to the Northwoods.

Geese and robins have been reported, and birder Bob Dall says sandhill cranes have been back for a few weeks now. 

“They don’t need open water, they are more likely in search of open fields or areas where they can find food.  Some of them come back when there’s still snow and ice.” 

The annual spring Midwest Crane Count happens in a few weeks, on April 18th. 

Mitch Mode

A conference on loons this weekend put the spotlight on citizen involvement in scientific research. 

Wildlife rehabilitator Marge Gibson of Antigo’s Raptor Education Group says the two-day Loon Symposium was unique in including citizens that collect observational data on loons.

“They are providing such a huge benefit to loon observation, and even giving this information back to the researchers.  And that to me was so exciting to see.”

As colder weather moves into the Northwoods, most birds are moving out.  The fall migration is well underway for raptors and many other species of birds. 

At the Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory in Duluth, researchers have counted tens of thousands of raptors passing overhead in the past several weeks. 

Dick Daniels

Temperatures are dropping, and as we move closer to winter many species are migrating south.  

  In today’s Wildlife Matters, DNR Wildlife Biologist Jeremy Holtz talks about the different ways birds make the trip.

My mom always used to tell me that hummingbirds traveled south for the winter riding on the backs of Canada geese.  While this is a charming and compelling tale, the fact is that these little birds migrate the same way all other birds do – they fly. 

Michele Woodford / Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources

It’s no longer uncommon to see a bald eagle in the Northwoods. 

Oneida and Vilas counties have the highest number of pairs of bald eagles in Wisconsin, according to the most recent DNR survey in 2013.

After disappearing from most areas of the state in the mid-20th century, there are now more than 1300 pairs of eagles in Wisconsin. 

Ron Eckstein, a retired DNR Wildlife Biologist, worked on eagle conservation efforts for more than 25 years.  WXPR’s Natalie Jablonski spoke with Eckstein to hear more about bald eagle success story.

Public Domain Images

An Antigo wildlife rehabilitator says the recent case of several ospreys dead in Bayfield County is a rare situation.

Marge Gibson of the Raptor Education Group says last month her rehab center took in an adult male osprey that had been shot in the wing.  Authorities soon found the ospreys’ abandoned nest and its two chicks. 

“When the bird didn’t come back, the youngsters started calling loudly, doing food begging calls.  They were not old enough to leave the nest by themselves, and finally ended up jumping from the nest just in desperation to be fed.”

Dick Daniels /

Next, DNR wildlife biologist Jeremy Holtz talks about the woodpecker that doesn't act like a woodpecker...

Mitch Mode

As many of us in the Northwoods are being driven crazy by mosquitoes, loons are being harassed by blackflies. 

High numbers of loons are having trouble staying on their nests this year due to a surge in a certain kind of black fly that only targets loons.  

Walter Piper, a researcher from Chapman University who has been studying loons in the Northwoods for twenty two years, says it’s the most abandoned nests he’s ever seen.  WXPR’s Natalie Jablonski spoke with Piper about what that means for the loon population.

Mike Baird via

With the ice slowly melting, loons are starting to return to the Northwoods. 

Though this winter has been long, one wildlife rehabilitator says it’s been much better for loons than last year.

Marge Gibson from the Raptor Education Group remembers that last spring she treated dozens of loons that had been caught in ice storms while in flight. 

Slideshow: Spring Birds in the Northwoods

Apr 24, 2014
Mitch Mode / WXPR News

On an early April morning north of Rhinelander, WXPR Contributor Mitch Mode captured images of several bird species returning to the Northwoods this spring.