MESSENGER -- Ryan Stahl of Janesville enjoys watching birds flying around in the prairie area near his workplace in Milton.
Stahl, who works at Midwest Prairies, which serves as a wildlife restoration habitat, wanted to do something to help preserve the bird population in Janesville, so he decided to team up with his wife, Linda, and friends Neil and Kay Deupree to help Janesville become a Bird City Wisconsin. Because of their efforts, Janesville officially became a Bird City Wisconsin in November.
“Three-fourths of our songbirds are on the decline, whether it’s to habitat loss, cats or getting struck by cars,” Stahl said. “It sparked an interest in me, and I said, ‘Well, I think we should do something about it,’ and that’s why I got involved with Bird City.” Read the current edition here: http://www.server-jbmultimedia.net/CSI-JanesvilleMessengerSunday
Stahl and the Deuprees worked on obtaining the Bird City designation for Janesville last spring. Stahl said they were required to distribute information about bird-related issues and conduct a bird education project at local schools. The city also had to be designated as a Tree City USA.
“It was a good feeling to get it done,” Stahl said. “With only the small group that we had, it was surprising that it got passed, but we had four quality people that were dedicated to it. We all worked together and really choose different categories to work on, and it seemed to work good. Hopefully, more people can come aboard and help us ever more.”
Stahl said the group received a lot of support from city officials and the community.
“The city council jumped aboard and passed it right away,” Stahl said. “Their only concern was about the geese, but we said that Bird City has nothing to do with geese. It’s mostly songbirds, because they were concerned about the geese at Traxler Park. We’ve gotten some feedback from emails and phone calls. A lot of people were in support of it.”
For obtaining the designation, Janesville received a plaque, two Bird City signs, which have been posted on the north and south entrances of the community, and a Bird City flag, which will be posted in Janesville’s municipal building.
Stahl said in order to maintain the designation, they are required to submit $100 each year to Bird City Wisconsin and host an annual Bird Day festival. A Bird Day festival is scheduled for May 10 at Riverside Park in Janesville. Stahl said he and a group of residents are planning activities for the festival, which may include guest speakers, a bird house decorating contest, a photo contest and a bird walk. The group’s next meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 26 at 419 S. Franklin St. in Janesville. Residents who are interested in becoming involved may call (608) 921-2537 or (608) 752-8342.
“We don’t want to make it too big the first year, because we don’t know what the turnout is going to be,” Stahl said. “We’re just going to try to keep pecking away at this bird festival.”
Stahl said being involved with the process was a learning experience for him and it helped him become more familiar with different species of birds.
“It was very different for me, because I never got involved with something like this, so it was a new experience for me and I learned a lot with communicating with people and organizing meetings and just going throughout the community and talking to people. So, it was fun, and it was different at the same time, so I enjoyed it,” Stahl said.
Stahl said he hopes educating people about birds will help increase the bird population in the Janesville area.
“It just shows that the city of Janesville is concerned about birds, so basically we are showing the state that the city of Janesville is going to inform the public,” Stahl said.
Tom Presny, parks director, is another fan of Janesville’s designation as a Bird City Wisconsin.
“For us, becoming a Bird City recognizes all the park lands that we have to offer in the community. It also gives us an opportunity to continue to preserve our bird population whether it be waterfowl, ducks, geese, songbirds and even predator birds like hawks and eagles,” Presny said. “For us, it shows that we have the land and the support to take care of our bird population.”
Carl Schwartz, Bird City Wisconsin coordinator, said there are about 76 communities in Wisconsin that have been designated as a Bird City.
“The first ones were recognized in December 2010, so we’ve been doing this for about three years,” Schwartz said. “Out of the 76 communities, Janesville was in the most recent group. We recognized 16 communities last year. We are working with about three dozen communities right now that are exploring the program. So far, 100 percent of the communities have continued the program. The first communities that joined have renewed their commitment each year.”
Schwartz said communities that are interested in becoming a Bird City Wisconsin may contact him at (414) 416-3272.
“I do a lot of site visits. I speak to a lot of the people in the community. I try to work with the communities right from the get-go,” Schwartz said. “I work with them on the criteria that they have to achieve. I have a nice presentation that I give them.”
Schwartz said he hopes more communities in Wisconsin become interested in obtaining a Bird City designation to help maintain the state’s bird population. He said some of the bird species are thriving while others are on the decline.
“A third of the species are doing fine. They’re prospering and holding their own,” Schwartz said. “But about a third are on the decline. We want to keep common birds common. We want people to be able to continue to see birds at their feeder, and we want people to be able to continue to see birds at the parks.”