Project Profiles - United States
The Bird That Captured Chicago's Navy Pier
by Stephen Packard, Chicago Wilderness
This story started with masculine posturing. Maybe even polygamy. Worse
yet, it began with an attack on innocent bystanders. People strolling
along Chicago's Navy Pierout to have a good time, see the sights,
ambling happily, unsuspecting. Then, repeatedly, near the Ferris wheel,
a feathered thug rocketed down out of the sky and pecked their heads.
This is a story about sex and violence, but also generosity and love.
We start with Ray Cachares, a big man with a big job. Assistant General
Manager for the Navy Pier Exposition Authority, Cachares began to get
reports about the attacks near the Ferris wheel. He was not amused.
"I went over there to check it out, and this bird went after my
head," Cachares complained. "He got my bald spot. He got the
Brinks guy, too. I didn't know if we were getting into a Hitchcock/Tippy
Hedren kind of thing."
A male red-winged blackbird was defending a nest near the Ferris wheel.
"Frankly, I thought we could do without that bird," said Cachares.
But he also was aware that Mayor Richard Daley had a soft spot in his
heart for nature, so he called the city's Department of the Environment,
and the Department called the Audubon Society.
"When I first talked to Ray, I wasn't sure he was going to have
a lot of patience for this," said Jerry Garden, Land Stewardship
chair for the Chicago Audubon Society. Garden has an infectious passion
for birds. "We hiked around the pier and looked at birds. I showed
him the barn swallows that nest under the pier. They clear the air of
a lot of flying insects. I told him about the rare ducks that birders
see from the pier during migration." Cachares told him that 9 million
human visitors flock to Navy Pier each year. They come because they want
to have a good experience. They do not come to be dive-bombed by birds.
No solution emerged.
Soon more Audubon activists were talking to more pier staff. A lot of
issues and options were raised. "The turnaround came in kind of a
funny way," said Garden. "I was trying to evoke some understanding
for the red-wing. I explained that he probably had a number of mates scattered
around the pier, each with a nest of eggs or babies." This bird was
working to protect his family, or families, actually. Cachares started
to joke about how this bird "thought he was Hugh Hefner." But
a growing respect for this feisty red-wing began to spark conversations
about how visitors to the pier might come to enjoy the birds.
Soon city naturalists and Audubon volunteers were designing interpretive
signs. "The staff got excited," says Cachares, "including
some people I hadn't seen excited for a long time." After last year's
nesting season, bird-proof netting was placed over those shrubs near the
Ferris wheel. The red-wings still nest, but in less exposed spots.
Now Cachares muses, "It's changed this place. And to think it all
started with a red-winged blackbird attacking people in line."
For more information, contact Debra Shore, Editor, Chicago Wilderness,
5225 Old Orchard Road, Suite 37, Skokie, Illinois 60077, (847) 965-9275,
The Way It Was
By Jim Hansen and Rick Northrup, Montana Fish, Wildlife
and Parks and Mike Rabenberg, U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service
If ever in your musings, you contemplated how things must have been in
the Old West, muse no longer. A conservation partnership can replace your
imagination with reality if you are willing to travel to Montana.
Partners of the Northeastern Montana Prairie Pothole Joint Venture II
Project have conserved and enhanced 68,072 acres of some of the best wetland
and grassland complexes in the State. With over 40 percent of the project
area in native cover, it is possible to see Montana as it once was, with
pristine wetlands and unbroken prairie.
These habitats sustain a wide variety of shorebirds and waterfowl. More
than 80 percent of Montana's breeding population of piping plovers and
the State's highest densities of nesting ducks occur in the project area.
Mallard recruitment rates are among the highest in the Prairie Pothole
Region at twice the break-even point. The prairies support grassland species
such as Baird's sparrow, chestnut-collared longspur, and lark bunting,
which have experienced declining numbers due to sodbusting.
In addition to protecting habitat through fee-title acquisition, conservation
easements, and management agreements, partners restored and enhanced habitats
on private and public lands. This work was accomplished in six projects:
Fort Peck Reservation
The partnership restored or established 282 acres of wetlands and developed
rest-rotation grazing systems on 41,500 acres of native prairie, including
24 miles of riparian habitat, all to benefit wildlife and native plants
that hold special medicinal and religious significance for the Assiniboine
and Sioux peoples.
Medicine Lake National Wildlife Refuge
The failing Indian Service Dam was replaced with a new structure, allowing
refuge staff to continue to manage water levels on the 1,500-acre Homestead
Unit marsh system. This system produces up to 10,000 ducks and 500 Canada
geese annually and also hosts nesting colonies of eared grebes, western
grebes, black-crowned night herons, and Forster's terns.
Lake Creek Marsh
Partners enhanced a 58-acre, shallow wetland that provides excellent breeding
habitat for ducks and for wet-meadow species such as common snipe, Wilson's
phalarope, sora, Nelson's sharp-tailed sparrow, and LeConte's sparrow.
Five hundred acres of adjacent native prairie were protected by fencing
and grassland easements.
Mosquito Creek Marsh and Whitetail Dam
Both of these sites contain 32 acres of wetlands, with the former being
a new wetland creation that will provide excellent shallow-water bird
habitat. An old impoundment at the dam site was repaired, not only providing
bird habitat but also supporting a yellow perch fishery.
Private Lands Restoration and Enhancement
Some 778 acres of wetland habitat on properties belonging to more than
80 private landowners were restored, enhanced, or created. Easements or
fee-title acquisition were used to protect an additional 1,309 acres of
wetlands and 5,453 acres of adjacent grasslands, and 17,370 acres of grasslands
were enhanced or restored.
Future work with private landowners and the Fort Peck Tribes is planned.
Building mutual trust over the years has been essential, and it is trust
that will enable partners to take advantage of the many opportunities
For more information, contact Mike Rabenberg, U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service, Medicine Lake National Wildlife Refuge, 223 North Shore Road,
Medicine Lake, Montana 59247-9600, (406) 789-2305 extension 106, email@example.com.
Northeastern Montana Prairie Pothole Joint Venture Project
Partners added $2,624,782 to a $640,000 North American
Wetlands Conservation Act grant
to achieve their conservation goals.
Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks
Ducks Unlimited, Inc.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
The Nature Conservancy
Northeast Montana Wetland Management District Volunteers
Pheasants Forever-Daniels County Chapter
Dagmar Gun Club
Bringing Back Iowa's Prairie Potholes
By Dale Garner and James Zohrer, Iowa Department of
Iowa's Prairie Pothole Region was defined following the last glacial
age some 12,000 to 14,000 years ago. Left in the path of retreating glaciers
were a multitude of potholes and lakes scattered throughout an undulating
terrain of fertile soils, all of which were exposed to a climate of favorable
rainfall. Prairies flourished, wildlife was abundant. Not surprisingly,
these conditions would draw European settlers west, followed by the inevitable:
development. Development has taken a heavy toll on Iowa's wildlife habitatthe
State has lost 98 percent of its wetlands and more than 99 percent of
its prairies since settlement.
Tucked away in the northwest corner of the State's Prairie Pothole Region,
the 62,300-acre Iowa Great Lakes watershed contains the greatest concentration
of wetlands remaining in the State. Approximately 21,900 acres of existing
or restorable pothole wetlands and deep-water lakes lie in this special
place, including Iowa's two largest natural lakes: 5,684-acre Spirit Lake
and 3,847-acre West Okoboji. This area relies heavily on tourism for its
economic base (more than $60 million annually), and as one might guess,
development and recreational pressures on remaining habitat abound.
In 1993, the Iowa Great Lakes partnership formed to protect and restore
the watershed's habitats. They devised a multi-phased plan to guide and
focus their efforts. To date, three large-scale projects have been completed
involving $1.9 million in North American Wetlands Conservation Act grants
and $2.5 million in partner funding to protect and/or restore 3,290 acres
of wetlands and associated uplands. Partners of numerous smaller projects
have added at least 1,500 acres more of protected habitat to the watershed.
The acquired lands and restored wetlands and prairies offer a multitude
of benefits to waterfowl and wetland-associated wildlife by providing
high quality production, staging, loafing, and feeding areas for both
resident and migratory species. Mallards, blue-winged teal, wood ducks,
and giant Canada geese are among the many waterfowl species using the
project sites, and the project area is at the heart of Iowa's popular
Trumpeter Swan Restoration Program. However, more than waterfowl have
benefitted from this effort. At least 85 nongame bird species have been
recorded in the project area, including species of management concern
such as the northern harrier, cerulean warbler, and black tern.
Recreational use of these areas by hunters, birdwatchers, and environmental
educators has increased substantially. The Iowa Department of Natural
Resources has nominated several sites within the project area as Bird
Conservation Areas. Iowa Audubon is also proposing to list several locations
within the project's boundaries as Important Bird Areas. The Iowa Watchable
Wildlife Guide notes that the Iowa Great Lakes area provides some of the
best birding areas in the State. Local communities recognize the importance
of the work being done and offer support because of the benefits accruing
to them. Examples include improved surface and groundwater quality and
increased tourism, which boosts local economies.
Hardly taking a breath, the partnership is developing another project,
expanding on the benefits created in the past by bringing back more of
Iowa's prairie potholes.
For more information, contact Dale Garner, Special Projects Coordinator,
Iowa Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Bureau, Wallace Building,
502 East 9th Street, Des Moines, Iowa 50319-0034, (515) 281-7127, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Iowa Great Lakes Project Partners
U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Iowa Department of Natural Resources
Environmental Protection Agency
Dickinson Soil and Water Conservation District
Jackson Soil and Water Conservation District
Dickinson County Conservation Board
Ducks Unlimited, Inc.
Great Lakes Chapter of Ducks Unlimited, Inc.
Dickinson County Pheasants Forever
Emmet County Pheasants Forever
Northern Iowa Prairie Lakes Audubon Society
Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation
Okoboji Protective Association
Spirit Lake Protective Association
Erwin Wackerbarth, Jr.
Getting Things Under Control
by Jeff McCreary, Ducks Unlimited, Inc.
Wetland habitats in the Intermountain West's Great Basin are few and
far between, and, as one could deduce, they are crucial habitats for millions
of migrating and breeding waterbirds. Established in 1968, the U.S. Fish
and Wildlife Service's Bear Lake National Wildlife Refuge (Refuge) lies
within one of the largest wetland complexes in the Great Basin's northern
reaches. Located approximately 60 miles northeast of the Great Salt Lake,
the Refuge secured 18,000 acres of emergent marsh and open-water habitat
used by breeding redheads, canvasbacks, Canada geese, white-faced ibis,
and migrating trumpeter swans, as well as a wide variety of other waterfowl
While the Refuge ensured the presence of wetlands for birds, its ability
to provide quality habitat has not been without its ups and downs. Since
the early 1900s, Bear Lake water resources have been managed for human
uses. Water for power and irrigation has been manipulated through a system
of constructed canals and pumping stations. Functionally, this system
controlled the lake's water level and disrupted the hydrology of its surrounding
marshes. The continuous fluctuation of water levels in the marshes made
nesting for waterbirds uncertain at best and often destroyed most or all
To complicate matters, carp were introduced into the lake's irrigation
system to control vegetative growth in canals and ditches. These non-native,
bottom-feeding fish soon made their way into the Refuge's Bear Lake Marsh,
compounding problems for waterbirds by effectively removing most of the
marsh's aquatic vegetationa needed food source. Bear Lake water
management and the carp infestation converted the marsh from an area recognized
for its incredible waterbird production to an area primarily used only
as a stopover during migration.
Refuge staff has worked continually to improve habitat conditions in
the marsh. A recently completed partnership effort, aimed at restoring
the marsh to its former condition, was supported by a $468,000 North American
Wetlands Conservation Act grant and $1.6 million from partners. The project's
goals were to improve water management capabilities, eliminate carp in
the marsh, and re-establish the once high water quality within the Refuge's
1,900-acre Bloomington Unit.
Restoration work involved construction of an approximately 5-mile-long
dike that separates the marsh from the canal. Four 48-inch culverts containing
water-control structures fitted with fish screens were installed in the
dike at approximately 1-mile intervals. PacifiCorp, a multi-state power
company, installed a water-control structure on the main Bear Lake canal,
improving water management for its operations and those of the Refuge.
After completion of the dike in spring 2000, the Bloomington Unit was
drawn down, and carp were removed. Beginning in October 2001, water re-entered
the marsh free of carp.
With vegetation replenished and water levels under control, partners
believe their efforts will result in an eight-fold increase in breeding
bird numbers in spring 2002, giving all of us throughout the Pacific and
Central Flyways who care about birds something to look forward to.
For more information, contact Mark Biddlecomb, Ducks Unlimited, Inc.,
Western Regional Office, 3074 Gold Canal Drive, Rancho Cordova California,
95670-6116, (916) 852-2000, email@example.com.
Bloomington Unit Wetland Restoration Project Partners
Ducks Unlimited, Inc.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Idaho Department of Fish and Game
Rolling Plains, Still Water
by Scott Sudkamp, Texas Parks and Wildlife
"Small, but important." That's how Texas Parks and Wildlife
biologist Bill Johnson describes the water-table lakes of the Taylor Lakes
Wildlife Management Area (WMA) tucked away in the Rolling Plains of Texas
The 530-acre WMA contains four shallow lakes, which cover approximately
15 percent of the total management area. Largely due to a lack of surface
water on the Texas plains, the lakes are a gathering place for a multitude
of birds. Local birders have recorded more than 205 species in the WMA,
and the majority of these are associated with the lakes. Great numbers
of migrating shorebirds, including Wilson's phalaropes, American avocets,
and upland, least, western, and Baird's sandpipers, use these wetlands.
Waterfowl, such as mallards, northern pintails, green-winged teal, lesser
scaup, and Canada geese, also use the lakes in large numbers during migration
and in the winter. Tundra swans, sandhill cranes, and least terns make
their way here, too.
Natural Resources Conservation Service personnel assisted Texas Parks
and Wildlife biologists in designing two additional wetlands in the WMA.
Construction of dikes and water-control structures was completed last
spring. Totaling about 14 acres, these new wetlands function as moist-soil
management units. Their design allows managers to regulate water levels
to enhance conditions for growth of important food plants, such as smartweed
and barnyard grass. These managed wetlands provide important food resources
for waterfowl, particularly dabbling ducks, as well as several species
of seed-eating birds and mammals.
Because rainfall in the region is unpredictable, and a more dependable
water supply is needed for effective management, biologists are making
plans to further enhance the WMA's wetlands by installing wells and pumps.
These will help to control water levels on the lakes and moist-soil units.
A project to restore a degraded wetland on the WMA also is in the works.
Cattail Lake, as the name implies, is choked with cattail and bulrush.
Historical aerial photos show that this was not always the case. Until
the 1970s, Cattail Lake was a shallow, open-water lake. Decades of cotton
farming on the adjacent uplands, along with the loss of field terraces,
allowed the lake to silt in and gave the cattails and bulrush the toehold
they needed. Removing the vegetation and installing a water-control structure
to regulate water levels should restore the lake to its historic condition,
adding about 20 acres more of open water to the WMA.
So, the next time you are passing through Clarendon, Texas, and dark,
clouded skies portend a storm moving through, take a closer look. It's
probably just the multitude of birds at the Taylor Lakes Wildlife Management
Area lifting off the lakes.
For more information, contact Scott Sudkamp, Wildlife Biologist, Texas
Parks and Wildlife, Matador Wildlife Management Area, 3036 FM 3256, Paducah,
Texas 79248, (806) 492-3405, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Taylor Lakes Wildlife Management Area Partners
Texas Parks and Wildlife
Playa Lakes Joint Venture
Ducks Unlimited, Inc.
Natural Resources Conservation Service
Where Fresh and Saltwater Meet
by Thomas Abello, The Nature Conservancy
Merrymeeting Bay and the Lower Kennebec River estuary of southwestern
Maine constitute one of the largest and most important freshwater/tidal
ecosystems in the United States. The habitats associated with these water
bodies provide critical nesting and wintering habitat for resident and
migratory birds and spawning and nursery habitat for freshwater and anandromous
More than 50 species of freshwater fish, and all 10 of Maine's anadromous
fish species, including the endangered Atlantic salmon and shortnose sturgeon,
are found in the estuary's waters. The river is rich with nearly 15 miles
of tidal marshesa scarce habitat in Maineand significant stretches
of its brackish waters remain open in freezing temperatures. This combination
provides vital habitat for many wintering wetland-dependent birds: bald
eagle, common loon, American black duck, osprey, and northern pintail
to name a few. The Federally endangered piping plover, the State-endangered
least tern, great blue heron, northern saw-whet owl, saltmarsh sharp-tailed
sparrow, and goshawk exemplify the diversity of birds breeding in the
area. In all, 140 bird species have been recorded here.
To protect the integrity of the area's natural resources, 10 governmental
and private conservation organizations assembled themselves into the Maine
Wetlands Protection Coalition (Coalition) nearly a decade ago. The Coalition's
mission is today what it was then: to protect the region's existing wildlife
values and restore the ecosystem's health. The partners focus their efforts
on land acquisition, wetland restoration, and improved access to spawning
grounds for migratory fish. They work with municipalities, private landowners,
commercial and recreational fisherman, and hunting and recreational-boating
enthusiasts to accomplish their goals. Thus far, public support of the
Coalition's efforts has been strong. Community leaders, landowners, and
businesses are reaching out to the partnership to help conserve this remarkable
With a focus area of more than 27,000 acres, which includes 9,000 acres
of marsh and intertidal habitat, and faced with increasing development
pressure from Maine's three major urban centers only 30 minutes away,
the pace of the Coalition's work within the estuary is quickening and
is more important than ever.
Buoyed by three North American Wetlands Conservation Act grants received
over 7 years and totaling nearly $2 million, the Coalition has conserved
more than 4,000 acres of habitat important to waterfowl, raptors, shorebirds,
wading birds, passerines, and fish. But wildlife are not the only beneficiaries
of the Coalition's work. Conserved lands, which are open for hiking, birding,
boating, and hunting, help to maintain a quality of life that so many
of southwestern Maine's residents enjoy.
For more information, contact Thomas Abello, The Nature
Conservancy - Maine Chapter, 14 Maine Street, Suite 401, Brunswick, Maine
04011, (207) 729-5181 extension 202, email@example.com.
Maine Wetlands Protection Coalition
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Gulf of Maine Program
The Nature Conservancy
Maine Coast Heritage Trust
Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife
Friends of Merrymeeting Bay
Lower Kennebec Regional Land Trust
Maine Natural Areas Program
Land for Maine's Future Program
Phippsburg Land Trust
Ducks Unlimited, Inc.
The Katy Prairie Initiative: A Clarion Call to Action
by Mary Anne Piacentini, Katy Prairie Conservancy and
Carter Smith, The Nature Conservancy
Situated in Harris and Waller Counties, Texas, the Gulf Coast Joint Venture's
Katy Prairie Initiative represents an important ecological link on the
Central Flyway's southern terminus in the United States. The prairie's
assemblage of palustrine farmland, natural depressional wetlands, pasture,
and riparian woodlands provide critical wintering, breeding, and stopover
habitat for more than 200 bird species.
Despite the relatively intensive agricultural land use in the project
area, the landscape has remained enormously productive for wintering waterfowl.
With the extensive loss of coastal marsh and depressional wetlands, wintering
birds have become increasingly dependent upon inland agricultural wetlands.
The project area contains seasonally flooded rice stubble, transitional
prairie wetlands in various stages of succession, fallow fields, and large
reservoir impoundments, all of which provide essential resting, roosting,
and foraging areas for approximately 25 percent of the mid-continent population
of snow geese that winter along the Texas coast. Fifteen species of ducks,
including northern pintails, black-bellied whistling-duck, American wigeon,
mottled ducks, and ring-necked ducks, rely upon the small ponds and shallow
water habitats of flooded fields for foraging and roosting.
These flooded fields also generate rich sources of aquatic invertebrates,
crustaceans, and seeds for wetland-associated species, such as great blue
herons, great egrets, roseate spoonbills, and Wilson's phalaropes, that
stop over during spring and fall migrations. Depressional-wetland complexes
in pastures and abandoned rice fields provide abundant moist-soil vegetation,
like panicums, smartweed, and spangletop, that ducks forage.
The gallery forest along Cypress Creek contains mature stands of water
oak, ash, and live oak, creating a canopy that is frequented by wintering
bald eagles and red-shouldered hawks. Ideal nesting and brood-rearing
habitat within the creek's wooded sloughs attract wood ducks. Rare neotropical
migrants such as Swainson's and golden-winged warblers use the gallery
forest for resting and stopover habitat during migration.
The Katy Prairie Initiative has become something of a clarion call to
action for those in Texas concerned with the ramifications of unfettered
urban sprawl on wildlife and wetlands. Long heralded for its premier waterfowl
hunting and bird watching opportunities, the project area is under siege
from rapid urbanization. From 1970 to 1990, the population of the Katy
Prairie increased 800 percent, and in the next 10 years, the population
is expected to double. More than 50 percent of the prairie has been permanently
lost to urbanization. Subdivisions and rural residential development in
the eastern portion of the area provide a harbinger of the future diminution
and fragmentation of available habitat.
Private landowners, real estate developers, conservation organizations,
and government entities involved in this project are emblematic of the
broad-based support for a system of viable migratory preserves on the
prairie. In addition to permanently protecting 1,663 acres within the
Texas Rice Prairies Region for wildlife, the project benefits outdoor-recreation
enthusiasts who frequent the prairie. Wildlife viewing, educational programs,
and hunting opportunities are available on the acquired lands through
guided tours and leasing operations. The watershed's significance in attenuating
flood damage for downstream residents of Houston further increases the
project's value to Texans. What's good for wildlife is good for people.
For more information, contact Mary Anne Piacentini, Katy Prairie Conservancy,
3015 Richmond Avenue, Suite 230, Houston, Texas 77098, (713) 523-6135,
Katy Prairie Initiative Partners
Partners matched a $744,000 North American Wetlands Conservation
Act grant with $1,116,000
to achieve their project goals.
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department
Live Oaks Ranch
The Mills Corporation
The Trust for Public Land
Katy Prairie Conservancy
Legacy Land Trust