Black Tern Banding Project Updates

Project: Rome Pond Wildlife Area
County: Waukesha
Project Start Date: 07/10/2021
Project End Date: 07/10/2021

In an update to last month’s black tern banding project, we’re excited to share the story and images of this historic banding project being done on WWA’s Adopt A Wildlife Area (AWA) project on Rome Pond Wildlife Area.

Another Amazing Day!

By Mike Alaimo, Lead AWA volunteer.
All photos courtesy Mike Alaimo unless otherwise noted.

Dr, David Shealer bands a black tern chick

As the season was wrapping up for the black terns on Rome, one last effort was made to deploy more geolocating tags.  This task seemed impossible as the platforms were found to be bare and adults were heavily defending the areas where fledglings were present.

Our first leg band of the day resulted from a fledgling that had the necessary primaries, but still chose to cling to the lilies. Dr. David Shealer was able to capture the young tern.  It was allowed to dry off on the seat of my boat, while adults dove down upon us looking and listening for it. After performing measurements and banding the fledgling, it was released back to the capture location.

An exhaustive search was then conducted for natural nesting sites. Young terns were everywhere, in the air and hidden in the beds of lilies. Finally, by watching pair behavior, two natural nest sites were found.

Newly born black tern chicks on their nest. Photo courtesy Dr. David Shealer

A trap was set on one nest, when a molting male was found to have settled down on a small patch of floating peat near us. In awe, I watched a small chick squeeze out from under the breast of the male and stand next to the adult.

Adult male black tern

We pounced on the opportunity, and set a trap over the nest.  Both chicks were captured, and a decoy egg was swapped with the near-to-hatching egg.  The male was quickly trapped, measured, banded and tagged.  Both chicks were also measured and banded, with weights that aged them at one day and less than a day old, respectively.  The difference in weight already three grams between the two.

Dr. David Shealer bands the black tern chick.

With mom unhappily hovering above us, attempts to trap her were abandoned.  We tried finding more nests, but soon we headed to the launch.

What started out as a potential bust turned out to be extraordinary day.  These birds are amazing and I am proud to be part of their lives, while continuing to bolster our education of their species.


Thanks to Mike and Dr. Shealer for this amazing project to help study endangered black terns. An update to Mike’s report published last month can also be viewed here.


Valley Chapter’s CESA 6 Wood Duck Box Building Program

In partnership with Cooperative Educational Service Agency (CESA) 6, WWA’s Valley chapter visited three alternative education schools for wood duck box building, allowing for hands on interaction and participation for students. The volunteers visited:

  • Winchester, WI;  April 13th,
  • Brandon, WI;  April 20th and
  • Hartford, WI;  May 20th.

Special Thanks to Rick Reed of Neenah for the Volunteer Support!

Black Tern Banding

Project: Rome Pond Wildlife Area
County: Waukesha

In 2018, WWA’s Waukesha Chapter Chair, and Adopt A Wildlife Area Lead Volunteer, Mike Alaimo, set out to assist the endangered Black Terns at Rome Pond Wildlife Area as a part of his greater project to restore nesting habitat at Rome Pond. We are excited to announce that in the summer of 2021, Mike partnered with Dr. David Shealer from Loras College on a history-making endeavor to band and track the birds at Rome Pond.  Check out the full report:


May 2021 Habitat Program Updates & Tips for Landowners

By Peter Ziegler, Project Director – 262/470-4301

I can’t remember a time when I did a habitat restoration project in May, but for those in the southern part of the state, you know it has been dry.  That has led to kicking off some early project construction.  That will be good for those trying to get some vegetation and water for the fall flight.  Although an anomaly (May wetland construction, that is), WWA is poised to impact a number of other projects in its goals to get as much habitat on the ground as possible.

Tile removal completed in the early days of June, 2021, part of the restoration process of turning this hay field back into wetland.

We have a handful of sites which have been surveyed and a few more to survey, and then it’s on to permitting.  Although seemly daunting to the average person, permitting for the likes of professionals such as WWA and its partners is just another step in the process of bringing a project to fruition.  The WDNR, through it restructuring, has specialized their water permitting, and that has been great from my perspective.  I now have four main contacts for the most common wetland conservation permitting WWA does.  That simplifies it from the 60 or so potentially under the previous structure, which has allowed us to develop good communication and streamline any questions or issues a certain project may have regulatory-wise ahead of permit submittal.

That still leaves the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and County oversite.  Both of these provide a layer of checks from different perspectives, which is ultimately there to protect the natural resources.  Floodplain issues usually fall to the county, and usually take another step to assure no negative impacts will occur.  But, don’t assume that’s all, we also have to follow and secure erosion permits from both the county and WDNR normally, with a few exceptions.

All of this may seem daunting, but going through the process multiple times a year, you start to understand the process and why timing for completion of any project is not the next month from when you first contact WWA with your project application.  Stay tuned as we dive a little deeper next month with some insight from US Army Corp of Engineers and WDNR, which may save you a call to one of these regulators, or under worst case scenario a visit or letter to cease further action in a regulated wetland.

Abrams Property Prescribed Burn

Project: Abrams Property
County: Oconto
Project Start Date: 05/06/2021
Project End Date: 05/06/2021

On May 6th a successful prescribed burn was completed at WWA’s Abrams Property project site. Prescribed fires are intentionally set under controlled conditions to achieve specific management objectives. The use of prescribed fire is widely accepted as a primary tool for habitat restoration and management.

Here are some images before the burn:

And some images during the burn:

And the post-burn shots:


Valley Chapter’s Nesting Project

Project: Chase/Baehnman Property
County: Waushara
Project Start Date: 03/20/2021
Project End Date: 03/20/2021

On Saturday, March 20th, WWA’s Appleton/Valley Chapter completed the install of thirteen new wood duck box houses on the Chase/Baehnman property, located northwest of Lake Poygan. Thanks to Brad Miller, Scott Stache, Keven O’Brien, Doug Flouro, Steve Beach, Corey Baehnman, Zander Baehnman and Lee Chase for providing critical nesting habitat. Special Thanks to Lee Chase and Corey Baehnman; property owners for supporting the WWA nesting project!

The box locations are marked on the property map.

The team in action, hauling supplies

Driving Pipe: Steve Beach, Corey Baehnman, Zander Baehnman Scott Stache and Doug

Due to the number of installs, the team decided to rent a gas-powered post powder for this project, below is video of their new found technology at work:

Corey Baehnman, Scott Stache, Doug Flouro and Kevin O’Brien working on installs

Zander Baehnman adding nesting shavings to an original house on the property

February Habitat Program Updates

Project: Multiple
County: Statewide

By Peter Ziegler, Project Director – 262/470-4301

Using the cold to our advantage, and then sprinting because 30 degree temperature swings and the now longer sunny days shortens the construction window, a lot of our project work gets accomplished on frigid winter days like we had in February.  That’s been the race this winter, with our significant snow cover creating a nice insulating blanket, and with nearly zero frost in the ground, conditions have been challenging.  We had three projects lined up ready to go, and all were expecting to take off to start construction within a week of each other.  We were waiting for cold conditions and then helping Mother Nature along a little bit as you will see from the pictures below.

Removing snow and Reed Canary Grass during the deep freeze allowed frost to set in and created the solid ground conditions we needed to get these projects constructed this winter.  We were able to create haul roads for running 70,000 pound trucks across the wetland to move fill for some ditch plugs and scrape activities.

With our warmer temps and some sun, water began to accumulate on the work site, but enough frost is present we should be able to wrap this up before the entire area floods over.  It looks like this may be the end for winter work and it came really fast this year since we lacked any frost until early February, and now by the last week of this short month what we have is disappearing.

Once we get rid of a portion of this snow cover I will be back at it with surveying new projects for the coming year.  As always, keep the inquiries coming in, we never turn away a good restoration project and the only way to get good ones is to have you, our members and interested individuals, send them to us.  Give me a call or send in a project application (found here on our website) and I’ll be in touch.

2020 Project Year in Review

Project: Statewide
County: Statewide
Project Start Date: 01/01/2021
Project End Date: 12/31/2020

By Peter Ziegler, Project Director

Watch the full video on WWA’s 2020 Habitat Program accomplishments, presented at our annual State Meeting on January 23, 2021, here:



January 2021 Habitat Program Updates

County: Outagamie
Acres to Restore: 10

By Peter Ziegler, Project Director

The mild temperatures have been nice for some things in the habitat world and not so good for others.  We currently have a project under construction in Outagamie County and the mild temperatures made it possible to actually install erosion matting during winter construction without having to install it within minutes of when the machines finish.

Erosion matting installed on this Outagamie project

The downside is we have a number of projects which need good frost depth to be completed and that is not even close to happening yet.  To see what we have been up to, I’m sharing a few pictures of this Outagamie project site.

The water control structure will allow water management on approximately 10 acres of habitat, which was formerly a field dominated by invasive species.  The scrape will add some diversity of water depth in an area where open water will provided good brood and breeding habitat.

November 2020 Project Program Updates

By Peter Ziegler, Project Director –

Wisconsin’s high ground water tables are providing waterfowl habitat statewide

As the season is nearing its end here in the southern part of the state and we transition into winter, I’m thinking about wetlands and how they fared over the year.  It is with no doubt in many parts of the state wetlands are in good shape from a water standpoint.  We have high ground water tables from ample precipitation over the last two years which has aided in spring production by providing “wet areas” in nearly every depressional landscape contour across Wisconsin.  This has also been a benefit for fall migrants as well.  With many shallow flooded areas in the middle of fields there were ample food and security spots which helped keep many birds around this fall after some early cold fronts moved birds into the state.  With all the water in the soil, which is exhibited by numerous areas of ponding which normally are dry, we should have good brood and spring migratory habitat in 2021, which will greatly benefit production.

That is not all that is needed.  Quality and quantity of habitat is also important.  WWA continues to provide habitat where it is most beneficial.  We recently wrapped up a ten acre site in Marquette County, which will really impact about 30 acres.  From here, we are waiting on frozen ground to finish five more restoration projects this winter.  Hopefully we get some decent frost, unlike last winter, and all will go as planned.

As always WWA is continually looking for quality projects on public and private lands to help restore.  Send me an e-mail or fill out our project request form online.