Laura Erickson's For the Birds

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

A day in Port Wing

This is a transcript of my podcast for April 25, 2018. You can hear it (with the children's voices) here, on the program page.

I got to spend a day in my old stomping grounds in Port Wing, Wisconsin, last week. I knew it was going to be a wonderful day when the very first thing I saw when I woke up was a bobcat. I had to be at South Shore School at about 9:30, but that left me a bit of time for a walk on Big Pete Road, on the eastern side of a protected boreal forest. I wasn’t out long, but did see eight Red Crossbills flying over, heard Sandhill Cranes calling in the wetlands adjacent to the forest.

Most fun of all, watched three Pileated Woodpeckers working out their romantic and territorial entanglements. One male had been calling from and drumming on a big, dead pine for several minutes when a female flew in and joined him. Suddenly a second male flew in—this one wasn’t so welcome, and he and the first male did some interesting displays at one another before the new arrival took off, the first male following as if to make sure he entirely left the territory. Then he flew back to his pine tree and hammered a victory drumroll.

Jeepers the neighborhood Pileated Woodpecker

Too soon it was time for me to leave, but fortunately, I was headed to South Shore school. My friend Deanna Erickson, the Education Coordinator at the Lake Superior National Estuarine Research Reserve, has been working with teachers in Port Wing for the past four years, helping them incorporate outdoor learning and Lake Superior into their classrooms. This year, some students will be making signage for a DNR restoration project where my beloved Port Wing sewage ponds are now becoming a restored wetland, and I was going to spend the day with three groups of kids learning about the birds of the area.

I got to the school a half hour before Deanna, when the organized program would begin, so I got to spend some time talking individually with some of Erika Suo’s third and fourth graders. Erika has done a wonderful job of getting her kids started learning about birds. Some of them told me what their favorite birds are. Birds of prey always are among the top picks whether I’m talking to kids or adults, and the speedy Peregrine Falcon always makes a huge impression.
1) My name is Dexton and my favorite bird is the Peregrine Falcon. I like it very much because it is the fastest animal on earth.  
2) Hi. My name is Sylas. My favorite bird is the Peregrine Falcon. I like it because it’s the fastest bird in the world and a great hunter.
 I’d seen two Bald Eagles that very morning in Port Wing—there are at least a couple of nests in my favorite haunts there, so I’m not at all surprised that they have fans.
3) My name is Aydan and my favorite bird is the Bald Eagle because it’s very rare and unique. 
 My own favorite bird made the cut.
4) Hi. My name is Sophie and I like the chickadee because it’s small, cute, and it’s fluffy.
 This was the first week that I’d heard robins singing their lovely spring song, and I got to watch several running in the marshes.
5) My name is Richard and I like the robin because they always stick together.
 Even when it’s not National Blue Jay Awareness Month, Mark Twain’s favorite has its ardent fans.
6) Hi. My name is Maddie. My favorite bird is the Blue Jay because it is intelligent and aggressive. 
Listening to these bright, articulate, knowledgeable kids gives me hope for the future of birds and of human beings.