Events highlight regional avifauna
Did you know more than 240 species of birds can be spotted along the St. Croix River?
Home to flying fauna from the mighty bald eagle to the tiny ruby-throated hummingbird, the St. Croix and Namekagon rivers are what the National Park Service calls “ecological corridors” offering rich habitat for many kinds of birds.
Some are drawn to the river itself as a home, others to the region’s prairies or forests. And for migratory species, the St. Croix’s north-south orientation serves as a convenient landmark, one where water and food are always near.
As human development continues to alter once-wild spaces, encroaching on the habitat of birds and other wildlife, some landowners and property managers have begun to welcome birds to their property with houses and perches. The benefits, turns out, aren’t just for the birds.
“I consider them workers,” said Drew Slevin, farm manager at Osceola’s Lily Springs Farm.
The team at Lily Springs has taken on a proactive stance on inviting species that complement the work they do on the farm.
“It’s a joy to see these birds land on your property, but you can also stage houses to clean up black flies and mosquitos,” Slevin said. “Once the tree swallows fill up the houses near our orchard and start eating the flies, it’s easier for me to work.”
Area residents interested in enhancing bird habitat where they live will have a chance this weekend to learn from Kim Grveles, a retired avian ecologist with the Wisconsin DNR. Grveles will speak Friday at The Acreage and Saturday at Lily Springs Farm.
Friday at The Acreage
May 17 at the Horst Rechelbacher Foundation property, now known as The Acreage, Grveles will talk about the ecological significance of birds and how locals can restore and protect bird habitat.
The property has been a sanctuary in many different forms throughout its history,” said Kiran Stordalen, Horst Rechelbacher’s wife before his death in 2014 and one of the foundation’s trustees. “It’s almost 350 acres comprised of woodland, river frontage, pasture and prairie. So when we’re thinking about wild places and an opportunity for migratory bird species to have a place of respite and refuge, that feels like it could be a really nice landing spot.”
The presentation, hosted by the Horst Rechelbacher Foundation with help from Lily Springs Farm and the Osceola Community Health Foundation, is intended to build on existing efforts toward ecological restoration in the St. Croix Valley.
“I think it folds into some of the ecological components of the community here in terms of sustainability,” Stordalen continued. “Osceola has an interesting progressive direction with a lot of cooperative farms and a lot of interest in organic farming. We’re on the banks of the St. Croix River, which is a national scenic byway. There are a lot of interesting intersections. So how is this chunk of property, which was private and we’re starting to think more of as a shared space, how does it make that sort of contribution to the community?”
For Stordalen, events like these are the beginning of a growing relationship between the foundation and the local and regional community.
“As a nonprofit we’re just really starting to come into our own,” she said. “We’re thinking more broadly about how we can serve the community, what does land stewardship mean for the community at large, and how can we develop meaningful relationships with this community here and in the metro area. There are a lot of wonderful things happening in this area how can we connect in more meaningful ways?”
Saturday at Lily Springs Farm
May 18, locals are invited to join Grveles and Slevin on their annual tour of the Lily Springs Farm. As they walk, the pair will document species on the property, discuss the potential avian contributions toward pest control, and get down to nuts and bolts on how to foster birds on one’s property.
Grveles has already had some influence at Lily Springs. Last year, for instance, when songbirds were plucking kernels from the farm’s first hemp crop, she suggested crafting perches for raptors. The birds of prey wouldn’t compete for the nutritious seeds but would likely keep smaller birds at bay.
The May 18 presentation is open to landowners and bird nerds alike, but will especially benefit those interested in pest control.
“A lot of this is asking questions about doing more with what you have rather than calling a chemical company with all of the unintended consequences of dispersing poison where you hang out,” said farm manager Slevin, “People are starting to ask if there’s a better way.”
Won’t You Be My Neighbor?
Inviting Birds to your Landscape
Both presentations feature avian ecologist Kim Grveles.
MAY 17: 7 to 8:30 p.m at The Acreage (945 Pioneer Drive, Osceola). Free; register at Eventbrite.com.
May 18: 8 a.m. at Lily Springs Farm (1930 60th Avenue, Osceola). Free; email firstname.lastname@example.org to RSVP.