'Welcome Back Bird Day' celebrates return of songbirds to Chippewa Valley

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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (RELEASE FROM UW-EAU CLAIRE) -- Birders, biologists and other community members gathered Wednesday at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire to celebrate International Migratory Bird Day.

UW-Eau Claire's biology department hosted one of five viewing sites in Eau Claire for community members participating in the city's first-ever "Welcome Back Bird Day," a celebration of the return of songbirds to Wisconsin from their wintering grounds in the tropics.

Participants watched for various bird species in Putnam Park on lower campus.

"Everyone from kids to beginning birders are welcome to join us on campus or at one of the other community sites to learn more about the songbirds' incredible journeys northward and to view the birds as they arrive in Eau Claire," said Dr. Paula Kleintjes Neff, a professor of biology and one of many birders who helped point out birds and share their expertise at the campus site.

More than 100 bird species are found in Putnam Park, which serves as an important migratory corridor for many species of birds, said Kleintjes Neff, noting she once saw 17 different species of warblers in the park while sitting in one spot for 45 minutes.

Organizers of Eau Claire's first "Welcome Back Bird Day" hope to collectively see and identify more than 100 bird species during the 12-hour event, said Kleintjes Neff, who will be joined by several other biology faculty, emeriti faculty and birding experts at the university site throughout the day. They'll have with them binoculars and a spotting scope to share with visitors.

Many people also participated in the "Big Sit" at four other Eau Claire sites, including Braun's Bay in Carson Park, the area near the band shell in Owen Park, Truax Prairie at Kane Road and 10th Avenue, and the Dell's Pond overlook at Ruby Lane.

"This is the first time we're having this kind of celebration in Eau Claire," Kleintjes Neff said. "It's a great opportunity for everyone to celebrate the return of the birds after our long winter, and to learn about the many bird species found in Eau Claire."

The event is sponsored by Bird City Wisconsin, Gaylord Nelson Audubon Society and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

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