GRASLands Blog

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Buy the Right Bird Seed

By Meghan M.M. Trimm

Birds are more vulnerable than ever. This is partly because their natural habitats chock full of lush plants with nutritious seeds are disappearing over time. One way to do your part for birds when they are most vulnerable (migration & winter) is provide seed that might otherwise be hard to find. But how to pick the right seed?

You can help by finding out what birds are in your area during the Fall and Winter. In Green-Rock territory (South Central Wisconsin) the birds who will be attracted to seed include Cardinals, Finches, Grosbeak, Crossbill, Titmice, sparrows, nuthatches, woodpeckers, doves, jays, and depending on your areas others as well. To help makes sure that all your feeder birds have what they need in seed consider what we know about their preferences. According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, here’s a list of what seeds attract which birds:

1.      Safflower

This seed is loved by Cardinals, and it is also not well-liked by House Sparrows and starlings, which are not native to North America. That makes it a strong choice for bird feeders in brushy areas, yards or woods with deciduous trees, and urban areas.


2.      Red or White Millet

This is a very popular seed, but there is a trick to its success. Birds who feed on the ground will choose this seed over the all-time favorite black-oil sunflower. However, tree-feeding birds will almost always disregard millet in favor of sunflower. Furthermore, there seems to be a preference for white millet or red. Putting this seed on the ground is the best way to ensure its eaten. Ground feeding birds include cardinals, finches, and juncos.

This seed serves a wide array of habitats, because a wide variety of birds are ground-feeders. You can use this seed from brushy areas to deciduous or coniferous woods, and in urban areas.


3.      Nijer Thistle

Many ornithologists describe this seed as a ‘delicacy’ for small finches. It attracts goldfinches, redpolls, and siskins among others. This seed will do well in places where finches thrive such as swamps and boggy areas, grasslands, croplands, brushy areas, deciduous woods, coniferous woods, and even urban areas. Though purple and gold finch varieties will be more prominent in some areas than others.


4.      Whole-kernel corn & Cracked-corn

Quail, jays, pigeons, doves, and pheasants all love this cheapest-of-seeds. They will also eat cracked corn; however, the cracked corn also attracts blackbirds, finches, and sparrows. Typically, to attract pheasant and quail, whole kernel corn feeders should be placed along fence lines in marshes and wet meadows, swamps and boggy areas, grasslands, croplands, and brushy areas. Cracked corn would do well in the same places with the addition of also being suitable for urban areas.


5.      Peanuts

Some bird lovers, apparently, have had success with peanuts – it seems a large variety of birds likes peanut as they are fatty and full of protein. They are favored by woodpeckers and jays, although they are not their favorite. Peanuts and peanut rejects will do well in swampy and boggy areas, deciduous and coniferous forests, and possibly also in urban areas.


6.      Fruit

Robins, bluebirds, other thrushes, mockingbirds, catbirds, tanagers, and orioles eat more fruit and insect than seeds. To supplement their diets, consider adding raisins or currents to your feeder. Be sure to soften dried fruits by soaking them in water first. Place this food option in feeding stations at ground or elevated levels in swamps and boggy areas, grasslands, croplands, brushy areas, deciduous woods, coniferous woods, and urban areas.


7.      Black-oil Sunflower

This seed is absolutely prime. Most widely liked by the largest variety of birds, this seed is a high-energy food that is especially important during migration and winter. Chickadees, titmice, nuthatches, finches, sparrows, orioles, jays, pigeons, doves, pheasants, blackbirds, and even thrushes eat and enjoy this variety. In fact, it is so well-liked that some birds abandon all other seed varieties and eat only black sunflower.

That being said, it’s a perfect starter seed if you’re setting up your feeder for the first time. Place this seed on the ground or in elevated feeders in almost any habitat.

Another important note: black sunflower is not to be confused with striped sunflower. The two varieties are vastly different for birds. Black sunflower is something of a super-food, while striped sunflower has less meat-to-shell ratio and cannot be efficiently cracked open by many smaller bird species. Save your striped sunflower, if you have it, for woodpeckers and larger ground feeding birds.

Once you’ve chosen your seed and feeder elevation, consider taking measures to stop squirrels and cats from coming into the area, if possible. Also, birds will prefer feeders near cover, such as brush, trees, or roofs in a given habitat. Finally, be sure that the feeder is accessible to you for refilling easily. The more consistent you can be, the better luck you will have with attracting visitors. And, of course, the better for the birds.



Adventures on Bass Creek

By Meghan M.M. Trimm

This year the Bass Creek Dam Association bestowed the Bass Creek Canoe Launch on Green-Rock Audubon Society. I love canoeing; I knew I had to get out there. On the first hot day in June we got together with my folks, packed up the kids and a lunch, and headed out to the launch to check it out. Here are visitor’s notes from my family adventures on Bass Creek!


The launch is situated in Afton, WI, right across from the delicious Bass Creek Café next to the County D bridge. It’s about half way between Beloit and Janesville.

Flows to the Rock River

Bass Creek flows to the Rock River. Rock Trail Coalition, which maintains the waterway, clears away debris and downed trees from the creek every spring. A canoe can pass from the launch in Afton all the way to the Beloit dam.


The launch has gravel for parking. A grassy trail leads from the gravel to the banks of the creek; it’s about 20 yards long.

We unloaded our vessels and coolers and kids at the canoe launch. Then my dad and I dropped off one of our cars downstream at Happy Hollow Park in Janesville. This landing point is situated on the Rock River and even has a boat launch to get canoes out of the water. Better still, it’s only a six-minute drive away. That distance made for a canoe trip of about 2 hours— though we did stop and wade a bit.

Skill Level: Easy Peasy

My kids are nine and four; this was their first canoe trip. Bass Creek proved to be a great introductory spot. There are no rapids. The creek is shallow, and fairly slow moving. My four-year-old could wade without trouble until we hit the river. We did have to scoot our vessel over rocks once or twice.


Bass Creek passes private residences and a good deal of scenic terrain including passage under an old stone bridge. We saw red winged black birds, butterflies, and fish. We heard frogs. We stopped to eat lunch on a sandy bank of the river.

It was a great first adventure and we plan to do it again in late summer.




Dt 32:11-12          Mt 23:37

First Congregational Church UCC          May 8, 2016

Neil Deupree


There’s a mother robin sitting on her nest by our driveway.

We noticed the nest because of the plastic string hanging down

that she didn’t quite get incorporated into the structure.

We’re trying not to disturb her,

although she doesn’t seem to be fazed by the roofing work going on.

For the next week and a half, she’ll be incubating almost non-stop –

just leaving the next long enough to get a bite to eat (10 minutes max).

Sometimes her partner will bring her breakfast in bed.

She may build three nests this summer and have three broods of children.

That’s a little daunting to me.

Our resident wren has been flitting around our backyard and singing his heart out.

We have three wren houses available to him.

I expect he will build a twig nest in all three of them

and present the choices to his mate.

She gets to choose the house she prefers.

The swallows are back – four or five species –

and they’re building their mud nests under the downtown bridges –

except for the tree swallows, who prefer other accommodations.

This is the time of the year that we notice and appreciate the birds around us.

Their songs wake us up in the morning.

Their behavior is fascinating – if we can be still long enough to watch them.

They invite us to think of life – and birth – and mothers – and God.


It’s no wonder that birds appear in the Bible so much.

You can find a great book at Hedberg Library –

Consider the Birds: a provocative guide to the birds of the bible by Debbie Blue.

Jesus compares himself to a mother hen.

The author of Deuteronomy points to a mother eagle as a picture of God.

So, let’s think about the ways that a nest reflects how God takes care of us – the nestlings.

The nest gets built – usually with a great deal of attention to detail.

Each nest has a special design –

from the hummingbird’s nest made out of spiderwebs

to the robin’s nest made with grass and mud

to the oriole’s nest hanging from a branch

to the eagle’s nest that needs a large tree to hold all its weight.

God knows what kind of nest we each need

to grow and stretch our wings and fly.

The eggs need to be kept warm and safe.

It’s a full time job.

I’m glad that God is on it –

and that God sends people to provide comfort and protection.

The hatchlings are hungry.

A baby robin needs to eat every 20 minutes the whole day long.

That’s a full-time job for both the parents.

The nestling may eat 14 feet of worms altogether -

plus a lot of insects.

We say grace at our meals to remind us

that our food ultimately comes from God.

Then the little birds leave the nest – they fledge – they fly.

The mother is still around – still feeding them.

They haven’t forgotten how to beg for food.

And gradually they learn how to find their own worms for breakfast.

That’s a mother’s purpose –

raising children that can make their own way in life.

That’s God’s purpose – raising us to think for ourselves –

to act as adults –

to continue creating the world God gave us

with love as the guiding principle.

The Psalmist says:

Hide me in the shadow of your wings. Ps 17:8

All people may take refuge in the shadow of your wings. Ps 36:7

Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me, for in you my soul takes refuge;

in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge, until the destroying storms pass by.

Ps 57:1

There are at least nine places in Scripture that talk about taking refuge under God’s wings.

A nest is a safe haven.

It’s a place to retreat to when the storm comes.

(We just hope that branch is strong enough to withstand the gusts of wind.)

A mother’s lap is a good place to be when the thunder crashes around us.

How do we find God’s sheltering wings when we’re scared?

We can read a Psalm. We can call a friend to pray with us.

It may be hard for us to feel God’s hug,

but we reach out and hang on to our trust.

A nest is protection from predators.

When the mother is on the nest, she’s hard to see.

Her protective coloring keeps prying eyes away.

And if there’s a threat, she goes on the attack.

Size doesn’t matter.

I’ve been divebombed by a redwing protecting her nest.

We may not know what God is doing to keep us safe.

But we depend on God’s design and God’s people for our well-being.

Now we get to the hard part for today. Jesus says:

Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it!

How often have I desired to gather your children together

as a hen gathers her brood under her wings,

and you were not willing! Mt 23:37

Here’s a difference between birds and humans.

Can you imagine the goslings by Monterey not coming when their mother calls?

But we get good at ignoring the warnings.

What is Jesus offering in terms of protection and comfort under his wings?

The prophets that he mentions were often saying:

“Watch out! You’re going the wrong way. Danger ahead!

God can only protect you so much if you insist on being stubborn.”

Or else they said:

“This is God’s purpose for you. If you follow the plan, you’ll prosper.”

So if we take refuge under Jesus’ wings,

we’ll be warned; we’ll be safe from making terrible mistakes;

and we’ll be put on the right track for a life that’s worth living.

Why wouldn’t we come when Jesus calls?

It’s the same reason mothers have to call their kids to supper more than once.

We’re distracted.

We’re preoccupied.

We’re overconfident.

Jesus is still calling us.

“I want to put my arms around you.

I want to keep you safe and give you a purpose for your life.”

We can hear him saying,

I was hungry and you fed me. I was sick and you tended me.

I was in prison and you came to see me. Mt 25

When we do the everyday things that mothers do,

when we care about the people around us,

we are answering Jesus' call,

and we are leaving the nest and flying for ourselves.

Like an eagle that stirs up its nest

and hovers over its young,

that spreads its wings to catch them

and carries them aloft. Dt 32:11-12

This is a great picture – the eaglet who is ready to fly jumping out of the nest –

and the mother hovering underneath,

ready to catch the young one on her back if he falters.

There is some question about whether that really happens in nature.



But there is no question about the mother’s intention for her child.

She wants him – she wants her – to fly –

and not only to fly – to soar!

That’s God’s intention for us.

Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.

They will soar on wings like eagles;

they will run and not grow weary,

they will walk and not be faint.

Is 40:31


WAC for the Birds:

3 Important Things You Can Do

By Meghan M.M. Trimm

April 25, 2016

On March 19th Green-Rock Audubon hosted the Wisconsin Audubon Council (WAC) quarterly meeting at Welty Environmental Center in Beloit, WI. About twelve people attended the event, and shared a pancake lunch thanks to Welty’s Maple Syrup Festival! Carl Schwartz gave an informative presentation about several important things going on in Wisconsin right now. WAC generously voted to support a project tracking golden winged warblers and the Bird City project. But there’s more to be done. Here’s the 3 important things you can do to help birds in Wisconsin:

A lot of people already watch birds. Imagine the power of turning something you would do anyway into a way of raising money to support bird conservation. Whether you’re sitting at your feeder for an hour, or going out for an eight-hour wilderness adventure – your contribution matters. Here’s how it works:

  • Make a team. You can do this individually or with your friends.
  • Set a date, time, and location any time before June 15th! It’s an event. You can spend an hour in a highly frequented spot, or make a day of it. Either way the birds you count will help scientist better understand how birds are doing in Wisconsin.
  • Power in Numbers: Ask for sponsorships for your birding event. Think about it: If you got four friends to donate $25 to sponsor your Birdathon event, you’ve just raised $100! Imagine how much you could do if you had 3 teammates, and each of you had 10 friends and co-workers donate $10 to a three-hour hiking excursion. You’ve just raised $400! You can do it!
  • Go count birds! You’ll be doing something you love, and making a difference at the same time. Your donations will go to The Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin.
  • If you’re new at this, but want to try it, go ahead and sign up! The Audubon has awesome resources for bird identification that will help, such as the Free Bird Guide app for your smart phone!


2. Use Your Smart Phone To Track Breeding Birds

The Wisconsin Breeding Bird Atlas is an on-going project in its second iteration. The goal is to use the skills of birders all over Wisconsin to spot and record the locations of bird nesting sites by looking for proof of birds breeding. This project also sports a great app called ebird to help capture data when you make an observation.


You can download ebird and record casually or sign up to keep tabs on a specific parcel of land.


As a beginner, my first question was, “How do I know if a bird is nesting if it’s not in its nest.” Turns out there are all kinds of bird behaviors that point to nesting, and the Breeding Bird Atlas has listed them all.


I was wondering if I’d be able to spot a breeding bird when I saw one, then a pair of Morning Doves tried to build a nest on my car while I was in it! Here’s the video.


    3. Find out if your city is a Bird City

A Bird City Wisconsin designation means that a municipality has implemented best practices for protecting birds such as enhancing bird friendly environments and public education among other things.


The Bird City website is full of resources on how to affordably make your home a safer stop for birds, as well as best practices and suggestions on how to help your community make a conscious effort for the birds!


Find out  About More Resources in the Green – Rock Area

Join us for Guided Hikes Every 2nd Saturday

Learn About Fighting Conservation Threats in Green County



Green Rock Audubon marks 24th year serving, protecting the environment

By Tony Ends
Editor "Independent Register -Brodhead"

BELOIT – Green Rock Audubon Society protects wildlife and native plants on 250 acres of area conservation easements, and it needs volunteers.
Board President Neil Deupree issued the call for helpers at the annual meeting of the local chapter of National Audubon Society.
Members from around the two counties gathered for the dinner and business meeting at Bushel and Peck’s local market Oct. 4.
Green Rock members number about 450, including Brodhead, Juda, Albany and Orfordville membership.
A core of committed individuals carries most of the responsibility for clearing brush, mowing hiking trails, torching invasive plants, all in order to restore and preserve native woodlands and prairies.
For more than 15 years, the society has held its monthly meetings in Brodhead. The group meets the first Wednesday of the month at 7 p.m. in Brodhead Public Library’s community room.
Victor Illichmann, who coordinates and organizes volunteer activities, had much to share of the past year’s work during the recent annual meeting.
Not least was the planting of 1,000 trees, mostly white oak, and projected planting of another 1,000 trees in 2016.
Illichmann noted time and energy of many volunteers in 2015 to restore and preserve 40 acres of prairie at the Cleophas Reserve, 24 acres of prairie and oak savannah at Gabower-Reilly Reserve, 34 acres of prairie at Spring Creek and 16 acres of woodland grasses, black walnut and white oak at Androne Woods.
Anyone who would like to help manage lands entrusted to Green Rock Audubon, can call Illichmann at 302-8113, or email
Education, as well as conservancy, ranks high on the Green Rock Audubon agenda. Talks and presentations on a wide range of conservation activities take place in presentations scheduled with speakers and specialists, alternating between cities of the two counties.
Green Rock Audubon’s newsletter “The Naturalist,” is available on line or in print.
It keeps members abreast of protections needed nationally, as well as locally. Most recently, it alerted members of South Carolina Congressman Jeff Duncan’s attempt to amend a routine appropriation’s bill with a prohibition to keep the federal Department of Justice from enforcing the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
“If Duncan’s amendment had been law during the British Petroleum disaster, those responsible for the largest marine spill in history would have faced no prosecution for causing deaths of an estimated million birds,” the newsletter quoted a National Audubon official.
Activism has long been part of Green-Rock’s work.
“Jan Reimer and five others from Green County Defending our Farmland met with us in September and sought a cooperative agreement with us,” Deupree told the annual meeting.
The group, which organized this past summer, has been working with townships adjacent Brodhead and the Sugar River. Concerned local residents want to protect health and safety from concentrated application of liquid manure.
Owners of three concentrated animal feeding operations in Nebraska and Rock County, Wisconsin, with a combined more than 15,000 dairy cows presently, want to build another 5,000-cow dairy in eastern Green County.
Green Rock Audubon board members voted to act as the fiscal agent for the Defending our Farmland group. This is the same service the local Audubon performed for Green Rock Citizens for Clean Water for more than a decade in its legal attempts to protect water with Magnolia Township.
The local chapter of National Audubon incorporated in 1991, and it reflects the strong, local focus, which began with state chapters in the 1890s, expanding rapidly into a national conservation society.



Green Rock Audubon hears incredible history of Horicon’s survival

By Tony Ends
Editor "Independent Register -Brodhead"

BELOIT – Imagine a single flock of 20,000 geese taking flight from a wetland and filling the sky above your head with wings and clamor.
Anyone in southern Wisconsin can experience that and so much more with a lovely seasonal drive to Horicon Marsh.
For an amazing evening earlier this month, former Horicon naturalist Bill Volkert brought the vast wetland’s best and worst moments in history to Beloit.
Volkert was featured speaker at Green Rock Audubon’s annual meeting and dinner in Bushel & Peck’s Local Market.
From prehistoric animals and Ice Age trails to nearly complete ruination by man, over and over again, Volkert hit home significance and import of the largest fresh water cattail marsh in the United States.
“Horicon Marsh is one of the most important stopover areas for migratory birds in the Western Hemisphere.
Volkert is the author of numerous publications and the recipient of many awards, most recently a 2012 Milwaukee Audubon Society Special Recognition Award and a 2010 National Wetland Leadership Award for Education presented by the Environmental Law Institute.
Volkert worked for Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources for 27 years as a naturalist and wildlife educator at Horicon Marsh.
For the Green Rock Audubon Society, he gave an overview of the geology, history, wildlife and ecological concerns for maintaining the health and integrity of the vast wetland.
The water basin that surrounds the Horicon Marsh is much more vast, Volkert said, and it is under increasing developmental pressure, threatening the vitality of the marsh’s future.


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