Last week, while leading a field trip on seasonal discovery, I heard a familiar sound far above my head: the coarse squawk of sandhill cranes. A pair was flying over the prairie, a first for the year, and a signal of the migration season ahead. The arrival of sandhill cranes in Wisconsin is usually reserved for March, however with the warming climate, migrators will likely be returning earlier each year. This phenological event served as the inspiration for this month’s Nature Net News revisiting some of our prior writings on migration, birds, and the impacts of a changing climate on this seasonal marker.



Migration is one of the largest energetic undertakings an animal goes through. While many North American animals migrate–elk, bats, insects, etc.–Migratory birds are the easiest for us humans to engage with. They swoop by over our heads, riding drafts south in the fall and north in the spring. Migratory birds who frequent Wisconsin–either as a stopover point or as a final destination–fall into three large categories: waterfowl, waders, and songbirds. With such a variety of migrators to experience this season, tapping into citizen science and conservation initiatives like Wisconsin eBird or the Wisconsin Bird Conservation Partnership means engaging with these birds on a deeper level. Connect in-person this migration season at the International Crane Foundation–one of our Nature Net Member Sites!

Birding & Phenology

Migration is a chief phenological marker. It’s a marker of change, sometimes towards the darker, deeper months, and other times towards the lighter growing months. Whichever way it points, it always represents a shift. You can engage with this through observations of migratory birds in your backyard, at the park around the corner, or even on a walk around the block. Get the whole family involved with nature journaling for kids–nature journaling is something folks of all ages can participate in!

Backyard Bird Count

While the act of birding is a hyper-local activity, it can lead to international connections. One of the best ways to engage with the international birding community is through the annual Great Backyard Bird Count. The Count is a partnership between The Cornell Lab, The National Audubon Society, and Birds Canada that collects individual bird sightings during a four day time period to create global data and highlight the role we all play in science! This year’s count took place from February 16th to the 19th and you can view the data here. Watch the compilation of 2022 data below:

For More

  • As we progress through the migration season, keep track of your favorite migratory birds with this Migration Map from the National Audubon Society. 
  • Check out this guide to birding from PBS Nature:


In Case You Missed It…

News from Nature Net Members​​

Madison School Farm Trailside Backpacks Nature’s Navigators STEM Camp
Rooted is excited to introduce the community to the new name for the Goodman Youth Farm: the Madison School Farm! The change reflects a shift in funding as well as the farm’s role in the community. The Madison School Farm engages students from all around the Madison area from ages 3-18 in the work of urban farming from planting and harvesting to beekeeping and farm-to-table cooking. Explore more here! The Aldo Leopold Nature Center has refreshed their trailside backpack program through a grant from the Monona Tourism Commission. These backpacks are available for free in the lobby at ALNC as well as at several community sites–Monona Public Library, Country Inn & Suites – Monona, and AVID Hotels – Monona. Learn more about the program here! Upham Woods is excited to host this year’s Nature’s Navigators STEM Camp! This program is a partnership with the Center for Climatic Research of the Nelson Institute that works to expand science opportunities for autistic youth. Attendees in grades 6-12 will participate in nature-based, hands-on learning centered on STEM skills that embraces the unique thinking and learning of autistic youth. Learn more about the program here!
For Families: For Educators: Upcoming Events:
Spring Break is just around the corner and several Nature Net members offer engaging nature programs for your child’s out-of-school time! Check out offerings at the Welty Environmental Center, Lussier Family Heritage Center, Upham Woods, and the Aldo Leopold Nature Center! Looking to engage your students in the upcoming growing season? Explore the field trip offerings through Rooted’s farm field trip sites! Explore all aspects of a small urban farm at the Madison School Farm or dig into the ecology of supporting food production while forming a deeper connection with the land at the Troy Kid’s Garden. Learn more about cost, busing assistance, and field trip registration here! Gear up for spring with our Nature Net Members! Get ready for the growing season with gardening classes, attend a maple sugaring workshop or Maple Syrup Fest, and learn more about spring break learning opportunities on our Nature Net Calendar!

Nature Net News: Funding & Content Creation