As migratory birds returned to the St. Croix Valley last weekend, area residents migrated outdoors to greet them. It was part of the first annual Bird Migration Celebration sponsored by the citizens group Tropical Wings in partnership with the Art Bench Trail of The Phipps Center for the Arts in Hudson, Wisconsin.
The weekend kicked off on Friday, May 2 with a reception, art exhibit, and program at The Phipps. A full house of 125 enjoyed a presentation by Craig Thompson of the Wisconsin DNR, poetry readings by Laurie Allmann and winners of the Tropical Wings Poetry Contest, and an original song written by John Mueller’s students at River Crest Elementary in Hudson. The exhibit of work by students from Knapp Elementary in Menomonie, Wisconsin; River Crest; and a class from Costa Rica remains on view through May 30 in The Phipps Center lobby.
On Saturday, May 3, the seven benches on the Art Bench Trail were staffed by Tropical Wings volunteers with information about neotropical migratory birds and hands-on activities centered on a different bird theme. Themes included bird banding, photographing birds, and writing bird poetry. In addition, information about a Sister Park relationship that recently formed between national parks in the Upper Midwest and analogous organizations in Costa Rica, one of the places neotropical migratory birds spend their winters, was available at each bench site. On that morning, three of the poetry contest winners and Allmann read their poems at the art bench in Larry Forrest Memorial Park in Somerset, Wisconsin.
During St. Croix County’s Earth Day event at Y Camp St. Croix on Sunday, May 4, volunteers from Tropical Wings, River Crest, and the Sustainability Club of Hudson High School staffed information and activity tables. Experienced birders and Tropical Wings volunteers Patty Mueller and Nina Koch led hikes for families twice during the afternoon. During the three days of activities, nearly 800 people learned something new about these songbirds and the remarkable journeys they make every spring and fall.
A total of 141 entries were submitted to the Tropical Wings Poetry Contest. The poems explore themes related to migratory birds and their seasonal journeys, the connections between birds and people, the role of birds in the community of life, and the nature of flight itself.
Winning poets in the adult category are: 1st place, Lee Kisling (Hudson); 2nd place, Karl Olson (Hudson); and 3rd place, Karen Schulz (Stillwater).
Winning poets in the youth category are: 1st place, Maggie Brown, age 10 (student at River Crest); 2nd place, Joey Olson, age 7, (student at River Crest); and 3rd place, Logan Carmody, age 8, (student at Knapp Elementary, Menomonie).
The poetry contest was open to new and experienced poets ages 8 to108, residing in counties bordering the lower St. Croix River from Taylors/St. Croix Falls to Prescott. Judges were environmental writer and poet Laurie Allmann and Dale Cox, poet, park ranger for the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway, and 2004-2008 judge of Wisconsin entries to the River of Words International Art and National Poetry Contest.
Contest sponsors extend their appreciation to all who entered as well as their congratulations to the winning poets.
Waiting for You
By Lee Kisling
Esperando para ustedes! And here you are,
our southern cousins—you cannot know what this means
to us still bent at our shovels pushing back snow.
As you have waited for your mysterious signal
to venture north, crossing the deserts and plains
between us—your spring song is signal to us
of longer days, of garden work and lazy sun. Here
is the seasons’ corner, and there the field of summer
that you have carried all those miles.
You, who divide your lives north and south—
where is true home? Or do you always just visit?
By Karl Olson
Wind through feather,
Light as air.
Miles and seasons pass.
Aloft like angels,
Pure and bright.
Return to the River
By Karen Schulz
Springtime begins when
Birds return from a journey
Fly high with the clouds
From their home in the tropics
Arrive at my door
Weary, in need of a rest
Their brown wings and white belly
Fly in high circles
Hover over the water
Dive feet first to catch
Fish in the ice free river
The great blue heron
Cruises slow over river
So close to water
Wing tips skim the tops of waves
Flying low with its
Long legs dangling behind
The bright orange and black
Of Baltimore orioles
Sweet tooth for jelly
And red hummingbird nectar
Chattering calls and
Whistling song fill the air
A streak of yellow
Announces the arrival
Of tiny warblers
Flitting about, singing songs
Ready to sail out
To catch insects in midair
Deep forked tail of barn swallows
Swift flapping of wings
With quick tight turns and sleek dives
Dart over water
Search for flying insect prey
Home for the summer
Air filled with whistles and chirps
Baby birds in nest
Learn to trust their wings to fly
Soaring in the breeze
The river flows beneath you
By Maggie Brown, age 11
I watch as your beautiful blue wings
fly through the cold air
hoping you’ll come back in spring
You don’t fly at noon
but with the moon
using all your might
to get to what you call paradise
By Joey Olsen, age 10
suddenly the urge to migrate is upon all
neotropical birds it is the moment both young and old have been preparing for soon
the skies are filled with bright vibrant colors
like rows of wildflowers and the cycle
By Logan Carmody, age 8
The cedar waxwing
Flying through the pretty sky
Beautiful sound they make
Like I am dreaming
The Tropical Wings Poetry Contest and St. Croix Flyway Bird Migration Celebration are collaborative projects of the Art Bench Trail (www.artbenchtrail.org) of The Phipps Center for the Arts, Rotary District 5960, River Market Community Co-op, the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway (National Park Service), and Tropical Wings, a gathering of citizens dedicated to celebrating and sustaining the migratory birds shared between the Upper Midwest and Costa Rica’s Osa Peninsula. Tropical Wings was formed in 2011 as a Sister Park arrangement was being developed among 13 national park units in the Upper Midwest and seven parks around the Osa Peninsula in Costa Rica. The group’s volunteers are active in local efforts along the St. Croix and Mississippi Rivers as well as cross-cultural/international collaborations fostering education and habitat preservation.