Family Fun

Observing Wildlife and Plants

One of the joys of owning land is exploring and appreciating your property during all the seasons and under different weather conditions. Whether going for a walk, taking photographs, foraging for wild berries, or sitting in a tree stand waiting for a deer, you probably get great joy from spending time outdoors on your property. If you have managed your land to create young forest habitat, you have seen some obvious physical changes on the landscape, but have you noticed how the plants and animals are responding? Here is some information about wildlife that you might observe and some fun ways to enjoy the new young forest you’ve created.

American Woodcock

The American woodcock (Scolopax minor) is a type of shorebird that, unlike many of its relatives, spends its time in wooded uplands rather than at the beach. Woodcock are short-distance migrants that spend the winter in the southeastern United States and breed in the Northeast and in southern Canada. Woodcock feed and nest in dense regenerating young forest and shrub wetlands.


American woodcock/Eric Dresser

If you see a woodcock on your land, it’s a good indication that you have young forest habitat. The best time to see woodcock is in the spring (from late March to early June in Wisconsin), when males perform their mating display. The males start displaying about 20 minutes after sunset each evening, and the display lasts about an hour. Woodcock males stand on the ground in cleared areas of forest openings and sound a nasal peent call. They also fly up into the sky, where they circle and, as they descend in a spiral or zigzag pattern, make twittering sounds with their wings and voice. This beautiful display attracts females for mating.

To a see a woodcock, quietly wait at sunset near a patch of young forest or a clearing near a forest edge and listen for its peent call. Then, while the bird is in flight, quietly and slowly creep closer to the spot from which it took off. The bird will generally land quite close to where it took off, unless it is scared away by another male woodcock, a predator, or a human observer. Click here to listen to woodcock sounds and find more information on these intriguing birds.

Golden-Winged Warbler

The golden-winged warbler (Vermivora chrysoptera) is a small migratory songbird that breeds exclusively in young forest habitat. Golden-wings fly over 3,000 miles during migration, spending the winter months in Central or South America.


Golden-winged warbler/Laurie Johnson

Golden-winged warbler populations have fallen alarmingly in recent decades, leading conservationists to create suitable young forest habitat in their breeding range, which stretches from New England to Minnesota and south in the Appalachians to northern Georgia.

Male golden-wings sit on a prominent perch and sing their buzzy song to stake out a breeding territory and attract a mate. Females nest on the ground, often beneath a shrub or along a forest edge. A typical nest contains up to six eggs.

To find a golden-winged warbler, take a morning walk in May or June in young forest habitat, especially young aspen. Listen for their buzzy songs and watch for the a male with his distinctive black cap and face mask and yellow wing patch. Click here for more golden-wing photos, sound clips, and life history information.

Young Forest Property Log and Scavenger Hunt

Use the handy Young Forest Property Log to keep track of sightings and observations on your land. Keep a log throughout the seasons and over the years to see how your young forest changes through time. (Download and print a copy of the Young Forest Property Log from the Attachments section at the bottom of this page.)

Young forest habitats are quickly occupied by many plants and animals, and they offer stimulating environments to interest folks in nature, including youngsters. See if you and your family can find some of the common young forest flora and fauna on your land. (Download and print recommendations for a Young Forest Scavenger Hunt from the Attachments section below.)

From Observation to Science

Engaging with your property through observing and enjoying nature is a wonderful personal experience. Consider taking your observations to the next level by sharing them with scientists to help answer important ecology and wildlife management questions.

This kind of data collecting and sharing by ordinary people is often called citizen science or community science. Anyone can participate and provide valuable information in collaboration with scientists. Many programs exist to monitor plants and animals in Wisconsin and across the country and the world. Help out the Wisconsin Young Forest Partnership by joining our community and taking part in the Wisconsin Young Forests iNaturalist project. You may also want to join one or more of the many other citizen science programs that welcome Wisconsin landowners.

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