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Promoting the enjoyment, study, and conservation of Wisconsin's birds.

New Member Spotlight: Janet Wissink

Tell us a bit about yourself in your own words:  

I grew up in Oshkosh but for the last 26 years my husband and I have lived on 9 acres near Rush Lake – a birder’s heaven. We also have a small, simple cabin (no electricity or running water) in Marinette County.

Being the art director for Wisconsin Sportsman and four other magazines was my most challenging job and it’s where I learned a lot about the outdoors. After that I worked in printing and mailing businesses. I retired three years ago and am as busy as ever.

I am a charter member of Winnebago Audubon and currently serve as President. As editor of the newsletter, I write, design and illustrate it. I am also chairperson for Oshkosh Bird Fest which celebrates International Migratory Bird Day and the fact that Oshkosh is a Bird City!

After the shooting of a Snowy Owl at our local airport in 2017, I coordinated with a falconer, Frank Ujazdowski, to offer airports a “rescue and relocate” service for Snowy Owls and other birds of prey that pose a safety hazard.  We joined forces with Erin Giese from Northeastern Wisconsin Audubon, and Project SOAR (Snowy Owl Airport Rescue) now serves 3 airports. WSO honored us with the Special Recognition Award in 2020.

I enjoy volunteering for a variety of citizen science activities including monarch tagging, the DNR Wisconsin Frog and Toad Survey, Midwest Sandhill Crane Count, Great Backyard Bird Count, Christmas Bird Count, Project Feeder Watch, and Snapshot Wisconsin.

How would you describe your involvement with birds?

I guess I always liked birds. As a child I loved to go for rides in the country or on a picnic with my parents and we would look for birds.

My aunt, Thelma Windhauser, was a birdwatcher and belonged to WSO, which made an impression on me. When I was 10 years old, she gave me a signed, first edition of Owen Gromme’s Birds of Wisconsin. I loved the paintings Gromme did for that book. I personally like to draw birds in pen and ink and often add color with pencils. I have illustrated signs for two nature areas and many articles in the Winnebago Audubon newsletter.

What led you to join the WSO?

So many of my friends, who I met because of birds and who influenced my life, are members of WSO. This organization does great things for birds and the birding community and I have no good excuse for not having joined a long time ago.

I am proud to say, I am now a member of WSO.

Do you have a favorite Wisconsin bird? If so, why that bird?

The Hermit Thrush is not often seen, but it’s flute-like song fills the quiet evening woods surrounding our cabin. It’s magical and calming.

Have you had a recent memorable experience with birds or while birding?

Yes! We were up at the cabin in early April when I heard an unfamiliar bird calling.

Then I heard two.

One was out back, and the other seemed to be in the air towards the front. Looking in the direction of the flying bird I saw it coming in fast, calling, wings tucked back, in a shallow dive towards the bird out back.

Wow! What was that?

I grabbed my binoculars and worked my way to the back of our property where I could hear these two birds calling back and forth. Then it was quiet. I stopped. The calling started again and in comes the bird in a shallow dive again.

I finally saw them. A pair of Red-shouldered Hawks performing a courtship ritual. I think I found their nest, too, so I can’t wait to get back up there to check on them.

Is there anything else you’d like to share about yourself or your experience with birds?

I cannot imagine a life without birds. Being a birdwatcher taught me so much about the natural world. Birds are just one part of the circle of life. Each part depends on the other to survive.

My involvement in Audubon and organizations like Wisconsin Society for Ornithology keep me focused on protecting our environment to keep it healthy for birds and people.