Field Trip leader Jeff Bahls next to his wife Suzanne on a Foundation Field Trip. Photo by NRF Field Trips.
How long have you been a member of the Foundation, and why did you become a member?
I’ve been a member of the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin for at least 15 years. I discovered the Foundation through its Field Trip Program and enjoyed exploring wonderful places in Wisconsin and learning about them from the folks that take care of them. You can sense the pride they have in taking care of these natural treasures.
Since 2014, I’ve also been a Field Trip leader with the Foundation and have co-led 14 different trips at Horicon Marsh with my colleague Liz Herzmann, including Horicon Marsh Birding Blitz, Kayak Horicon Marsh, Sunset Cruise at Horicon Marsh, and Night Sounds at Horicon.
Photo: Horicon Marsh by USFWS
What conservation issue matters most to you, and why should it matter to your fellow Wisconsinites?
Wetlands, they’re so vital to so many things.
They provide important habitat for birds, clean water, recreation, fishing, hunting, paddling (another one of my passions). On top of that they play a critical role in flood prevention. It makes me sad seeing them mistreated and drained for short sighted goals.
What are some early memories that fostered your love of Wisconsin’s outdoors?
I grew up on a farm in Dodge County, Wisconsin. My dad was a trapper, hunter, and angler, and had a big influence on my interest in the outdoors. He was named after Theodore Roosevelt, and always said, “if you take, you must give back,” and that always stuck with me.
My interest in the outdoors started early. When I was about seven years old, I put up my first bird house. I loved waterfowl since the age of twelve. Duck hunting is one of my passions, and it eventually led to my “bird frenzy” and I couldn’t get enough of birdwatching. It began with seeing ducks coming back in the spring, then noticing other birds, and now it’s birds year-round.
Photo by Horicon Marsh Wrens Birdathon Team
Your love of birding led you to participate in the Foundation’s Great Wisconsin Birdathon. Tell us about your team, and why others should consider joining in this fun tradition!
I’ve been participating in the Great Wisconsin Birdathon for several years on the Horicon Marsh Wrens team. It gets me out with likeminded people, and we learn from one another. I am pretty good at identifying birds, but others on my team have taught me a lot about ID’ing plants, bugs, and trees.
Last year, our team spotted a total of 102 species between Mud Lake Wildlife Area and the Horicon Marsh Area, including a golden-winged warbler, blue-headed vireo, black tern, green heron, sora, sedge wren, bobolink, and black-throated green warbler.
I encourage others to join in the Birdathon – get outside, enjoy nature, and bring a friend!
Jeff Bahls has 40 years of experience with the Horicon Marsh where he works part time for the Wisconsin Dept of Natural Resources. Jeff has been a member of Horicon Marsh Bird club for the past 22 years and is the current President. He currently sits on the board of the Wood Duck Society, a nationwide organization devoted to placement, and care of Wood Duck nest boxes and the life cycle of the Wood Duck.
Jeff was a member of Cornell Lab of Ornithology 2007 search team, for Ivory Billed Woodpecker in Arkansas. In 2018 Jeff was awarded the Wisconsin Society of Ornithology bronze Passenger Pigeon award for outstanding contributions in local and state areas for study and enjoyment of birds.
April 15-June 15
The Great Wisconsin Birdathon is the largest fundraiser for bird conservation in Wisconsin, and helps support some of our state’s most threatened and endangered birds. Form a team, count bird species, raise funds, and help us #BringBirdsBack!