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

New Member Spotlight: Tanya Hielke

 Tell us a bit about yourself: 

I live in Pickett WI (Winnebago Co.) with my husband. Combined, we have five children and eight grandchildren. My husband and oldest son own and operate the family trucking business. My day job is as a corporate receptionist, but I’ve had several careers in my adult life. Unfortunately, none of those careers was bird biologist, which would have been a great “calling” (pun intended).

How would you describe your involvement with birds?

My involvement with birds started as a young girl. My aunt who was a great lover of birds, and she taught me how to identify birds first by their song. She would play records (vinyl) of many local songbirds. Then we would sit in her yard by the lake and watch for the different birds. She would say, “Hear that? That’s a Cardinal.” Then she would point the bird out to me. I suffered greatly from anxiety as a child, and my aunt's teaching me to connect with nature gave me the ability to go to a calm place. I’ve had a love of all nature ever since. Nature is my medicine. 

 What led you to join the WSO?

 I joined the WSO after my husband and I participated in the annual Christmas Bird Count in our area. Discouraged by the isolation of the pandemic I needed to get outside and bird watching was going to be my saving grace once again. We connected with a local birding and nature group and had a wonderful teacher for the count. To my surprise, and joy, my husband has caught the bird bug too! She suggested we join the WSO to get connected with great programs and information. 

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

 It’s so hard to choose a favorite Wisconsin Bird but to honor my aunt, who gave me such a wonderful gift, I have to say the sweet little House Wren is one of my favorites. The Wren was her favorite. She watched them nest in a bird house my father built for her. In her last days she wrote about the joy that birds gave her, especially the Wrens.  

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

Our most recent memorable experience was discovering a pair of White Winged Crossbills in our backyard. What a find! We thought they were just passing through, but we have been enjoying them for two months now. The best thing about birding is you can do it anywhere, with anyone, and once you teach someone about birds, they will begin to view the world with new eyes! Birding leads to learning so much more about the environment, about trees, grasses, and native plants. Birding is a great way to invite others into care and concern for the earth. 

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

Birding made an impact on a five-year-old girl who suffered from anxiety. The voices of songbirds still bring me joy like nothing else can. Don’t be shy, share your birding excitement with others because you never know what kind of impact it may have on a life.