Woodland Dunes Nature Preserve is a complex of habitats on old lake-dune ridges and swales, similar to Point Beach State Forest to the northeast. Mesic and wet-mesic deciduous forests of aspen, white birch, red maple, yellow birch, hemlock, and white pine are found on the ridges. Ash, elm, alder, white cedar and occasionally tamarack are found in the wet swales, along with emergent marsh and sedge meadow. Understory plants include spinulose wood fern, naked miterwort, American starflower, and the state-threatened sweet colt?s-foot (WDNR 2007). There also are some conifer plantations, oldfields, and cultivated fields. The West Twin River borders one edge, and Lake Michigan lies only a quarter of a mile away. A recent acquisition has added wetlands along an approximately 1-mile stretch of West Twin River shoreline to the property (J. Knickelbine pers. comm. 2007).
Diverse habitats, ridge-and-swale topography, and proximity to Lake Michigan make Woodland Dunes host to a diverse avifauna. Over 260 bird species have been recorded here, and over 100 are regular breeders, including birds with both northern and southern affinities. Breeding species of high conservation priority include good numbers of Marsh Wren, Veery, Ovenbird, and Mourning Warbler, along with smaller numbers of Black-throated Green Warbler, Black-and-white Warbler, Blue-winged Warbler, American Redstart and Northern Waterthrush. Swamp Sparrows and Marsh Wrens also are common. Bobolink, Eastern Meadowlark, and several grassland sparrows also nest. There are records of Acadian Flycatcher, Hooded Warbler, and Henslow?s Sparrow. Little Gulls nested here in the 1980s, making this site one of few places in North America to have breeding records of this species. Osprey have nested yearly on the property for the past 8 years, and Bald Eagles use the area regularly in winter. Woodland Dunes also is well-known as a migration site for both diurnal and nocturnal raptors (especially Northern Saw-whet Owls) each autumn, with almost all Wisconsin species recorded here over the past 30 years. This site is one of the few undeveloped sections remaining along the Lake Michigan shoreline, and it provides critical stopover habitat for thousands of migrating landbirds.
Woodland Dunes is in private ownership, and is protected and managed by the Nature Center staff and board. Over 30 years of bird surveys, bird-banding and other field research provide an ongoing monitoring program, and a variety of environmental education programs are offered to the public. The long-term presence of the Woodland Dunes Nature Center makes this IBA a rich resource for birds as well as humans, including both adults and young students in Manitowoc County, traveling birders, and nature enthusiasts of all ages. Threats to the area include predation by feral cats, encroachment of invasive plants, and cowbird parasitism. Woody encroachment on grassland and planted prairie habitats on the preserve is controlled by management such as cutting or prescribed burns. Preparation and planting was completed in 2006 to convert oldfields and cultivated fields to native grasses, bringing the total acreage of grassland habitat on the property to greater than 80 acres.