Mariah Myers is sharing her experiences in the Preserve with us. Read her bio at the end of this post, and enjoy spring coming to the Preserve. Mariah writes: "On Monday (March 28), I met with Gisela Kutzbach and we hiked the Big Oak Trail from Frautschi Point to the Biocore Prairie. Of course, I brought my almost 13-year old partner in crime (golden retriever), Sandi along for the morning. I often tell people that Sandi gets most of the credit for any nature-related observations that I make. Between Sandi's stopping every 10 feet to investigate a new smell and me stopping every 15 feet to take a picture or do my own investigating, our short distance walks can take two to three hours.
There were many new and exciting signs of spring to take note of on our walk. One of the first things that we saw was a sea of green moss covering the forest floor. Mixed in with the fresh green moss were the minute sprouts of various woodland wildflowers. We had to observe carefully at times, to be sure not to miss anything. Some of the more obvious signs of spring which started a few weeks ago, were the serenading songs of cardinals, robins, and song sparrows.
At the intersection of the trail which enters the prairie, I pointed out a soft and spongy part of the trail which in turn was a trail of its own. About a week ago, I noticed what appeared to be a mole tunnel along the side of the trail. It has since expanded further onto the hiking path.
We took note of what is left of a decomposing stump and decided this would be an excellent example of nature to periodically observe the rate of decomposition as well as, signs of animals and other natural occurrences. We paused near the manmade shelter on the trail and I made a mental note of how different it looks when not covered in snow. Near the shelter, I showed Gisela the area where I saw a coyote crossing my path last month heading towards the prairie from the Big Oak Trail.
Eventually, we made it to the Biocore Prairie and walked over to the picnic table by a bluebird box. While there, we were serenaded by a song sparrow singing at the top of his vocal cords and to the best of his ability. We didn't see any bluebirds but, I told Gisela that I witnessed a pair of bluebirds entering/exiting the box and fending off unwanted house guests (house sparrows, chickadees, etc) two weeks ago.
At this point, Gisela and I parted ways. Sandi and I proceeded to walk from the Biocore Prairie out to The Narrows, hiking the trail along the lake. Passing the wetland, there were a few pairs of mallards and Canada geese, and many red-winged blackbirds making their presence known. On the lake, I saw a group of about 10 buffleheads and a grebe trying to stay afloat the rough water. Upon the hike back to Frautschi Point, I stopped once more at the bluebird box and sure enough, there was a male bluebird in the tree calling and ready to fend off unwanted visitors. I did also see my first of the year tree swallow swooping through the air, catching insects.
Mariah Myers: I am a Naturalist at Aldo Leopold Nature Center and a frequent visitor of the Lakeshore Nature Preserve. I have a B.S. in Animal Ecology from Iowa State University and nature photography is not just a fun hobby but, it is how I find peace. I moved to Madison from west central Illinois 1.5 years ago with my now almost 13 year old Golden Retriever, Sandi. I discovered the Preserve last spring and immediately fell in love. First with Picnic Point, a very popular destination in Madison. Then, one day I decided to walk further than before and we ended up at Frautschi Point. Sandi and I try to walk the Big Oak Trail at least once a week, sometimes three or four times a week. I give Sandi most of the credit for our discoveries because while she stops frequently to smell everything, it forces me to slow down and take in nature as I see and feel it, becoming more observant with each stop.
Gisela Kutzbach and contributors