On April 12, Glenda Denniston was surprised to find so many spring flowers already in bloom or buds on her walk through Eastern Bill’s Woods. Hepatica, one of the first ephemerals to blossom in spring, attracted many pollinators. Perhaps the bees came not to find nectar but merely for the gorgeous colors of Hepatica, ranging from white to lavender and a heavenly purple. For hepaticas are self-pollinating, perfect flowers that have both male pollen and female ovaries; they have no need for external pollinators.
The path into this gorgeous area of wood spring flowers, planted and tended over many years by Glenda, begins at the service road, across from the Heritage Oak. You can join Glenda on a spring flower walk on May 9, at Frautschi Point, past the Big Oak. All photos G. Denniston.
Two Great Horned Owlets, with their fuzzy coats, are in plain sight along Lakeshore Path by the Willow Creek mounds. John Kutzbach of the Friends, along with many others, has been out every day to watch the owl family. This Saturday morning the owlets were huddling together again, watched by the parent. Then one of the fledglings fluttered its wings mightily and flew back to the parent.
The owlets are the offspring of the Preserve's Great Horned Owl pair that nested again this year in a hollow tree near the owl nest box behind DeJope Hall that Faye Lorenzsonn installed as a research project. They are rapidly changing from fluffy white to more adult cameouflage colors, and these cuddly yet wild and fierce looking owlets are beginning to use their flight feathers. Yet, they'll keep begging for food for a considerable time.
Hannah Deporter, a UW student in Trish O'kane's Nelson Institute Urban Wildlife class, also captured a digiscope picture of one of the owlets, on a walk along the path with Paul Noeldner. Great Horned Owls (Bubo Virginianus) are large owls 16-32 inches high. The owlets appear to be 8-12 inches high when all fluffed up. Come and see yourself, but please observe this beautiful urban wildlife from a respectful distance so they can engage in necessary hunting, feeding and resting behavior.
Even though Painted Turtles hatch from their eggs in September, the turtle hatchlings do not emerge from the nest until the following spring. Baby Painted Turtles do not head to the water and spend the winter at the bottom of ponds as other young turtles do. Instead, they "freeze solid" withstanding temperatures as cold as -10°C under the layer of sand and snow. They produce natural antifreeze that prevents the cells from freezing and becoming damaged. Thus, only the water out outside of the cells is actually frozen. (From: painted Turtle Research in Algonquin Prov. Park)
Madisonians came out in droves, walking and jogging to Picnic Point and enjoying the balmy spring air. When John and I joined in the fun, with binoculars around our necks, people told us with great smiles, “You must see the Sandhill Cranes at the retention ponds,” and “Did you see the Owl at Willow Creek? It’s huge.” Yes we saw a group (that’s a sedge) of 13 cranes fly overhead, and on Thursday evening we saw cranes land in groups of three and four in the marshy Bay area east of the Willow Creek Bridge. The Great Horned Owl roosted watchfully on its favorite branch of the huge silver maple tree trunk he “owns” in the patch of oak savanna by Willow Creek. Then, looking for an early supper, the Owl silently swooped down toward the lake, causing a loud chattering and commotion among the cranes and geese.
Today was different. Cold, northerly winds moved in, breaking up the remaining ice on Lake Mendota and pushing the broken pieces into the southern and eastern shores. The Cranes and other birds kept warm in the reeds and the Great Horned Owl took shelter from the wind behind its thick branch, with an eye half closed much of the time, as if napping. But the tree buds on the tiny branches up high looked ready to burst. Spring is here. Gisela K.
Woodcocks 'sky dancing' in the Preserve
On Monday, March 30, from the edge of the Eagle Heights Community Gardens, Roma Lenehan heard at least three American Woodcock giving their peent call from around Biocore Prairie. At least two of them were “sky dancing” over the open area (prairie and gardens). According to Aldo Leopold (A Sand County Almanac) “the show begins the first warm evening in April at exactly 6:50” (7:50" now) and begins one minute later each day. According to Leopold, the display begins at a light intensity of 0.05 foot candles. During the day, Glenda Denniston has flushed a Woodcock at least twice in the last two weeks of March at the edge of Frautschi Point, near the second oak and the gully.
Although the display at the Arboretum continues for weeks, in the Preserve the Woodcock display has only been observed a few times a year. Are these migrant birds only here for a short time, or are there not enough people looking for them? Please let us know if you continue to observe the Woodcock displaying in the Preserve.
Gisela Kutzbach and contributors