The Northern Yellow Lady's-slipper (Cypripedium parviflorum var. makasin) is a Wisconsin Special Concern plant, according to the DNR. It blooms late in May into late June, and likes to grow in fens and swales and "rich springy forest edges". David Liebl, on his frequent strolls in the Preserve, found this beauty, soon ready to open and reveal its slipper, the inflated lower petal. The lateral petals will be narrow, up to 2 inches long, typically spirally twisted. We are fortunate to such a wide variety of flowering plants in the Preserve. David, thank you for sharing this photo.
The Barred owl family that claims Bill's Woods as its home has endeared itself to many Preserve visitors. Glenda Denniston, who spends a lot of time in these woods, reported today: "This Barred owl was just sitting quietly on the ground in Bills Woods two days ago. The Wood thrushes were protesting noisily, which is what called it to my attention. After a while it flew up to the top of a nearby tree. I presume the two baby owlets were nearby, but I didn’t see them."
Many visitors to the Preserve have enjoyed the Barred owl family near the entrance at Picnic Point, along the service road. This owlet has been growing steadily and now, as a juvenile, is surveying the territory from the safety of its large nest cavity. David Liebl sent us this photo. Thank you!
Folks were out in the Preserve by the hundreds this weekend, be it for the perfect walk with family, for a family picnic at one of the fireplaces, or birding during spring migration. Many marveled at the sights of wonders of nature in spring. My grandchildren were looking for ducks and were surprised by the loud chorus of big frogs in the Picnic Point Pond marsh, who stared at the with many beady eyes barely above the the water surface. Others talked about a muskrat along the shore, and red-tailed hawks circling above. Brandon Corder was capturing the beauty of the first wildflowers in spring on his walk, and shared them on iNaturalists and with us here: the delicate lavender-purple wide-open blossoms of the early Hepatica flowers, and the white trout or fawn lilies covering wide stretches of ground along the path. He also spotted Dutchman's breeches, Fawn lilies, also called trout lilies because of the brown-speckled leaves, and even the big snow trillium with its three leaves and big bud. Spring has come with a mighty force and and all of nature seems to rejoice.
At this time of year, when you take a walk in the Preserve, you are bound to meet birders, checking out their favorite places. Mike Bailey took this photo of a Ruby-crowned kinglet, "near Frautschi Point, as it was flitting around at its usual high speed in a brush pile and chatting up a storm. Quite a few others were well overhead singing and foraging in the treetops, too, but hardly close enough for a decent photo. This one obliged nicely."
David Liebl can be spotted in Bill's Woods and the Biocore Prairie doing his rounds almost every day. He Is is interested in recording the changes in the bird population in one area over several weeks. He posts his observations on e-Bird's Bill's Woods hotspot. He keeps track of the Bluebirds – three pairs are claiming nest boxes around the Biocore Prairie at this time – and he is sharing with us his photos of Barred Owl, a Wood duck sitting von a branch, and a Yellow-bellied sapsucker. Chuck Henrikson also fills his little note book with pages of birds he observes on his rounds at Picnic Point.
Please share your sighting with us by contacting preserveFriends@gmail.com.preserveFriends@gmail.com
On a sunny day last week Mike Bailey ventured into the Preserve and explored the shoreline from Frautschi Point toward Picnic Point. He was intrigued by the brilliant white of the snow and the dark shadows cast on it by branches and trees—another kind of winter art and beauty displayed in nature. we only have to notice and enjoy.
Mike Bailey wrote: "It's fun to walk through the snow fifty or a hundred yards out from the shoreline for an entirely different perspective and feel, too. Since it was a perfectly clear, blue sky at first, when a few clouds started appearing, I felt compelled to include them." All photos by Mike Bailey.
While caves in limestone areas are often graced with stalactites and stalagmites, the almost-caves under the limestone shorelines of Lake Mendota are adorned with look-alike formations at this time. Stalactites dripping in limestone caves are deposits of minerals, mainly calcite dissolved in rainwater seeping through the sedimentary rock. The stalactites and stalagmites observed at Raymer's Cove this early January are mere frozen water, they are icicles. With strong west winds and higher waves as well as rainwater penetrating the cliffs along the shoreline and seeping downward, these icicles form along Lake Mendota's shoreline when the air temperature is below freezing while the lake is still open. The fantastical ice creations of sheer beauty are enjoyed by visitors to the Preserve at Raymer's Cove, as well as along the path to Picnic Point at the narrows by fireplace #3, and also along Howard Temin Lakeshore Path past the boat landing at lot 60. Galen Hasler sent these photos. Thank you Galen.
The New Year brought a most beautiful snowfall to the Preserve and the city. With no wind, the fluffy tufts of snow are clinging to trees and berries in fantastical ways. Come and see for yourself—enjoy a walk to Picnic Point. At the beginning of the path, on the side of the cattails toward the bay, you will spot the American Cranberry bush, tall and upright, the only bush that still carries berries. They are absolutely sour, and the birds won't eat them until nothing else is left. But they are nutritional....people would add loads of sugar if they made jelly from these berries.
Once you have crossed the meadow, you enter a kind of snow cathedral walk, inviting awe, beneath the snow laden ashes and hickories, until the path broadens at Fireplace #2. Here you will enjoy the view across the bay and the bugling calls and hoo-ho-hoos of the tundra swans along the edge of the lake ice forming from the shoreline. And when you arrive at the Point and look backward, you might see the sun close to the horizon, much more south than west, seemingly setting all day long in the midst of winter. Thank you, Galen Hasler, for capturing this precious scenery for us. A great beginning for a new year.
Mallards and Canada geese, year-round residents of University Bay, have lots of company these days. Tundra swans have arrived from the Arctic on their migration south following still open waters, and mingle among the residents. During times of strong west winds they gather along the western shore of the Bay in the wind shadow of the Picnic Point, easily visible from the path. They forage for food by "dabbling at the water surface, dipping the head underwater, or upending with tail up and head straight down." (Audubon) Since they can reach 3 feet below the surface with their long necks, they find lots of food along the Picnic Point shoreline and in the shallow Bay. Once ice begins to form on the Bay later in December, they will forage along the ice edge and take breaks for "sunning" or sitting on the ice. Tundra swans are most talkative. They produce a mellow bugling call, hoo-ho-hoo, claiming the air waves and creating a sense of wilderness in the midst of Madison. Come and see these beautiful birds. Read more about migratory birds in University Bay in the Winter Newsletter. Photos Gisela Kutzbach
When Jeff Koziol and Gisela Kutzbach did the final round of winterizing the Biocore Bluebird trail nest boxes on a sunny October morning, we found some interesting spiders. One was clinging to the underside of a nest box and the other happened to cross on the path ahead—so big and so striking we had to notice. We send the photos for identification to Tom Morgan, newest member of the Friends.
Tom, an insect specialist with a fondness for beetles suggests, from information on the web, "that the spider with the white markings is a female of Araneus diadematus, the cross orbweaver (that also has other common names). There are hundreds of species in the genus Araneus, but this one seems to be A. diadematus, which is a naturalized immigrant or nonnative species that now occurs throughout much of the northern areas of the new and old worlds." Tom adds, "I tend to get more excited about insects such as large beetles, but this is a beautiful spider".
Orbweavers are those spiders that spin their webs in the classic, round and flat shape, with spokes radially going from the center outward. These webs, usually constructed vertically to the ground, are perfectly photogenic in the early morning sun, with strings of dew drops still clinging to the strands. The cross orbweaver Jeff and I saw was about 3/4" long, with its abdomen swelled by the hundreds of eggs it carries at this time of year. See more details on the BugLady Field Report.
The spider species Araneus diadematus, commonly called the European garden spider, has "colorings ranging from extremely light yellow to very dark grey, but all A. diadematus have mottled white markings across the dorsal abdomen, with four or more segments forming a cross. The markings are formed in cells filled with guanine, which is a byproduct of protein metabolism" (Wikipedia). Watch the fascinating movie on the Wikipedia gallery on how a courting male is consumed by the female spider.
If you happen to photograph any interesting beetles—or spiders—in the Preserve, please send them to perserveFriends@gmail. Also, Mark Nofsinger has posted on iNaturalist an impressive collection of insect photos seen in the Preserve.
I'm passionate about the Preserve. Gisela Kutzbach and contributors