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.
Insects of all kinds abound in the Preserve, living on and off the plants, or eating other insects and trying to avoid being eaten. Because they are small, insects are easy to overlook, but if you observe a plant for a few minutes, you are bound to see them. Some, like spiders, stay motionless for long periods, on the ready for prey caught in their webs, others are squirming in masses on lush leaves, like tiger moths larvae, to confuse and ensure that some of them will survive, even though many might be eaten. Then there are those who are camouflaged and stay motionless for periods, like grasshoppers, avoiding their predators when at rest. Others present a constantly moving target, like monarchs, hardly ever resting. Still others, like the soldier beetle or milkweed bugs, are pretty sure they aren't very tasty or healthy for anyone and hop around freely. Still others are too fast, like dragonflies, or have other defenses that deter predators.
Olympia Mathiaparanam and Mark Nofsinger, members of the Friends, have captured many of them on their cameras and uploaded the photos to iNaturalist. This easy-to-use apps automatically provides a first identification, and in turn, experts help narrow down the identification until everyone agrees. Viewing this brief collection of images from their summer outings in the Preserve, we can appreciate the immense diversity of life on a few acres of natural lands. Get involved and add to the collection! (Assembled by Gisela)
'sRecord rainfalls of 10 inches and more during the night of August 20 in the Madison area not only brought devastation and hardship to properties and people, but also impacted Madison's lakes where all the flood waters eventually converged. Arlene Koziol's has photographed some of the evidence—sediments from erosion of surrounding land now streaking sections of Lake Mendota with a brownish tint and damage to and submergence of countless piers along the shore. No wake boating is in effect and all beaches are closed until the lake level has a chance to recede to more normal levels. Currently, the lake level is .5 feet or 6 inches short of the 100-year record high of 852.8 feet above sea level.
"Probably this is the same family that has been around the Community Gardens much of the summer," writes Mike Bailey, "Only one juvenile has survived, but it looks healthy. Now and then as they worked their way through the gardens, one or the other adult would feed the juvenile some tidbit, though the juvenile was doing most of its own foraging. The last two show one of the adults offering the juvenile a worm that it had plucked out of a compost pile."
I can see an expression of parental pride in the adult as the juvenile is positioning the big worms in his beak.
Olympia Mathiaparanam spends many days in the Biocore Prairie and the Preserve this summer. Tree frogs are one of her favorites. She captured the two shown here on iPhone and published them on iNaturalist, the nature apps that also helps you identify what you see in Preserve. These small little fellows are hard to detect, as you can imagine from the pictures. Below: the Holarctic Tree frog hardly covers the bottom of the narrow lance-like leaf pair. The brownish stripe along its side also helps camouflage it. Above: the tiny Gray Tree frog is but a little speck on the huge Prairie dock leaf that he sits on in the Biocore Prairie.
The Gray tree frog's Latin name is a Hyla versicolor, which means that it can change its color in chameleon like fashion from gray to green, depending on the substrate, and with mottling from black to nearly white.
Holarctic Tree frogs also belongs to the genus Hyla. The genus, established in 1768, was named after Hylas in Greek mythology, who was the companion of Hercules. Some strong little creature, this tree frog!
And in case you wanted to know this, if you should plan a trip to Costa Rica, you might want to look for the Gladiator tree frog, all of 1/2 inch body length and with enormous eyes (comparatively) sticking our from its head.
What a pleasant surprise it was! I was prepared to walk along the road from Frautschi Point parking lot to the driveway of the Madison Water Pumping Station No 19 and on toward the narrow gap in the chainlink fence and then to scamper down the hill to the Biocore. Instead I found a new path that opened into the quiet Frautschi Woods—a few yards toward the right from the Preserve Kiosk. Dappled sunlight was dancing on the comfortable wood chip path winding down toward the Biocore Prairie. Not only was this a shortcut, but it was beautiful. The path is wide enough for two people to walk next to each other. Try it out!!! Thank you Preserve staff for this lovely path. Gisela Kutzbach
When we think of Goldenrod, at least two things might come to mind—its colorful bloom and those enormous round balls that we often see on the stem of these plants in fall. They are so prominent, these balls, and have such interesting features that they have been studied widely. On our walk through the Biocore Prairie last Saturday with Seth McGee as our leader of the Biocore Program, we observed one in its beginning stages and had a 101 lecture on “what happens here.”
We noticed a gall in the making on a rosinweed, which also attracts the goldenrod gall fly (Eurosta solidaginis) or ball maker. Earlier in spring a goldenrod gall fly inserted a fertilized egg into the bud of the plant. After the larva emerged, in a week or so, it ate its way to the base of the bud and into the spongy middle of the stem and induced a gall. The hormones in the saliva of the larva interacted chemically with the plant tissue, resulting in the growth. Seth cut the growing gall open to show us the little larva inside. The larva had grown, feeding off the plant. The plant tissue around also expanded in response to the chemicals exuded by the larva. Before the gall ball would harden later in the year, the larva would dig an escape tunnel with its pair of mouth hooks all the way to the plant’s epidermal layer that surrounds the gall. It would survive the winter without freezing to death by emitting further chemicals that act as anti-freeze. In spring after pupation, the new fly would turn its head in direction of the dermis, pump all its blood into its head to strengthen it, and ram with all its might through the dermis into the open, free to fly. Next time you see a gall on a goldenrod with a hole in it, you will know how the fly escaped. Photos and text, Gisela Kutzbach
Three weeks ago Mike Bailey photographed these two juveniles near the Biocore Prairie. And since then they have grown in leaps and bounds. It's a good year for sandhill cranes at the Preserve, with two pairs raising each a family of two.They are regular visitors to the Community Gardens, where gardeners are very much used to them and where cranes find abundant food.
On June 7, Arlene Koziol reported "Jeff and I are water quality monitors for Lake Mendota for the Clean Lakes Alliance. We live in Spring Harbor where there is an extensive Blue-Green Algae bloom. This morning when we did our water testing at 7:30 am, the air temperature was 72.5, water temperature 71.7, turbidity 55 Units, At 4:52 pm the changes were shocking. The air temperature was 83.2, water temperature 86.8, turbidity 5 cm. I was heartbroken to see a family of mallard ducks foraging in the scum. Also saw people recreating and working in the bloom". The scum and foul smell were horrific. All photos Arlene Koziol.
That day, Arlene consulted John Magnuson, who reported "It was a bluegreen bloom. Bluegreen are photosynthetic cyanobacteria. Bluegreen stay in the sunlight (they need light for photosynthesis) with gas vacuoles for flotation. If it is calm they float to the surface, if there is a slight breeze they tend to accumulate on the downwind side of a lake. When the cells age their membranes breakdown and the water turns into a bluegreen paint-pot appearance from the release of their photosynthetic pigments. The grey you saw is bacterial growth growing off and decomposing the bluegreens. That is what smells. A good wind mixes bluegreens downward in the water column and there would be none of the surface signs but the decomposition could be occurring beneath the surface. My guess is that what you are smelling in University Bay.
Not all cyanophytes have toxins. There is a diverse set of species living in Lake Mendota when the water has warmed and the nutrients pour in as they have in the last week. An extensive bloom can cause a decrease in dissolved oxygen in the waters because the bacteria decomposing the dying bluegreen algae need and use oxygen in the process. Sometimes this also causes a fish kill if the dissolved oxygen levels become too low.
The Dane County muck removal project to remove phosphorus loaded sediments from the lower reaches of streams near near their outlet to Lake Mendota, will reduce the phosphorus that enters from these storms. It should have a more immediate effect than, for example, cleaning up a particular farm high in the watershed."
The photos cannot truly portray thermal situation, with sound and smells added. "The blooms do form pancake-like patterns. The pancakes are maintained by growth (cell division) in the mid-pancake and shearing by currents at the edge. A boundary occurs where the loss rate by shearing exceeds the expansion rate due to growth of the alga," according to Steve Carpenter.
The blue-green algae bloom forced the closure of several Madison-area beaches including a stretch of Lake Mendota from UW-Madison to Middleton. Kynala Phillips reported in the Wisconsin State Journal. She also interviewed Jeff and Arlene and you can read last weeks front page article about the issue in the Wisconsin State Journal.
"The toxins can cause issues such as upset stomach, rashes and respiratory problems. Such blooms can also lead to fish kills once the bacteria sinks, according the UW Center for Limnology. Their website reports: "The conditions were ripe for an algae bloom. .... [Our area] received anywhere from 4 to 5 inches of rain more than the long-term average for the month of May. ... Rain, especially the “gullywashers,” carry tons of phosphorus-laden soil into nearby creeks and streams, where it eventually ends up in our lakes and is just as good at growing algae as it is soybeans. The weather got warm... Cyanobacteria like it warmer than other algae and they grow fast in warm water... the wind stopped...these kinds of algae are boyant and they just floated to the top in this awful scum."
The Public Health Department takes water samples weekly, but the department also depends on citizen reports and organizations like the Clean Lakes Alliance to get a real-time understanding of the lakes’ conditions.
You can learn more on July 11, 9:05 am, when Trina Mahon will speak about Blue-Green Algae Bloom at the monthly Yahara Lakes 101 event organized by Clean Lakes Alliance (at the Edgewater Hotel).
Arlene is consulting with a host of scientists and government agencies in an effort to summarize the causes, toxins released, effects, and possible actions regarding cyanobacteria blooms on our lakes. – Gisela
I'm passionate about the Preserve. Gisela Kutzbach and contributors