Friends Field Trips Spring and Summer 2020
Because of COVID-19 concerns, all in-person field trips are canceled for the season. Enjoy our Self-Guided Walks instead. The UW-Madison Lakeshore Nature Preserve is currently only open from sunrise to sunset each day. The fire circles on Picnic Point are closed and no fires are allowed. Dogs on leash.Questions? Please contact Doris Dubielzig.
Self-guided Tour for October
It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood of Raymer’s Cove!
Short-term parking at the (small) Raymer’s Cove Parking Lot, 2900 Lake Mendota Drive, and outside the Eagle Heights Community Center, 611 Eagle Heights Drive. Doris Dubielzig wrote the walk and took the photos.
1. Roma Lenehan wrote: The birding in the parking lot area can be spectacular in migration. At any season (when the lake is open), you might see or hear a loon or see diving ducks or grebes during migration. Now is also the time that rafts of coots begin to congregate on Lake Mendota and in University Bay. See also the October phenology calendar on the Homepage.
2. Take the wooden staircase down to the stony beach. Admire the view of the lake and the sandstone cliffs bordering it. The sandstone was formed under a shallow sea, in the Cambrian Period, 490 to 500 million years ago. This sandstone is slowly being eroded by the lake water.
3. Return to the parking lot level and walk eastward on the Lakeshore Path. The grand white oak (Quercus alba) is in its autumn glory, and its colorful branches stretch over the trail. Its rounded lobed leaves distinguish it from the red and black oaks that have pointed lobed leaves. As the days shorten, less of the green pigment chlorophyll is produced, and the remaining chlorophyll is broken down and taken back into the tree. The remaining yellow (xanthophyll) and orange (carotene) pigments that were masked by the chlorophyll now appear. While most trees are deciduous, meaning they lose their leaves by the end of fall, white oak is one that hangs onto its leaves, especially on the lower branches, which don’t shed leaves until the spring. Small, low patches of purple New England aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae) and yellow zigzag goldenrod (Solidago flexicaulis) bloom on the other side of the path.
4. Sugar Maples (Acer saccharum) on both sides of the path bear abundant 5-lobed yellow leaves arranged opposite of one another on the stem. The sugar maple is Wisconsin’s state tree. Important both economically and ecologically, it is a source of maple syrup, maple sugar and lumber. One of the slower growing maples, it provides food for insects and mammals and nesting habitat for birds. As Sugar Maples and Red Oaks prepare to shed their leaves, a layer of cells grows between the leaf stem and the tree branch. Trapped in the leaves behind that layer of cells, remaining sugars and tannins create anthocyanins pigments that produce dramatic red and purple colors. Typically, the side of the tree receiving full sun turns red, while the shaded side turns yellow. Some of the young maples have spots of gray lichen growing on their bark, mostly on the lakeside of their trunks. One old maple on your right has a huge hollow trunk supporting its branches high in the sky. How does it do that?
5. Shagbark Hickory (Carya ovata) occurs on both sides of the path. The trees have distinctive large, curving strips of bark on their trunks and large, 30 – 60cm compound leaves with 5 to 7 leaflets. When each leaf falls off in the autumn, a prominent scar remains on the stem. Many of the leaflets appear to be spotted with Hickory anthracnose or leaf spot fungus. Shagbarks are native to the Midwest; the species is a member of the walnut family and makes an edible nut. Hickory nuts were a food source for Native Americans and are still prized by locals.7 But 2020 was an off year for nut production, frustrating our local collectors – see if you see any!
Maple leaves, Goldenrod, Sunlight
All flaunt their farewell.
by Doris Dubielzig
Self-guided Tour for September
Successful Purple Martin Housing Development in Biocore Prairie!
Will Vuyk, our student Board member, writes in the Friends Newsletter, "Come Wandering", “Fall is a wonderful time to lose oneself, and the Lakeshore Nature Preserve is a magical place to go astray.” In this tour to the Purple Martin Housing Development, enjoy the changing seasons in the Preserve and take satisfaction in the Friends’ success in attracting and nurturing Purple Martins, the largest members of the swallow family in North America.
Begin at the entrance to Picnic Point, across from UW Parking Lot 130 (Parking fee M-F, 8-4:30 pm).
Take a left, walking on the service road up the hill with Bill’s Woods on your left.
At the first intersection, go left — Bill’s Woods is still on your left — toward the Heritage Oak on your right.
Just before the Heritage Oak, make a right onto the path to the Biocore Prairie. Winding through maple woods, the path ends at the Biocore Prairie. From Will: “Not a single cloud floats through this clear sky as the last rays of summer break upon your face. Instead, bright plumage fleetingly whispers “white” as seagulls dance like daystars high above.”
Turn left toward the Eagle Heights Community gardens, with their great variety of produce and designs. Look down for voles scampering across the path; look up for a red-tailed hawk hunting the rodents. Make a right on the path between the Biocore Prairie (right) and the Community Gardens (left). In front of you, the Purple Martin Housing Development points to the sky.
Three years ago, in the spring of 2017, a Friends’ team of Purple Martin (PUMA) enthusiasts installed this new Purple Martin house at the edge of Biocore Prairie.3 The site was carefully selected to provide the birds with open flyways and easy access to Lake Mendota. Purple Martins (Progne subis) have a short slightly-hooked beak, broad chest and forked tail. Adult males are uniformly bluish-black. The cavity-nesting Purple Martins use cavities that are already created, either by other animals or in natural cavities of cliffs and rock formations.Traditionally, Purple Martins nested in natural cavities such as old woodpecker holes, on rock ledges, or in dead trees. However, thousands of years ago, people began providing man-made housing for the birds in the form of dried, hollow gourds. Over time, successful nesting of Martins in these man-made homes, paired with the decline of natural cavities, led to a complete behavior shift within the population east of the Mississippi.The artificial/decoy Martins atop some of the compartments attract the real birds to our manmade cavities.
With UW-Madison Forest and Wildlife Ecology Prof. Anna Pidgeon as faculty advisor for this project, the house is maintained by a group of six volunteers, who monitor the house closely throughout the summer months, and keep the compartments free of nests built by other species. By June 2017, the structure had attracted four Purple Martins (PUMA), two of whom nested and produced young. Their four offspring are believed to have fledged successfully in early August 2017.
In 2018, the house attracted two pairs of Purple Martins, but the presence of starlings prevented them from nesting successfully. Consequently, in spring 2019, Starling-resistant entrances were installed. Despite interest by passing PUMA, none nested there.
This year the PUMA apartment house drawers were cleaned, lined with pine needles and opened for occupancy on April 3, 2020. A few days later, monitor Chuck Henrikson was dismayed to see male House Sparrows, “up to no good” — entering and exiting the PUMA compartments — and being watched by a female House Sparrow. By late April, after discouraging the House Sparrows and readying the compartments again for PUMA, we awaited the arrival of the subadult Martins. And waited….See the detailed account of how Citizen Science at work.
Monitor Richard Ness suggested to the team that we might have more success with gourds. Some gourd-raised Martins prefer to build their nests in gourds. In addition, Sparrows avoid the gourds because of their swinging motion, thus removing competition for that real estate. On May 23, Richard Ness installed the two gourds that hang below the house.
Bingo! By June 5, three, year-old, Martins were chattering and gurgling as they solved the problem of entering the Starling-proof gourd entrances. By June 18, four eggs were sighted in the northeast-facing gourd. “Yeahhhh!” By July 2, three of those eggs had hatched, and the nestlings were being nourished with dragonflies, caught by their parents, from Biocore Prairie. The parent Martins removed fecal sacs from the nest, and, with the third PUMA, guarded the gourd and the house from inquisitive House Sparrows.
In the last week of July, as our knowledgeable monitors increased the frequency of their observations to catch the fledging of the three young Martins, they spotted the nestlings poking their heads out of the gourd entrance. The monitors were joined by NINE subadult PUMAs perching on the top bar. And by July 30, the gourds emptied, when the three young PUMA fledged. Escorted by several older Martins, the young birds took their first flights over the prairie toward the lake. Chuck Henrikson wrote, “It takes a village to raise a family, among the PUMAs.”
By mid-October, the PUMA monitors will winterize and close the housing complex. They will remove nest insets, clean the apartments and seal the entrances, lubricate the wire and winching mechanism, and encase the winch with plastic and aluminum tape.
Expecting greater demand by subadults and returning Martins, the PUMA monitors plan to add two more gourds in 2021. See detailed story HERE.
As you continue around the Prairie, through the woods, and back to the entrance, enjoy the fall migration of the warblers and the lake birds that are starting to pass through this Important Birding Area.
Marjorie Rhine's Self-guided Tour for August
Discover the Drama of a Long-Ago Landscape!
Begin at the entrance to Picnic Point, across from UW Parking Lot 130. Notice how the land you are standing on is not far above the level of the lake. Now, consider how geologists have determined that long ago this peninsula, Picnic Point, was a 500-foot bluff made of sandstone and dolomite that towered high above two rivers. What do you think happened to change the landscape? You might think (correctly): the glacier flattened this area. But now ponder: did the glacier shave off the bluffs, or did it fill deep river valleys with rocks and other glacial debris?
Now take a look at the rock wall to the left of the entrance. When Picnic Point was private property and farmed, the owners created this rock wall in 1923 out of field rocks that were collected in the Cross Plains, Wisconsin area. Most of these rocks are glacial erratics, rocks that do not match the bedrock of this area and arrived via the glacier. Why do you think Cross Plains in particular would be a good place to find a lot of glacial erratics? (Hint: Cross Plains marks the beginning of what special area in Wisconsin?). If you want to have more fun with this rock wall, you can use a key available online that identifies all of the rocks: https://www.friendslakeshorepreserve.com/rockwall.html
Now, start walking along the path toward the end of the point with University Bay on your right. Native Americans called this spit of land "Strawberry Point" for the wild strawberries once covering it. At Fire Circle #2, look across the lake at Van Hise Hall on the UW-Madison campus. It's the tallest building you see that looks like a tan rectangle. Van Hise is 243 feet tall (19 stories). When the most recent glacier (the Green Bay Lobe of the Laurentide Ice Sheet) was scouring this area thousands of years ago, the massive ice blanket covering the area was 600 to 800 feet high. Try to imagine ice as high as three Van Hise Buildings stacked on top of each other! Try to picture how the glacier pulled huge boulders and other rocks along beneath its crushing weight, filling what was once a deep river valley with debris. See also Prof. David Mickelson's "Introduction to the Geology of the Preserve" at https://www.friendslakeshorepreserve.com/geology1.html.
Continue your walk to Fire Circle #3. Read the sign on the rock on the right noting that people have gathered on Picnic Point for 12,000 years, from about the time the most recent glacier retreated and the land opened up for habitation. This area’s first inhabitants were descendants of people who migrated across the Bering Land bridge (or, some scholars now argue, used boats to move down the coast of North America before heading into the interior). These people, whom archeologists call the Paleoindians, hunted huge animals like mastodons, beavers as big as bears, and giant sloths as big as our elephants today! Close your eyes and imagine a loud trumpeting call of a mastodon coming from the woods! (You can learn more about these extinct animals, known as Pleistocene megafauna, by doing some research later: look for a book at the library! Or visit the Geology Museum on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus when it is open!). Much later, after Wisconsin became a state, but before 1920, dairy cows would amble to the narrowest part of the peninsula, "the Narrows," and drink from the lake.
As you continue exploring, remember that the land all around us has an interesting story to tell. If you get a chance, other places on the Lakeshore Preserve to explore geological history are the sandstone bluffs visible at Raymer’s Cove and the dolomite outcropping in the woods on the top of Eagle Heights Hill. These areas help you imagine the bluffs that were once part of this dramatic landscape! Learn more about the fascinating, and still evolving, history of the Preserve online at https://lakeshorepreserve.wisc.edu/cultural-and-natural-history-of-the-lakeshore-nature-preserve/.
Free public field trips are one of the most valuable contributions the Friends make to the Preserve. They have been organized every spring and fall for over 10 years on various topics and are all led by Friends volunteers. Many are professional naturalists and emeritus faculty and staff. The Friends also partner with other environmental organizations for field trips.
Field trip coordinator: Doris Dubielzig
Bird and Nature Outings
Free, family-friendly walks on the 4thSunday of the month. Bring your binoculars and camera. Meet at the Picnic Point entrance next to the kiosk (2004 University Bay Drive). Sponsored by the Friends of the Lakeshore Nature Preserve, Friends of Urban Nature, and Madison Audubon Society. Meet at the Picnic Point Kiosk, across from UW Lot 130. Contact Paul Noeldner (608-698‑0104).
Spring/Summer 2020 Field Trips