On Saturday, January 12 David Drake from Forest and Wildlife Ecology led a group of about 20 participants on a tour about the winter wildlife in the Preserve. Due to the lack of snow, we weren't able to view animal tracks, but David described the birds and mammals that resided here in winter. He also showed us his trapping site for the Urban Canid project he has been leading. They are using road-killed deer as bait for trapping coyotes and foxes to be radio-collared and tracked for the study. One particularly interesting result so far has been that in open areas, coyotes will drive away foxes to reduce competition for food, but in our urban area the two species co-exist. This seems to be because there are plenty of resources for both. Another result has been that foxes tend to have less incidence of heartworm and Lyme disease, which are transmitted by mosquitoes and ticks. Foxes are usually in closer association with human habitation (often tracked in people's yards) and apparently benefit from human attempts to kill mosquitoes and ticks. Report and photo by Friends host Steve Sentoff
Under cloudy skies, Master Naturalist Paul Noeldner greeted holiday visitors to the Preserve with hot chocolate at the entrance to Picnic Point. The temperature hovered at freezing. After hearing an overview of winter bird activity, the group of 18 began the walk down the peninsula to Fire Circle #2. Chuck Keleny, a regular on the 4th Sunday walks, placed his spotting scope along the shore of University Bay, where attendees could see the beautiful tundra swans that have populated the Bay for the past several weeks. Paul explained that the swans will continue to feast on the plants in the Bay until it freezes over. Then the birds will resume their migration to the Chesapeake Bay region of the East Coast. A few mergansers, mallards and downy woodpeckers were also sighted. With a lovely fire at Fire Circle #2, Paul treated the group to marshmallows, graham crackers and chocolate bars to make S’mores. After blowing a short introduction on his tuba, Paul led the some of the group in singing carols, while others studied the wildlife on Lake Mendota. The outing was an opportunity to pause and enjoy the Preserve during this festive time of the year. Report and photos by Friends host Doris Dubielzig
On a chilly, overcast, “doubtful” day, 21 participants joined Chuck Henrikson, birding enthusiast and an expert in veterinary anatomy, at the entrance to Picnic Point. Chuck began the Owl Prowl with a “trunk show” at his car. He reviewed the 8 species of owls found in Wisconsin, and their nocturnal adaptations. Chuck showed how feathers are constructed and passed around a dissected owl pellet for all to see. Then we started the walk up the path to the tip of Picnic Point, stopping to observe the aquatic birds on University Bay through Chuck’s spotting scope. We saw lots of Coots, Buffleheads, and Mallards, and a half-dozen Loons. A rare sighting of a Eurasian Wigeon was made on the Bay in the morning, but none in our group found it. The chilly wind picked up as we approached the end of the Point and walked down the steps to the frothy edge of Lake Mendota. We circled back towards Bill’s Woods where barred owls nested last spring. From his smartphone, Chuck broadcast Barred Owl calls hoping to hear an answer. Finally, we heard the “Who cooks for you - all?” reply, again and again. It was a satisfying end for the 21 attendees, who stayed with Chuck to the finish. Report and photos by Doris Dubielzig, friends host for this walk.
Sunday, we were treated to a picture perfect, sunny autumn day as nearly 20 of us joined field trip leader Adam Gundlach in an Eagle Heights Woods hike to get a behind-the-scenes perspective of the ongoing restoration work being undertaken by the Lakeshore Nature Preserve. A wildlife ecologist, Adam is Field Project Coordinator for the Preserve staff, and has been involved from the inception of the project that has been funded by the Friends. This unique woods within the greater Preserve is tucked in between the village of Shorewood Hills and the University of Wisconsin graduate student Eagle Heights Apartments and is home to the highest point on the lake shore and some very prominent effigy mounds.
Winding along the various trails that ultimately led to the summit, Adam described the efforts to control invasive brush and trees with the ultimate goal of restoring the Eagle Heights Woods to an open canopy oak forest. Using controlled burns, as well as selective cutting methods, the Preserve staff is working in well planned phases to provide the opportunity for young oaks to eventually fill in the forest floor. At the same time, they are assiduously working to preserve the Native American cultural treasures located within this 28-acre gem.
Along the way, Adam shared his knowledge of the flora and fauna of the woods that he has become intimately involved with. Birding expert Roma Lenehan and UW Arboretum specialist Diane Dempsey offered their thoughts on the effects of the restoration program to add to the experience. Will the red-headed woodpecker make a resurgence to the preserve as a result of the Eagle Heights restoration? Stay tuned for the answer.
We were able to see both the before and after stages of the restoration project as it is still ongoing, and we were treated to magnificent clear views of Lake Mendota and the surrounding area, stirring visions of pre-settlement Madison and of bygone Indian culture.
Finally, while enjoying the perfect weather on Sunday, we are truly indebted to Adam for his flexibility to reschedule the field trip from that rainy and cold October 7. Peter Fisher was the host for the Friends and provided this report and photos.
We had perfect weather for a walk with beautiful fall colors! Dave Mickelson, Prof emeritus of Geology and Geophysics and leader this informative field trip, started with a brief parking-lot chat using maps he brought for illustration. See also Dave Mickelson's in-depth illustrated article on this website: Geology of Eagle Heights Woods.
First from a cross-section illustration of the rock below us, we learned the history and mindboggling age of each layer all the way down to the very old bedrock. A map showed Wisconsin at different time periods and the extent of the Wisconsin glacier as it advanced and receded multiple times. Yet another map showed the glacial moraines and drumlins distributed across Dane County. From the pattern on the map, one could see where the glacier paused and left a moraine and where it scoured the land as it advanced and left drumlins parallel to its direction of movement. Dave told us how researchers used a variety of techniques, such as radiocarbon dating to determine age, and well records and geophysical techniques to measure thickness of glacial deposits, and many other techniques to piece together the story of our place on earth. Our hike took us from Raymer’s Cove through a stand of bright yellow maples, across Lake Mendota Drive, and up into the Eagle Heights Woods. We could hear the birds as we entered the woods. At the top, looking down at Lake Mendota, Dave had us imagine what it looked like before the glaciers, when it was a deep valley. Our Madison lakes were not formed as kettles when blocks of glacial ice melted and left a hole, as were most of the Wisconsin lakes. Our lakes lie in a former valley that didn't fill completely with glacial debris, luckily for us. The map Dave brought showed a complex valley with numerous side valleys. Much of what is now Madison once was a larger glacial lake- Lake Yahara, before an outlet opened. People lived on the shores of that ancient lake even when glaciers were still covering much of northern Wisconsin. They were mammoth and mastodon hunters.
We looked at the limestone cap rock that didn’t erode as quickly as the sandstone below, and the erratics brought by the glaciers from far away. These erratics were primarily volcanic or metamorphic in origin. One type was rhyolite from volcanic eruptions with fast cooling of lava and ash. Another was granite, formed of the same materials but that cooled underground under high pressure. Some rocks had veins of quartz that filled cracks in the rock after it had cooled. We saw a large cone-shaped Effigy Mound at the highest point of Eagle Heights Woods and were lucky to have Diane Dempsey on the field trip who shared her expertise on the Late Woodland mound builders with us. Also enriching the hike were people knowledgeable about birds and trees who were willing to share what they know. Everyone on the field trip appreciated the generosity and expertise of Dave Mickelson who brought materials, planned our route, developed an engaging presentation, answered all our questions, and brought new meaning to the landscape we call home.
We returned to the Raymer’s Cove parking lot via a steeper but more direct route. Many were heard to exclaim that they knew about Picnic Point, but had no idea the campus had this gem in Eagle Heights Woods, and they planned to return again. Report by Lillian Tong, Friends field trip host, and photos by Doris Dubielzig.
On a brisk but sunny fall morning, about 25 participants of the PLATO hiking group enjoyed this informative walk reflecting on the history of the mound builders in the Preserve as well as learning about birds and bird migration. The group was led by Gisela Kutzbach and Chuck Henrikson of the Friends, and the walk was organized by Michael Di Iorio of PLATO--a Participatory Learning and Teaching Organization that promotes opportunities for intellectual and cultural enrichment for the senior community.
The 3.0 mile walk began at Frautschi Point, along the new path toward the Biocore Prairie. At our stop at the picnic table overlooking the lake, Chuck explained the function and structure of bird feathers. He passed around aerodynamically-shaped flying feathers as well as soft down, and feathers in between the two kinds. From there the walk led through the woods toward the Picnic Point trail and the effigy mounds along that path. We had to avoid some flooded areas, still under water from the torrential rains in mid-August. Gisela explained the story of effigy mounds in Wisconsin, their distribution, shapes, construction, use and cultural significance, as well as the information they provide about the societal structure and history of the mound builders. The Preserve has 13 mounds, including animal shaped, cone and long mounds. The 6 mounds along the Picnic Point path are cone and long mounds. 87% of all mounds contain burials, ranging from the bones of a single person to bundled-bone burials of a dozen or more people—implying a non-egalitarian societal structure of the Late Woodland mound builder more than a 1000 years ago..
During the welcome break at the Picnic Point fire circle, the group enjoyed the gorgeous views in all directions as well as Chuck's informative stories about birds and his demonstrations of their calls. He also passed around owl pellets he had collected, showing tiny bones. All along the way he helped participants spot birds, including residents such as the Downey Woodpeckers, as well as warblers and other migratory birds taking a break in the Preserve on their journey and fattening up on abundant berries and seeds. Photos Chuck Henrikson and Gisela Kutzbach
On a picture-perfect September Sunday, 38 attendees, mostly students of a Forest and Wildlife Ecology class, appeared for the Friends walk with Sean Gere, certified arborist who has guided many Sunday walks in the Preserve, and Paul Quinlan, naturalist and the Friends' host for this outing, They split the group in two. It was a treat for everyone to see the trees through our guides eyes and learn more about their natural history.
Jackie Sandberg, leader of the Observatory, thanks "all of the volunteers and visitors who made it out to the Biocore Prairie bird banding station this weekend! We had so many students stop by to learn about process, and it was great to see such a big crowd. Unfortunately it was warmer and slower than usual; we only captured 5 birds in 4 hours compared to 20 and 25 birds on each of the previous two days of banding" 28 students and visitors attended over the course of the morning. Jackie, Wildlife Rehabilitation Training Coordinator at the Dane County Humane Society's Wildlife Center and Bird banding sub-permit holder since 2013, worked many years with Mara McDonald who founded the Observatory in 2001.The Friends' host for this fascinating morning was Olympia Mathiaparanam.
On a hot and humid Sunday when many were still cleaning out their flood-soaked houses, Paul Noeldner gave a short show-and-tell presentation on tools for Citizen Science, followed by a walk in the BioCore Prairie area so see the bluebird houses, the purple martin apartment building, and the bat houses. He shared more information about how people could get involved.
Paul brought an impressive number of materials to share, set out on two long tables under a tree by the picnic point entrance. Two children who were waiting for a bus, helped carry materials from the car and were rewarded with a chance to assemble two bluebird houses with the help of some of the trip participants.
Paul's Citizen Science tool kits were full of interesting gadgets, including a temperature gun, camera to see under water, mirror on a long handle for looking into bird houses, water testing kit, little hand-held microscope, a nifty LED loupe, salinity kit, USB endoscope, and a way to measure murkiness of the water based on how clearly you could see the pattern on a disk lowered in the water.
Our observant and knowledgeable participants on our hike illustrated the best characteristics of citizen scientists by sharing their finding and knowledge. We saw beautiful acorns and learned that 2018 is what ecologists call “a big mast year” when we have a bumper crop of acorns. Among other things, we saw coral fungus, the American toad, a cat bird, a blue bird, a number of goldfinches, barn swallows, indigo pods with weevils living inside, and lots of identified prairie flowers. At the Biocore Prairie, we noted several research project areas, and discussed how Citizen Scientists can observe projects like Bird Banding and Canid Research, and in some cases get involved. We discussed how the Bluebird Trail and (PUMA) Purple Martin project are managed by the Friends of the lakeshore Preserve. Paul told us that nest boxes are used for 2-3 broods per season and we found a damaged bluebird egg in bluebird box #7. The boxes on bluebird trail are left for the winter because many different species can be found huddled together to survive in the cold in boxes. We also learned about “hospital fields” where farmers used to let their animals graze in a field of diverse plants, and the animals would find and eat what they needed.
With distant thunder hastening us onward, we made it back to the Picnic Point entrance in time before the first raindrops fell. Talking continued for quite a while under a tree after the tour officially ended, and we hope to see everyone again at a future outing! Report by Paul Noeldner. Photos by the Friends host Lillian Tong.
Pleasant weather graced the volunteers and observers on Saturday morning at BioCore Prairie. The Bird Observatory there has operated for several years, so it has a following of regular volunteers who are ably led by Jackie Sandberg, Wildlife Rehabilitation Training Coordinator at the Dane County Humane Society's Wildlife Center. Ten of the volunteers came on Saturday to assist Jackie with putting up mist nets, checking them at regular intervals, extracting birds, and then banding them and collecting data on species, age, reproductive status, molt, and morphology. Five nets, set up in the northeast corner of the prairie, yielded nine birds of five different species: House Wren (1), American Goldfinch (3), Gray Catbird (2), Common Yellowthroat (1), and Song Sparrow (2). In all, 24 bird species were observed, including Cedar waxwings and Red-tailed hawks that frequented the trees and sky above us. With boundless enthusiasm, Jackie provided expert information on banding and bird measurements. We were also visited by several rabbits and caught a glimpse of two weasels darting across the trail and into the prairie.
Only three people came to observe in response to the Friends’ promotion of this event, but several more paused on their Saturday morning walks through the Preserve to learn a little more.Bird banding at the Preserve is conducted most Saturdays during the summer. To learn more, contact Jackie Sandberg.
The Bird Observatory, originally founded in 2001 by Dr. Mara McDonald (1947-2016), is an all-volunteer bird banding operation that monitors bird populations in the Lakeshore Nature Preserve. The Observatory is a permitted research project approved through the UW-Madison Lakeshore Nature Preserve. Banding offers a wonderful opportunity for people to see birds up close, learn about their migration and nesting patterns, and understand how natural areas enhance their biological success. Volunteers of all skill levels are welcome to attend banding operations on Saturday mornings from 7 am - 12 pm between the months of April and September each year (weather and schedules permitting). Volunteers are taught species identification, mist-netting procedures, handling techniques, and basic banding procedures. We are currently entering our 18th year in operation, and we are excited to have you with us!
Banding requires significant time and experience by those who are licensed and authorized to capture wild birds. At the Observatory, a master bander supervises and trains volunteers, including UW students, staff, retirees, and members of the Madison community. Each bird is caught in a mist net, carefully removed, measured (weight, age, sex, and a variety of other measurements), banded and released. Between 2001 and 2006, more than 1394 birds of 70+ species were netted. About 60 million birds, representing hundreds of species, have been banded in North America since 1904, and about 4 million bands have been recovered and reported. Data from banded birds are submitted to and managed by The North American Bird Banding Program which is under the general direction of the U.S. Geological Survey and the Canadian Wildlife Service.
The Biocore Prairie Bird Banding Observatory in Madison, Wisconsin is currently managed by three volunteer coordinators.