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.
This warm, calm Sunday morning was perfect for observing native pollinators. Susan Carpenter, Native Plant Gardener at the UW Madison Arboretum, was a knowledgeable guide and good role model for the 20 potential citizen scientists who attended the hike. Susan explained that her expertise in native pollinators grew incidentally out of her work with native plantings. Working with the DNR, she has begun to promote and train volunteers for the Wisconsin Bumble BeeBrigade, which seeks to expand our knowledge of this crucial species guild.
Susan led us past the rain gardens by the Picnic Point entrance and up to BioCore Prairie, taking ample time to stop and observe the five species of bumble bees we encountered along the way. She explained the life cycle and behaviors of several different bumble bee species and discussed threats to their existence, as well as ways we can help sustain them. Friends host and photographer: Paul Quinlan
The 4th Sunday of the month Bird and Nature Outing at Lakeshore Nature Preserve featured What is a BioBlitz led by Paul Noeldner with help from Pat Becker, Doris Dubielzig, and Olympia Mathiaparanam with Friends of the Lakehore Nature Preserve. About a dozen participants including a couple kids learned why scientists do BioBlitzes to get a holistic picture of an area's biodiversity and ecosystem health. Then everyone joined Bug, Critter, Plant and Habitat teams (anyone could help any of them) to help find and count as many different living things as they could along the Picnic Point path, from a Catbird singing in a Sumac bush to a Monarch on an Ironweed and a Leopard Frog jumping into a trailside rain garden full of bright red Cardinal Flowers in full bloom.
Someone would shout New One! whenever a different new living thing was spotted, and the Recorders for each team would jot down the name of the species if known on a large tagboard, or a description or drawing of the color, number of legs, and similar details for the team Researchers to try to look up the species if not known. The Photogs in the group helped take pictures to document the findings. There were many interesting things to see and talk about and examine with binoculars or a magnifying hand held loupe. The group only got 500 feet down the Picnic Point path in about an hour, as might be expected. A scientific Bioblitz might go for 24 hours and involve lots of skilled researchers and specialists as well as opportunities for Citizen Scientists including families and kids to help spot things.
The five 2018 Prairie Partners Interns working this summer in the Preserve, thanks to the financial support of the Friends of the Lakeshore Nature Preserve, also have much appreciated educational opportunities. The Friends have organized "seminars over lunch" for the students, when they meet experts in certain areas of research and ecology. On July 12th, interns Henry Wiedemeyer, Tanner Pettit, Daniel Joannes, Jackson Pertzborn, and Siena Muehlfeld learned about the fascinating urban canid program from David Drake, Professor of Wildlife Ecology and creator of this program. He visited the Intern group at Frautschi Point entrance with coyote and fox pelts and tracking devices and engaged students with the history and explanation of the program.
The following Thursday, July 19th, Adam Gundlach, Preserve Field Projects Coordinator who supervises the interns, provided the educational component of the program with a presentation on "Fire Ecology—Science & Practice of Controlled Fire”. Prepared with handouts of photos of pre- and post-burned sites, drip torches, traffic warning signs and protective garb, Adam presented a comprehensive introduction to the burning practices and procedures in the Preserve—which was underscored by the siren of a passing fire engine! Adam was joined by Craig Maier, Outreach Specialist, who is teaching the Nelson Institute Science and Practice of Prescribed Fire summer seminar with Paul Zedler. Maier's three students accompanied the Interns to witness the benefits of prescribed burns in Eagle Heights Woods where fire is one of the important tools in the rejuvenation of that part of the Preserve At the Biocore Prairie the Interns were met by Seth McGee of the Friends Board and Biocore Lab Manager. Seth discussed with them the long-term fire research plots for students at the Biocore site, who study the effects of fire on plant, animal and microbial communities. Seth was pleased that there was a math major among the students and highlighted that modern day fire management relies heavily on modeling algorithms. He is excited that the Interns are learning about these studies and hopes that this type of research will "spread". Photos and reports by Doris Dubielzig.
Seth Mcgee, Lab Manager of the Biocore program, gave a fascinating behind-the-scenes summer look at natural restoration efforts and student related research projects. The UW Biocore Prairie provides a unique and successful natural classroom experience that supports the goals of the Lakeshore Nature Preserve. Biocore students experience the land ethics concept and carry it into their future professions. They learn effective research methods in this outdoor laboratory by beginning with the question "Why is this this way?" The big steps are to come up with a question, take observations, posit possible answers, and develop testable methods to investigate answers.
Participants tried out some Why questions, beginning with the leaves of Prairie dock (Silphium terebinthinaceum). "Why is the underside of these leaves so rough?" They feel bumpy. One possible answer is that these bumps increase surface area and thus photosynthesis. The super-sized leaves seem to be like giant solar panels. Looking at the underside with a microscope, we discovered honey-comb like patterns with tiny hairs standing upright, almost like scales. "Why would the leaves have these hairs?" These hairs would help to trap water. "Why do the broad sides of the leaves face the west and east?". This positioning would minimize evaporation from the large leaf surface during the hotter parts of the day. All these answers would need to be tested.
We also had a chance to crush and taste the leaves of various plants. Pairie dock has a rough texture and a "piney" taste. It is related to Rosinweed (Silphium integrifolium), also of the Silphium family, which has that same piney taste. Seth shared that young boys used to collect the copious resin exuded from injured parts of the plant and chew it like gum. Mountainmint (Pycnanthemum virginianum), with elegant flower sprays atop slender stems and foliage, has leaves that smell and taste distinctly like mint. Wild Quinine (Parthenium integrifolium) smells and tastes medicinal. We discussed many other plants, not listed here.
Biocore student Olympia Mathiaparanam, who came along on this walk, is researching germination questions by raising various prairie plants from seeds that do not easily germinate. She has raised a good number of seedlings of a rare Prairie bush clover (Lespedeza leptostachya), which is a federally protected rare prairie plant. Other varieties of clover in the Biocore are Slender bush clover (Lespedeza virginica) and the taller Round-headed bush clover (Lespedeza capitate).
At the Biocore shed we also had a chance to view the Biocore Prairie Journal written by the Biocore Interns for many years, the wooden door covered on the inside with the students' signatures, and the most amazing built-to scale model of the Biocore Prairie, which was conceived, produced and is updated by Seth McGee.
The walk concluded with a look at the latest prairie restoration area towards Bills Woods. The restoration is going well, with large clusters of "first arrival" prairie plants, such as Rudbeckia and Monarda, beginning to outpace the weeds. The weather held, with none of the rain and thunder predicted, Thank you, Seth, for an an excellent experience. Report and photos by Gisela Kutzbach, the Friends host.
Paul Noeldner, creator of the 4th Sunday Birding and Nature walks, greeted the 16 attendees for the walk at the entrance to Picnic Point. Paul loaned binoculars and DNR diagrams of wetland invertebrates to participants. Although the marsh is the oldest part of the Preserve, it was the first tour into it for many of the participants. Doris Dubielzig, Friends President, took the group across University Bay Drive to the dedication rock for the Class of 1918 Marsh, and reviewed the history of the site since the time of settlement in the 1850s. John Magnuson, Emeritus Professor of Limnology and past Friends President, led the group along the eastern edge of the “really disturbed” marsh to the inlet to the pump house, which is used to manage the water level of the marsh. Prof. Magnuson shared what he had learned from his own research on chloride concentrations in the marsh and from a recent tour of the marsh he took with wetland ecologists and restoration specialists. Because fluctuating water levels benefit sedge meadow plants over the cattails, the water level in the marsh should be lowered each autumn. Then, in the winter, when the ice is solid, the cattails and other plants would be cut, and, ideally, burned onsite. In the spring, flooding the marsh again would favor the diverse species of a sedge meadow.
The tour continued to the southern inlet conveying storm water drainage from the hospital complex, and along the western edge, the healthiest part of the marsh, where a variety of plants, including milkweeds and sedges flourish.
The birders in our group were happy to see the family of sandhill cranes, with two healthy colts, and to hear marsh wrens and catbirds.
In preparation for restoration of the entire marsh, Magnuson envisions testing the wetlands specialists’ suggestions in two pilot areas each a square football field in size. The first would be off the existing observation deck near the northern end of the marsh, and the second would extend beyond a floating pier installed off the path along the southeastern edge. The group on this tour responded favorably to Magnuson’s information and his suggestions for the marsh’s future. Summary by Doris Dubielzig Photos by Paul Noeldner.
On a cloudy yet beautiful June 27th morning, John Magnuson and his partner, David Harring, took 12 attendees across Lake Mendota – in two boats – to view the full expanse of the Lakeshore Nature Preserve and learn about the region’s history. We were told stories of previous inhabitants of the preserve–Black Hawk and Winnebago Native American tribes, the Frautschi family, farmers–and the transformation of the landscape over the years. Our guides also informed us about the important role of the limnology building, which due to its position between the Preserve and the urbanized city, has on occasions protected construction (e.g. of roads and parking lots) from occurring within the Preserve. Attendees were also given the opportunity to use some limnology gadgets to learn more about Lake Mendota. We raked the floor of the lake to find and identify native and invasive plant species, sampled water from the various depths of the lake, and collected and viewed microscopic zooplankton and daphnia. Summary and photos by Olympia Mathiaparanam, Friends host.
John Magnuson added the following explanations to the photos of cyanobacteria and zebra mussles below: "The green microscopic organisms are a mix of several species of Cyanobactera (often referred to as bluegreen algae). These photosynthetic organisms contain gas vacuoles that cause them to float upwards in the bottle and in the lake to bring them to the upper sunlit layers required for photosynthesis. In the clear area at the bottom of the jar the small zooplankton have swum downward. In the lake they would hide from their predators in the deeper dark layers of the lake. The water below about 2 meters on this day was darker and would reduce their visibility to the young, small fishes that feed on small zooplankton. The two visible types of zooplankton were crustaceans called Copepods and Cladocerans.
The mussel on the small dead branch that we raked from the bottom in shallow water is the Zebra Mussel (Dreissena polymorpha). A graduate student at the Center for Limnology has been researching this species since it was first discovered by a limnology laboratory class (Zoology 316) near the Limnology pier in 2015. See this Madison News article on Zebra Mussel quickly filling Lake Mendota or google: Center for Limnology Zebra Mussel."