The Annual Meeting 2020, virtual and live online, long delayed and much anticipated, attracted close to 100 participants. Drawing points were Gary Brown, director of the Lakeshore Nature Preserve, and our keynote speaker John Lyons, Curator of the fish museum at the UW-Madison zoology department. At the meeting, Friends president Steve Sentoff and vice president Seth McGee also introduced the new slate of candidates for the Board of directors and conducted an online poll election. New to the Board are Nancy Breden, Kelley Kearns, and Will Wuyk. Also, Tom Bryan, Matt Chotlos, Paul Quinlan and Steve Sentoff began their second terms. Sarah Congdon departed from the Board after a three-year term as newsletter layout specialist. The entire event was organized by Doris Dubielzig, and Tom Bryan ran the online meeting.
Gary Brown reported on essential maintenance work in the Preserve during COVID-19 and presented a summary of the new Strategic Plan for the Preserve. Garlic Mustard was pulled by a cadre of dedicated volunteers, and some of the plantings sponsored by the Friends were completed. But all community events and the summer intern program had to be canceled. The new strategic plan presented the new Preserve mission statement as: The Lakeshore Nature Preserve shelters natural environments and cultural resources through active learning, research, and outreach in a place of respite and well-being. New strategic priorities include
• develop and implement a communication plan,
• grow resources to support the mission,
• build strategic partnerships,
• update the 2006 Preserve Facilities Master Plan.
For more details see the Preserve website.
John Lyons, who has researched the lake and adjacent shores for the last 40 years as part of his work with the Wisconsin DNR, presented “Little fish – big impact: 100 years of change in the small-fish fauna of Lake Mendota.” A century ago, Lake Mendota, famous for its game and trophy fish, had a healthy small-fish population of 23 species. These small-fish, feeding on aquatic vegetation, small crustaceans, zooplankton and more, are the main food source for game fish, and thus are crucial to a healthy lake. Small fish live in shallow shore waters, mid-water and on the lake bottom.
Over the years, the number of species has decreased to about half, due to shoreline development eliminating spawning and feeding grounds for species relying on plants, and most prominently, the invasion of destructive Eurasian water milfoil during the 1960s. Treatment of milfoil with herbicide added to the death of small fish populations as well as sensitive native plants. Because of decrease in biodiversity and complexity, the food web has become less stable and the lake now has boom and bust years for small fish which directly impact big fish populations.
The good news is that as the invasive milfoil has declined over the years to almost one third of the initial extent, there is a good chance that restocking the lake with various missing little fish species will be successful. Lyons emphasized that this restocking could become a community project also involving Friends volunteers. The key is providing the habitat for the little fish that they need. The long shoreline of almost 4 miles of the Lakeshore Nature Preserve, as well as University Bay, are important refuges for small fish.
Screen photos and report by Gisela Kutzbach.
Citizen science monitors of the Friends continue their work in the Preserve during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Bluebird trail around the Biocore Prairie has 8 nest boxes designed according to specifications by the Bluebird Restoration Association of Wisconsin. While these boxes are also coveted by Tree swallows, and if set up close to the woods, will attract House wrens, the focus of the project is the Eastern Bluebirds. During the week of May 18 monitors Maggi Christianson and Gisela Kutzbach were delighted to observe 4 or 5 tiny Bluebird babies in one of the boxes, forming a ball of fuzz and skin still so pink.
Maggi and Laura Berger had their first monitor training session three days earlier with Jeff Koziol, primary monitor of the project. At that time there were 5 beautiful blue eggs in the carefully shaped nest, made from fine grass. These eggs had been incubated over a period of two weeks since May 4 and were close to hatching. What a thrill for us to see the healthy hatchlings three days later. The parents are busy now getting food, mainly insects, and guarding their offspring. On the photo above the male Bluebird sits guard in the beautiful Bur oak nearby. It will be another 20 days of so before the hatchlings are ready to fledge. You can follow the week-by-week monitoring summaries HERE.
Doris Dubielzig, always ready for an adventure with a strong cause, made special plans for this Earth Day week, in lieu of the 50th year Earth Day conference that had been planned for the Monona Terrace. Doris reports:
"My husband, Dick Dubielzig, and I met the young naturalist and Friends of the Lakeshore Nature Preserve Board Member, Olympia Mathiaparanam, at the entrance to Picnic Point at 5:45 am this morning. Olympia had scraped frost from her windshield, and the thermometer still read in the mid-30s. I was glad for my long underwear and down jacket. We walked down the quiet path toward the end of the Point to observe the sunrise in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. Fifty years ago, on the first Earth Day, observers gathered an hour earlier, at 4:45 am and greeted the sunrise at Picnic Point with readings from Aldo Leopold, Rachel Carson, Henry David Thoreau and religious texts. Our group of 3 paled in comparison, but complied with the restrictions on organized gatherings during the COVID-19 pandemic.
On our way, Olympia pointed out with pleasure a solitary grebe floating close to the lakeshore, and an osprey perched on a high branch overlooking University Bay. She conscientiously entered her bird sightings into eBird through her cellphone. In addition to the changed appearance of the path and woods due to the dawn’s dim light, we noted the fresh stumps from the many ash trees that had been removed since I last walked the trail. When we reached the grand fire circle at the end, a vast cloudless sky appeared above us. At 6:05, on schedule, the sun’s rim appeared above the horizon on the far side of Lake Mendota. As the sun rose, the light strengthened and its rays warmed the appearance of all they touched. Fifty years earlier, Earth Day founder, Gaylord Nelson proclaimed, “Our goal…is an environment of decency, quality and mutual respect for all other human beings and all living creatures.”* What better place to appreciate Earth’s biodiversity than the Lakeshore Nature Preserve at this time."
The group sighted the following bird. Also see our BLOG page with recent photos of many of these in the bay and along Picnic Point Path
On a lovely Sunday afternoon, Chuck Henrikson and 35 birding enthusiasts gathered to learn about and spot some feathered friends in the Lakeshore Nature Preserve.
Chuck first talked about owls and their diets. Owls eat rodents and other small birds. Some animal matter— like bones and hair— are not digested by the owls, so they regurgitate this in the form of a pellet! Chuck showed attendees intact pellets, as well as the individual bones taken from other owl pellets he had found. Interestingly, Chuck mentioned that the size of the pellets varies across owl species and is correlated to the size of the owl (so Barred Owls tend to make larger pellets than Eastern Screech Owls for example). Chuck also showed attendees some feathers from Wisconsin birds and discussed properties of these feathers (like how some bird species have wing feathers that are frayed on the edge to allow birds to travel silently through the air).
Throughout the field trip, seven bird species were spotted: Hairy Woodpeckers (2 males), Downy Woodpeckers (1 male, 1 female), Herring Gulls (2), White-breasted Nuthatches (2), Black-capped Chickadees (3), Northern Cardinal (1), and a beloved Barred Owl (1)! Chuck also informed attendees about resources like eBird where you can upload your birding lists and contribute to citizen science efforts to track bird species’ temporal movements in the Lakeshore Nature Preserve, Wisconsin, and beyond! Report and photos by the Friends host Olympia Mathiaparanam
Early last year, Olympia Mathiaparanam, Board Member, had the idea that we could harness the power of the humanities in inspiring connection to nature. The “It’s in Our Nature” open mic event held in the BioCommons in the Steenbock Library on Thursday, February 25 was the result of that idea. We asked Robin Chapman, poet, Emeritus faculty of the UW-Madison, and Friends member, to be the Master of Ceremony and featured poet. Robin has written ten books of nature-inspired poetry and has received recognition and honors for her work including the 2010 Appalachia Poetry Prize, and a Wisconsin Arts Board Literary Arts Fellowship. Robin, Olympia, and Lillian Tong, also a Board Member, met together to plan the details around this experimental initiative months in advance. Because of the need to reach a broader audience than our usual field trips, the team created and distributed posters around campus and in local coffee shops and establishments.
The event opened with a slideshow of 105 images of the Lakeshore Nature Preserve, selected by Lillian Tong and put into a PowerPoint presentation with the help of Linda Deith, Tom Yin, and Sarah Congdon. These images were among those taken by numerous photographers and pulled together by Gisela Kutzbach. The slideshow played for the 15 minutes prior to the Open Mic while performers were signing up for slots and choosing images that would be projected while they read their creative expression. Olympia welcomed the attendees and introduced Robin, who opened and closed the event with her excellent poetry. The poetry and prose of our 6 performers, together with the visual images, brought the beauty and power of nature into the space! In all, 23 people enjoyed the work of the performers, several of whom were new to the Lakeshore Preserve. After the presentations, attendees had an opportunity to visit and view the display table with materials about the Lakeshore Nature Preserve.
The BioCommons director and staff were very welcoming and helpful, and provided a perfect place for the event, for which we are so grateful. Refreshments were donated by Lillian Tong and the BioCommons offered coffee. The organizers, who had worried about results of this experiment, were happy with the response and hope to repeat the event, perhaps with ideas for improvements. Report by Lillian Tong and Olympia Mathiaparanam. Photos by Tom Yin and Olympia.
On Sunday, 23 Friends and visitors met at the entrance to Picnic Point. Dr. Tom Bryan, program manager of the Greenhouse Learning Community and recent Ph.D. graduate of the UW Nelson Institute, led the walk along the Lakeshore Path to the newest residence hall on UW Madison's campus, Leopold. Near the shore, Ice fishermen huddled over their holes while a few cold hardy waterfowl swam in the open water near Willow Creek.
Upon arrival at the residence hall, Dr. Bryan went over some of the interesting design aspects of the relatively new dorm and what having an LEED-certified building actually means. Ultimately, the building was designed with sustainability in mind, but like many "sustainable" products the building is not without its shortcomings and impacts. Dr. Bryan tasks his students with using the building and its community of other environmentally-oriented students as a resource to involve themselves in their broader communities and create the best environmental outcomes that they can. The Friends and field trip participants toured the state-of-the-art rooftop greenhouse and learned about how the students use the space in pursuit of their diverse academic interests and campus connections. The Greenhouse Learning Community provides roots for students as they move through their college education, bringing an environmental consciousness with them. Hopefully, the Leopold Residence Hall will continue to live up to its name for future generations of students as well." Report and photo by the Friends host Matt Chotlos.
A small group of hardy participants joined Prof. Dan Vimont as he told the “stories” of how Climate Change is affecting natural areas in Wisconsin and the Preserve and our everyday lives, as well. From warming trout streams to decreasing snow pack, changing lake levels and extreme weather, the Wisconsin Initiative on Climate Change Impacts (WICCI, https://www.wicci.wisc.edu) helps people understand how climate change is affecting Wisconsin. One of the ways WICCI does this is through telling stories.
The open water that harbored a flock of tundra swans on University Bay was a contradiction to the bitter cold temperatures on this Saturday, illustrating one of Dan Vimont’s points that variable and extreme weather events can be expected in the face of climate change. Three intrepid hikers showed up to tour the Preserve and hear about Dan’s research and expertise on subject. He noted that most climate change models are proving to be true and accurate, as we continue to experience weather events and trends that the models have predicted. With this understanding, much of his work and the work of other climate scientists has come to focus on resiliency and adaptation of human systems and infrastructure, such as agriculture and buildings. Friends host and photos by Paul Quinlan
On a beautiful, uncharacteristically warm day shortly before Christmas, 26 people joined our leaders, Doris Dubielzig and Paul Noeldner, on a “Sentimental Journey” onto Picnic Point.
Doris led the first part, telling stories of the history of Picnic Point. At the stone wall by the entrance, we looked at the variety of rocks carried by the most recent glacier to Southern Wisconsin, and which Picnic Point landowner Edward Young had made into a wall as a wedding gift for his bride in 1925. We walked past Bill’s Woods to the site of the Youngs’ house, on a hill that had a beautiful view of Lake Mendota. We looked for, and found, pavers that remained after that house was destroyed in a fire in 1935. Following the path toward University Bay, the group fanned out, as the birders identified and pointed out birds they sighted to the attendees who stayed near them. One of the best things about the Friends’ field trips is how willing people are to share their expertise, and the 4th Sunday outings attract expert birders to this Important Birding Area. Pam and R. Dion Carmona, from Chicago, who were visiting a relative at UW Hospital, found our trip listed on the internet. They generously identified numerous bird species, and compiled the bird list below. We caught up with Doris near the two conical effigy mounds built by the Late Woodland people. She related some of the history of the Native Americans who originally lived on the shores of Lake Mendota, and she read an excerpt of Madison Mayor Augustus Bird’s 1847 speech about the removal of the Indians from their lands around Lake Mendota.
In the meantime, Paul Noeldner pulled a wagon directly to Fire Circle #2. He carted spotting scopes and binoculars, hot chocolate, materials for s’mores, his brass tenor horn, and topped the load with a Christmas tree held on with bungee cords. When we joined Paul, he had set up and trained the spotting scopes onto University Bay and was starting a fire. Paul invited children to decorate the Christmas tree with Audubon “singing birds”. He also brought poster boards with the lyrics to “Here We Come A Wassailing” in many languages, and engaged passersby to join our group in singing as he played the horn. Since it was a beautiful day, there were many people walking to Picnic Point who stopped to sing, sip hot chocolate, and look through the spotting scopes and binoculars at the hundreds of birds on the ice and open water. Paul estimates that 10-15 people, in addition to those on the sign-up sheet, either came with him to the campfire directly or joined him shortly thereafter.
On University Bay, we saw tundra swans, mallard ducks, common goldeneye ducks, bufflehead ducks, common merganser, ring-billed gulls, an immature eagle who sat for a long time on the ice eating prey, American coot, Red-breasted merganser, Redhead duck, Gadwall duck, American wigeon, and Lesser scaup. Earlier on our walk through the wooded part of the trail, we saw Red-tailed hawks, Rough-legged hawk, Downy woodpecker, Black-capped chickadee, Canada geese flying in formation, Blue jay, American crow, White-breasted nuthatch, Sandhill cranes, and American goldfinch.
Participants were invited to share on post-it notes their favorite parts or memories of the Preserve:
A group of 19 birders gathered in the UW Lot 60 parking lot on this chilly morning, when the temperature hovered just above freezing. After introductions and orientation to this field trip, sponsored by the Audubon Society, we spent a good hour admiring the diverse waterfowl in University Bay, at the nearby boat launch. Five of the participants brought spotting scopes, which they shared freely with the rest of the group. Rafts of Buffleheads, Canvasbacks, Coots, Common Goldeneyes, Mallards and Canada Geese cruised the Bay, while Ring-billed and Herring Gulls flashed white wings overhead. Throughout this stop and the ones that followed, Quentin Yoerger quietly announced the presence of less obvious birds, including an American Black Duck and a Pied-billed Grebe, and trained his scope on them for us to see. University Bay had the largest numbers and the most diverse species of our 9 stops around Lake Mendota (7) and Lake Monona (2). Yoerger explained that the Bay is both sheltered and shallow. Waterfowl can reach the Bay’s bottom more easily, and consequently dine with less effort. The second largest population was at Middleton’s Lake Street boat launch. There we saw a Red-tailed Hawk perched on a nearby oak and a juvenile Bald Eagle fly by. Most of the enthusiastic group traveled with Yoerger to the 9th and final stop, at Olin Park, where we were treated to our 39th species for the day, a Pied-billed Grebe floating next to John Nolen Drive. We had hoped to see migrating Tundra Swans, which normally converge on Lake Mendota when the smaller surrounding lakes freeze. We were not in luck. A few days ago swans congregated by the Tenney Park Locks and numbered in the thousands at Madison Audubon’s Goose Pond Sanctuary. Since then, the last of the November snowfall and ice had melted, giving the birds open fields for foraging, and made the smaller, outlying ponds available again. Friends host, summary and photos: Doris Dubielzig
Quentin Yoerger’s bird count, where “X” means “present, but no specific count”: