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: