On a Sunday afternoon freshly dusted with snow, Paul Noeldner led 14 of us on an exploration of winter's magic. As if seeing the icy, snow-covered ground as the perfect opportunity for some putting practice, Paul started the field trip by pulling out a bag of golf clubs. These were no ordinary golf clubs, however, as each shaft ended in an assortment of trays, utensils, and wooden cut-outs rather than a head. An eager attendee arrayed the spoons on one club just so, and then struck the ground. A birdie! Indeed, there on the ground was the imprint of a turkey track. Paul had a "deer" club, a "duck" club, a "fox" club, and a club that mimicked a mysterious 5-toed creature that could just as well have been 5 separate toads hopping in formation.
Once we got out on the trail we found many real tracks in the snow. Upon the discovery of some fresh fox tracks, Paul replaced his blue googly-eye bird hat with his orange face-hugging fox hat, and talked to us about canids in the area. On the north side of the peninsula, right by the bathrooms, we found much more obvious evidence of canid activity. It appears that a coyote was after something and dug up whole swaths of the sandy bank in pursuit.
We were all chilled by the wind, so we took that as a queue to head back to fire circle #2. There we saw two white-breasted nuthatches, which including two blue jays we saw before the trip started, were the only birds we noticed the whole time. Folks enjoyed warming up and conversing around the fire. As the fire burned low, Paul took the opportunity to warm up the valves on his euphonium and play a farewell tune. Report and photos by Will Vuyk.
Cool fall weather provided the perfect backdrop to Geological History of the Preserve and Madison Lakes on November 13th. 31 guests wandered through the Preserve under an overcast sky with Philip Fauble, geologist with the Department of Natural Resources and a passionate teacher of local geology. Philip began our hike with a crash-course on geoscience; before we could understand how the rocks in the Preserve reached their current form, we needed to learn a bit about how rocks move, their timescales, and the idiosyncratic geological history of the Madison lakes. We learned that the majority of the Preserve is comprised of Ordovician- and Cambrian-age bedrock, with much of it belonging to the Tunnel City Group rock layer, defined by its very fine-grained quartzite sand. Different glacial movements across the area cut into this bedrock throughout the last couple hundred thousand years, both creating the basins in which the Madison lakes could form and exposing the outcroppings which we observed with Philip.
Our hike took us to the Preserve’s highest point (the bluff in Eagle Heights Woods) where we studied glacial erratics—large boulders cut and picked up by glaciers and deposited by way of glacial recession, often hundreds of kilometers away from its source rock. Philip estimated the erratics on Eagle Heights Woods bluff were 2.4-billion-year-old gneiss from southern Ontario! Other highlights included Philip showing us evidence of the ancient seas which once covered the land we know call Wisconsin, including the presence of stromatolites in our rocks – fossilized microbial mats which thrived in the shallow waters of Cambrian and Ordovician Wisconsin. We express our deep gratitude to Philip for filling in on such short notice – we hope he’ll join us again on a geologic excursion in the Preserve!
Report written by Cole Roecker, photos by Signe Holtz.
On a dreary, drizzly weekend afternoon, about 15 people joined this trip co-hosted by the Friends of the Lakeshore Nature Preserve and the UW-Madison chapter of the Audubon Society. Led by Friends board members Anne Pearce and Cole Roecker, the birders set their sights on University Bay from the Walnut St. boat launch, in search of winter waterfowl.
Early birds to the field trip were greeted by a northern harrier flying along the lakeshore right in front of us, followed not too long after by a great blue heron. The warm weather, lack of ice on the lake, and calm water meant that waterfowl were not as concentrated in University Bay as they often are in December. But when we set our eyes, binoculars, and a few spotting scopes on the water, we had two rafts of waterfowl to look at on either side of the boat launch.
Among the easier birds to identify were the tundra swans and coots, as they were present in large numbers. Several people stuck with the challenge of trying to get a good look at a few nearby buffleheads through binoculars as these small waterfowl kept diving under the surface of the water. Others were able to pick out a handful each of northern shovelers and redheads further away from shore. Given the relative quiet near the boat launch, we decided to walk toward Willow Creek, after admiring a muskrat swimming along the shore.
A few passerines grabbed our attention as we went toward the creek, including downy and hairy woodpeckers and dark-eyed juncos. Once at the creek, we scanned the large group of ring-billed gulls with some larger herring gulls to see if there were any unusual visitors. No such luck! Two favorite sightings from the mouth of the creek were the great blue heron standing along the shoreline and a belted kingfisher perched in a tree with a fish in its mouth for several minutes.
Thanks to the several members of the UW-Madison chapter of the Audubon Society for joining us! We can’t wait to see what people find on the next birding field trip!
Thanks to Cole for the eBird report:
25 Canada Goose
25 Tundra Swan
3 Northern Shoveler
100 American Coot
100 Ring-billed Gull
10 Herring Gull
1 Great Blue Heron
1 Northern Harrier
1 Belted Kingfisher
3 Downy Woodpecker
2 Hairy Woodpecker
1 American Crow
7 House Finch
6 American Goldfinch
10 Dark-eyed Junco
2 Song Sparrow
19 Taxa Observed
Report by Anne Pearce and photos by Signe Holtz.