On Sunday, April 28, Glenda Denniston arrived early to greet the nineteen attendees of her Bill’s Woods spring wildflowers tour. The sun was shining, bringing a welcome change from the snow flurries of the day before. The flowers did not disappoint: masses of Virginia blue bells covered the forest floor, with Dutchman’s breeches, Cut-leaved toothwort, and Wild ginger in abundance. The delicate spring ephemerals splashed the leaf-caked forest floor with their pastel colors and the buds of some of the shrubs and trees unfurled hesitantly.
Glenda showed us aerial photographs of the area spanning 80 years, and photos of the first planting parties in 2001. The growth and changes in Bill's Woods since then have been remarkable! It was a treat to see the area through the eyes of one of the original leaders of the restoration, and the pleasure Glenda has in continuing to care for this beautiful spot. We also saw some Hepatica, Bloodroot, and a massive clump of Trillium. Two barred owlets nesting in a Red Oak hollow were spotted above the trail. Sandhill Cranes called back and forth in the Class of 1918 Marsh. It’s probably safe to assume that the cranes were enjoying the warm weather as much as we were! Friends host and reporter: Matt Chotlos.
About 125 people attended the Annual Meeting of the Friends, held at the Arboretum Visitor Center, to hear Matt Reetz, Executive Director of Madison Audubon Society, speak about “Flock and Awe: The incredible (and perilous) lives of migratory birds.” In his presentation, he explained the different patterns of bird migration, the extraordinary physical feats and efforts that birds risk in exchange for safer breeding grounds and more abundant food at their destinations. He described the guides birds use on the way, such as the stars in the night sky or even magnetic fields, as well as the dangers they encounter on their journeys, including the deadly obstacles of glass buildings. Matt has a knack for sprinkling in humor. He made his audience feel comfortable, and he used some entertaining graphics to make points. We loved your talk and way of presenting, Matt.
Outgoing president Doris Dubielzig reviewed the work of the Friends in 2018, highlighting our strong financial position thanks to generous support by members and donors. She addressed the important projects that the Friends support, including Prairie Partner Interns during the summer, contributions to the Preserve Stewardship fund, purchasing of plants, citizen science projects, and communication. She reminded us that the Friends is operating entirely on the time and talents of our members. She emphasized the good cooperation we have with the Preserve staff.
Gary Brown, UW Director of the Lakeshore Preserve, introduced the Preserve staff: Laura Wyatt, Bryn Scriver and Adam Gundlach. He reported that the Preserve is seeking a fourth FTE position. He shared that the Preserve’s Strategic Planning process is in full swing, which will guide the use and on-going management of the Preserve over the next 10+ years. Gary Brown encouraged everyone to complete the online survey at https://go.wisc.edu/udc0uh (active until May 6)
Seth McGee thanked departing Board members Amanda Budyak (treasurer), Linda Deith (newsletter producer), Peter Fisher (field trip coordinator) and Mitchell Thomas (student Board member) for their excellent services for the Friends and the Preserve. Steve Sentoff, vice president, and conducted the election of new Board members Eve Emshwiller, and MJ Morgan, returning Board members Olympia Mathiaparanam, Seth McGee, and Paul Noeldner, and student Board members Tom Bryan and Matt Chotlos. The crowd enjoyed the appetizers and desserts as well as informative poster exhibits. Alder Levin, Seth McGee and Gisela Kutzbach recorded the event in photos.
Sara Hotchkiss, Chair of the UW faculty Preserve Committee, gave a passionate talk about the role of the Preserve as an accessible outdoor laboratory for generations of students and faculty. By grouping various types of research/course projects (from a sampling of research permits in the Preserve) through connecting colored lines resulting in an intricate network, she demonstrated clearly the synergy and cross fertilization of ideas that can take place in the outdoor lab of the Preserve. She commented positively on the role that the Friends play in facilitating connections across the community at large.
The Exploration Stations at Picnic Picnic Point, as part of the UW Science Expedition 2019, were meticulously planned and staffed with experts in many areas. The only thing that didn’t cooperate was the weather: a freak, weak front brought at times heavy rain, which ended promptly once the event was over. Nevertheless, about 30 nature enthusiasts ventured out in the rain to visit the five exploration stations. They learned from experts about rocks, trees, birds, pollinator plants, and effigy mounds in the Preserve. Each visitor received an 8-page booklet with explanations and hands-on activities at each station, for both children and adults.
Doris Dubielzig, president of the Friends, coordinated the work of the five Exploration Station leaders and Olympia Mathiaparanam organized the Bradley Hall student assistants. Tom Zinnen, UW organizer of this campus-wide event, strongly supported these efforts. Preserve staff was also participated in this event. All in all 25 volunteers contributed their time and talents.
Geologic Gems: David Mickelson, Scot Moss, Cameron Batchelor, Lisa Haas, Kai Hu
Tree Treasures: Matt Chotlos, Nate Chotlos
Birding Basics: Paul Noeldner, Galen Hasler
Butterfly Balls: Bryn Scriver, Eve Emshwiller
Mound Makers: Amy Rosebrough, Chuck Keleny
Organizer, Greeters: Doris Dubielzig, Olympia Mathiaparanam, Kennedy Gilchrist
Booklet, Photographer, Report: Gisela Kutzbach
Student volunteers from Bradley Hall: Ethan Budd, Yashodhara Dhariwai, Rahul Gulati, Tanner Houslet, Matt Knox, Robert Legastzke, Jaffna Mathiaparanam, Kelly Wegner
Station 1: Geologic Gems. Examples of rocks from around Wisconsin, including sedimentary rocks, volcanic rocks, metamorphic rocks, as well as iron ore, coral and more. There was also a key and bingo game to many types of rocks in the distinctive rock wall that frames the entrance of Picnic Point. Visitors showed great interest in the story of the massive wall and the nature and origin of rocks, as well as the impact of glaciation on the geology of the Picnic Point area.
Station 2: Tree Treasures. Visitors could hone their skills in identifying trees in winter, based on the appearance of tree trunks, the shape of small tree twigs and buds. While buds on the whitish White oak branches and reddish Red oak branches were still dormant, the large end bud on a twig of a Shaggy bark hickory was already opening. When the large compound leaves of the hickory tree fall off in autumn, they leave a scar like mark on the branch. New buds eventually develop above the scar. Visitors could also determine the age of cut cross sections of various tree by counting their rings, as well as estimate the age by measuring the circumference of the tree and applying a simple formula. Children enjoyed the necklaces with tree ring pendants.
Station 3. Birding Basics. Here adults and children alike enjoyed using the various types of binoculars to spot common birds out in the marsh cattails and on the lake. There were also several high power spotting scopes for a good steady look at birds, as well as handmade binoculars from toilet paper rolls. Visitors also learned a about calls and song patterns of various birds, and bird shapes. Even on this cold, rainy day, visitors could hear the Red-wing blackbirds o-ka-leees through the
Station 4. Butterfly Balls. The activity at this station gave a foretaste of summer. Both children and adult had much fun mixing and kneading clay, compost and seeds into marble sized balls. One could shape balls from five different seeds of prairie plants preferred by pollinators: Nodding onion, Bergamot, Black-eyed susan, Yellow coneflower, and Butterfly weed. The seeds were harvested in the Biocore Prairie and once watered and placed into the warm ground, they should bring color and butterflies to homes of our visitors.
Station 5. Mound Makers. This station was located at Fire circle 1, at the long linear mound along the path. All mounds were used to mark gravesites. The early mounds, mostly conical and linear, were used for burial of people of significance. Most of the effigy mounds, built in the shape of animals, birds, spirits and people from about 750-1000 AD, were used for burials of bone "bundles", representing the remains of up to 60 people. The prominent cone mound near the isthmus of Picnic Point was also used as a group "bundle" burial site for many people. The effigy mound builders were ancestors of today's Ho-Chunk and other nations. Because of the rain, visitors could not use the spotting scope to view the effigy mounds on observatory hill across the bay.