Leaders Jeff Koziol and Chuck Henrikson led 14 attendees on a tour of the bluebird and purple martin houses the Friends have maintained around the Biocore Prairie. We also saw many other birds along the way, including yellow warblers, gold finches, common yellowthroat, a rose breasted grosbeak, song sparrows, turkey vultures, and a yellow-billed cuckoo.
Many of the bluebird boxes were occupied by nesting tree swallows. Tree swallows are a protected native species and cannot be removed. House sparrows, on the other hand, are removed from bluebird boxes if found there. Jeff has also added a metal skirt below each box to prevent predators like raccoons and snakes (if there are any!) from predating on nesting birds. Sometimes ants can infest the boxes too. Jeff has found that bike grease or anti-seize compound, when lathered on the pole, can prevent ants from climbing up it.
Two of the bluebird boxes we looked at were indeed occupied by bluebirds! Swallow eggs are white, so these blue eggs are a telltale sign of successfully nesting bluebirds.
At the end of the trip, we made our way to the purple martin house where Chuck lowered the whole contraption to eye level. When we looked in Gourd A, we found a female purple martin and five eggs inside. Chuck gently tilted the gourd so everyone could peak inside! All the while, many adult and subadult martins swooped and chattered above our heads.
After our quick peak inside the gourd, mama, eggs, and the whole house were cranked back to their previous height intact. The only critter who seemed especially disgruntled about the whole ordeal was the vole living under the martin house ladder. After four scurrying escapes, the vole finally had its home restored when the field trip ended and we all dispersed to enjoy our long Memorial Day weekends.
Report and photos by Will Vuyk.
On this gorgeous Saturday evening, a stream of excitement flowed into the Preserve. Apart from the smiles, laughter, and crackling weekend fires, however, were the sounds of a different party taking place in the marsh. Seven of us joined DNR herpetologist and UW Madison PhD student Rori Paloski to learn about these boisterous spring gatherings and the amazing audible amphibians behind them.
Both gray and Cope's gray tree frogs were calling in the marsh by Lot 60 when we arrived, giving us the opportunity to hear them side-by-side and practice our call discernment skills. One tree frog even hopped right over to us on the path, allowing us to marvel at the bright yellow patches on its underside. While this individual is currently green, these tree frogs can change the color of their skin to best camouflage with their surroundings. Whether this particular frog was a Cope's gray or a gray tree frog we will never know!
At the Picnic Point marsh we heard more tree frogs, and discovered the results of the recently-finished American toad mating period. Hundreds (maybe thousands?) of little American toad tadpoles wriggled in the minnow trap Will had placed the day before. Unlike green frog tadpoles, American toad tadpoles metamorphose into tiny adult toads the same season they hatch. Soon the Preserve will be hopping in multitudes of these extremely small "penny toads". Once the tree frogs finish with their mating period, their tadpoles too will join the other toad and frog tadpoles in the Preserve's wetlands.
Frogs and toads are abundant and integral members of our native Wisconsin ecosystems. They are also very susceptible to human impacts on the landscape including water quality degradation, chemical pollution, invasive pathogens and urban infrastructure. The more we can learn about our amphibian neighbors the better we can learn to live alongside them. If listening for adult frogs and toads, and searching for tadpoles like we did in this field trip sounds fun to you, take a look at our Citizen Science page to see how you can help with our ongoing "Friends of Amphibians" project!
Report by Will Vuyk. Photos by Glenda Denniston and Signe Holtz.
Led by Jill Feldkamp and Roma Lenehan, this group of 18 sharp-eyed birders documented 46 species on their walk through the trails of Frautschi Point out to Raymer's Cove. Despite sub-optimal conditions for birding that morning, Leader Jill Feldkamp reported that "I think everyone has a good time and saw enough birds to keep them happy." See the E-Bird report below:
Report and photos by Steve Sellwood.