Nineteen attendees appeared on this rainy afternoon to learn the history, nature, evolution and challenges of the Class of 1918 Marsh with the skilled educator John Magnuson, Director Emeritus of the UW Center for Limnology. The turnout included several wetland experts, and the tour became a symposium with their frequent contributions and discussions with John and the group.This Marsh, lying between the UW Hospital complex and Picnic Point, faces probably the most severe challenges of the Lakeshore Nature Preserve’s ecosystems.
- Snow plowed from campus roads and walks and stored in a massive pile next to the Marsh
- Storm water drainage from the UW Hospital complex, and overflow from the parking lot and Highland Avenue storm sewer to the south of those buildings.
- The sandhill crane family near the East playing fields
- Swallows flying close to the ground, a sign of rain to come
- A Baltimore Oriole perched high on a bare branch
- A large stand of common burdock, and told of the hazard of burdock burr entrapment to songbirds, especially hummingbirds
- A Great Blue Heron flying high
- A common yellowthroat, from its song
The tour concluded at the observation deck on the north side of the Marsh, where we could barely view the pond beyond the wildly hybridizing cattails that have steadily grown over the past 40 years into the Marsh’s open water. There John discussed some of the strategies to restore and sustain this urban wetland gem, including dredging, cutting cattails and fluctuating the Marsh water level (low in winter, high in spring). John bemoaned the fact that he had not seen a muskrat in the Marsh in years, because they could consume cattails. Suddenly, Libby spied a young muskrat, in the marsh below the railing, nibbling on a cattail leaf. While we watched, a second baby muskrat emerged from a nearby watery hole. And then a third, a fourth and a fifth! We were all enchanted with the little muskrats, eating the cattails. What a glorious finish to this very satisfying “symposium”! Report by Friends host Doris Dubielzig