On a bright Sunday afternoon, leader Anne Pearce guided two of us (one participant and myself) on a walk from the Picnic Point Entry Kiosk up and around the Biocore Prairie. We discussed the Friends’ ongoing citizen science projects (including the Bluebird Trail, PUMA House, Clean Lakes Alliance Monitoring, and the Friends of Amphibians network). More information about these projects can be found here on our website. The joe-pye weed booms floating like purple clouds over the prairie, however, you have to see with your own eyes. They are especially prominent walking north towards Caretaker’s woods, standing out above the prairie in midsummer bloom. We were also surprised by a docile purple martin chick in the middle of the path by the house. The chick appeared unhurt, but also would not move out of our way! We appreciated the opportunity to see a normally athletic and fleeting bird up close, and then acceded to the worrying cries from up above and gave the fledgling its space.
Report and photos by Will Vuyk
Friends President Will Vuyk welcomed and introduced the small group that gathered at the Picnic Point Kiosk to the Friends of Amphibians citizen science goals and methods. Members of Madison’s new volunteer network survey the numbers and kinds of amphibians in promising locations. Under an osprey wheeling in the sky, Will led us to two areas he samples in the Lot 60 Bioswale. More than 24 hours earlier, he had placed traps, baited with rabbit chow to lure tadpoles into them. Because ranavirus (frog virus 3) infections have been detected at multiple sites around Madison this summer, Will sprayed his boots with disinfectant before entering the marshy Bioswale to retrieve the traps. Although it is bullfrog and green frog mating season, we heard only the green frog’s “glunk".
Under the shade of a tree next to each site, Will brought the trap to us and transferred the contents into a bucket, for identifications. Amphibians and many species of insects live as aquatic larvae at the beginning of their lives. Will had a sheet of colored photos to assist in tadpole identification, but we saw none. We did see a huge dragonfly nymph, several water boatmen, some small snails, a leech and a recently emerged green darner dragonfly (deceased) and its exoskeleton.
Our observations and photos were entered and uploaded from Will’s smartphone to The Friends of Amphibians site, which can be accessed from The Friends of the Lakeshore Nature Preserve’s website in the Citizen Science folder. This data is used and managed by the UW Forest & Wildlife Ecology Professor Jessica Hua’s Lab.
After the data entry was completed and the wildlife was returned to the Lot 60 Bioswale, Will emerged through the compass plants with a great grin on his face, and a small toad in his hands. It was a gratifying conclusion to a wonderful morning. Thank you Will!
Report by Doris Dubielzig and Will Vuyk
Photos by Glenda Denniston
The field trip for June 25, 2023, was focused on learning about the many preservation efforts that occur on Frautschi Point and the Lakeshore Nature Preserve overall. Myself, new board member Ingrid Jordon-Thaden, Volunteer and Outreach Coordinator, Bryn Scriver, and Field Projects Coordinator, Adam Gunlach, as well as long-time volunteer and birder Laura Berger, answered a myriad of questions from two short-term visitors to west campus from foreign countries. They were both neurosurgeons visiting our medical campus for a short period of time. They had found our tour information from the kiosk at the parking lot and wanted to learn more about the ecological restoration going on in the area. Given their general interest in anything biologically related, the conversations about what we were observing ranged far and wide. As Adam and Bryn showed them the importance of the oak and prairie communities and what we are doing to preserve these habitats, we talked about invasive species, diseases, and the general balance of ecosystems. For example, here is a picture of a spongy moth caterpillar (formally called the gypsy moth) climbing in a wound on an ash from the Emerald Ash Borer.
While observing the plants around us I noticed some natural aphid parasitism from wasps (pictured below) and talked about the process of mummification of the aphids and how they look like little brown pearls. Laura pointed out various bird songs along the way and we were graced with the presence of a brood of baby turkeys as we walked along the edge of the prairie.
Adam noticed that despite the extreme drought we have been experiencing, the prairie wildflowers were doing fantastic this year. Bryn and Adam talked about notable prairie plants, and we turned the discussion to fire ecology. I then talked a bit about native vs. introduced grasses in a prairie and how prescribed burning in the spring not only encouraged all prairie plants over woody trees and shrubs but encouraged room for native grasses to flourish late in the summer and fall. We had excellent weather with large billowy clouds overhead and a nice breeze that allowed for the conversations to go long and natural without fainting or running from the rain.
Report and pictures by Ingrid Jordon-Thaden